Coca-Cola formula

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A glass of Coca-Cola served with ice cubes

The Coca-Cola formula is The Coca-Cola Company's secret recipe for Coca-Cola syrup that bottlers combine with carbonated water to create its line of cola soft drinks. As a publicity, marketing, and intellectual property protection strategy started by Robert W. Woodruff, the company presents the formula as a closely held trade secret known only to a few employees.


High fructose corn syrup or sucrose are overwhelmingly the major added ingredients: one 600 ml bottle (≈20.29 U.S. fl. oz.) of Coca-Cola contains the approximate equivalent of 15 teaspoons of sugar.[1] However, contrary to what is implied by the "cola" name, Coca-Cola syrup does not contain any kola nut extract.[2] Since no kola extracts are present in the recipe, the primary taste of Coca-Cola comes from vanilla and cinnamon with trace amounts of orange, lime and lemon and spices such as nutmeg.[3]


Coca-Cola was originally one of hundreds of coca-based drinks that claimed medicinal properties and benefits to health; early marketing claimed that Coca-Cola alleviated headaches and acted as a "brain and nerve tonic".[4][5] Coca leaves were used in Coca-Cola's preparation and the small amount of cocaine present in the product gave the drinker a "buzz".[5] In 1903 Coca-Cola removed cocaine from the formula, substituting caffeine as the stimulating ingredient, while dropping all the product's medicinal claims.[4][5][6] The coca plant remains part of the formula; it is believed that coca leaves are imported from Peru, then treated by US chemical company Stepan, which then sells the de-cocainized residue to Coca-Cola.[7][8] The Coca-Cola Company declines to comment upon whether or not Coca-Cola contains spent coca leaves, deferring to the secret nature of the formula.[9][10]

In 1911 the United States sued the Coca-Cola Company, citing the Pure Food and Drugs Act, in an attempt to force the Coca-Cola Company to remove caffeine from Coca-Cola syrup, claiming that caffeine was harmful to health.[11] The United States lost the case, but the decision was partly reversed in a 1916 appeal to the United States Supreme Court.[6][12] To avoid further litigation, the Coca-Cola Company settled, paying all legal costs and agreeing to reduce the amount of caffeine in its product.[11][13]

Formula variations in the United States[edit]

In the United States, Coca-Cola primarily uses high-fructose corn syrup as a sweetener, having replaced sucrose from sugar cane in the 1980s.[14] Coca-Cola made with cane sugar (sucrose) or a syrup-sucrose mixture is available in certain markets in 2-liter bottles in the weeks leading up to Passover and is available in most markets year round in 12-ounce glass bottles imported from Mexico.


Coca-Cola, in its typical formulation, was first certified Kosher in 1935 by rabbi Tobias Geffen when vegetable glycerin replaced beef tallow-derived glycerin. However, because Coca-Cola sold in the United States is typically sweetened using high-fructose corn syrup, which is kitniyot by the definitions of Jewish kosher law, Orthodox Ashkenazi Jews in the Diaspora cannot drink it during Passover, owing to their continued tradition of abstaining from corn and most other grains during the festival. Therefore, while Israeli Jews, Jews of Sephardic ancestry, and Reform and Conservative Jews in the Diaspora can drink it, Coca-Cola sweetened with corn syrup is not labelled Kosher for Passover in order to avoid confusion. In the weeks leading up to Passover, United States bottlers in certain markets with a substantial Jewish population substitute high fructose corn syrup with sugar in order to obtain Kosher for Passover certification.[15]

In some markets where Coca-Cola produced for Passover is sold, it offers a Kosher variant certified by various local organisations. It is available in 2-liter bottles with a yellow cap displaying the OU-P certification.[citation needed] In the greater Chicago, Illinois area, the local bottler offers 2-liter bottles with a white cap displaying the CRC-P certification.[citation needed] However, in Canada, bottle labels display the COR and/or MK certifications annotated with "Passover" or "Kosher for Passover", and use the regular red bottle caps rather than specially marked or colored bottle caps.[citation needed]

"New Coke"[edit]

Main article: New Coke

In April 1985 the company briefly replaced the familiar Coca-Cola formula with one called "the new taste of Coke". This new formulation was not well received and after a few years was withdrawn from the market, replaced with the old recipe. There is a persistent rumor that high fructose corn syrup was substituted after its return, but in fact was not used until several years later.

For purposes of consumer clarity, regular Coke was identified as "Coca-Cola Classic" in the U.S. until 2009,[16] before returning to its identity as simply "Coca Cola".

Mexican Coke[edit]

Main article: Mexican Coke

In the United States, certain retailers created a demand for cane sugar sweetened Coca-Cola produced in Mexico.[17] U.S. retailers obtained the Mexican produced product outside the official Coca-Cola distribution network and the imported product was not labelled in accordance with U.S. food labeling laws. Noticing the success of this product in local groceries and large chains such as Costco, the Coca-Cola Company began officially importing Coca-Cola produced in Mexico with proper labeling for distribution through official channels.[18][19]

Cleveland, Ohio, bottler[edit]

The Coca-Cola Bottling Company of Cleveland, which also serves a portion of Pennsylvania, never switched to high fructose corn syrup and continues to sell Coca-Cola produced with sugar.[17]

Purported secret recipes[edit]

Pemberton recipe[edit]

This recipe is attributed to a diary owned by Coca-Cola inventor, John S. Pemberton, just before his death in 1888. (U.S. measures).[20][21]

  • Ingredients:
    • 1 oz (28 g) caffeine citrate
    • 3 oz (85 g) citric acid
    • 1 US fl oz (30 ml) vanilla extract
    • 1 US qt (946 ml) lime juice
    • 2.5 oz (71 g) "flavoring", i.e., "Merchandise 7X"
    • 30 lb (14 kg) sugar
    • 4 US fl oz (118.3 ml) fluid extract of coca leaves (flavor essence of the coca leaf).
    • 2.5 US gal (9.5 l; 2.1 imp gal) water
    • caramel sufficient to give color
  • "Mix caffeine acid and lime juice in 1 quart boiling water add vanilla and flavoring when cool."
  • Flavoring (Merchandise 7X):
  • "Let stand 24 hours."

This recipe does not specify when or how the ingredients are mixed, nor the flavoring oil quantity units of measure (though it implies that the "Merchandise 7X" was mixed first). This was common in recipes at the time, as it was assumed that preparers knew the method.

Reed recipe[edit]

This recipe is attributed to pharmacist John Reed.[22][23]

Merory recipe[edit]

Recipe is from Food Flavorings: Composition, Manufacture and Use. Makes one 1 US gallon (3.8 l; 0.83 imp gal) of syrup. Yield (used to flavor carbonated water at 1 US fl oz (30 ml) per bottle): 128 bottles, 6.5 US fl oz (190 ml).[24]

  • Mix 5 lb (2.3 kg) of sugar with just enough water to dissolve the sugar fully. (High-fructose corn syrup may be substituted for half the sugar.)
  • Add 1 14 oz (35 g) of caramel, 110 oz (3 g) caffeine, and 25 oz (11 g) phosphoric acid.
  • Extract the cocaine from 58 drachm (1.1 g) of coca leaf (Truxillo growth of coca preferred) with toluol; discard the cocaine extract.
  • Soak the coca leaves and kola nuts (both finely powdered); 15 drachm (0.35 g) in 34 oz (21 g) of 20% alcohol.
  • California white wine fortified to 20% strength was used as the soaking solution circa 1909, but Coca-Cola may have switched to a simple water/alcohol mixture.
  • After soaking, discard the coca and kola and add the liquid to the syrup.
  • Add 1 oz (28 g) lime juice (a former ingredient, evidently, that Coca-Cola now denies) or a substitute such as a water solution of citric acid and sodium citrate at lime-juice strength.
  • Mix together
    • 14 drachm (0.44 g) orange oil,
    • 110 drachm (0.18 g) cassia (Chinese cinnamon) oil,
    • 12 drachm (0.89 g) lemon oil, traces of
    • 25 drachm (0.71 g) nutmeg oil, and, if desired, traces of
    • coriander,
    • neroli, and
    • lavender oils.
  • Add 110 oz (2.8 g) water to the oil mixture and let stand for twenty-four hours at about 60 °F (16 °C). A cloudy layer will separate.
  • Take off the clear part of the liquid only and add the syrup.
  • Add 710 oz (20 g) glycerine (from vegetable source, not hog fat, so the drink can be sold to Jews and Muslims who observe their respective religion's dietary restrictions) and 310 drachm (0.53 g) of vanilla extract.
  • Add water (treated with chlorine) to make a gallon of syrup.

Beal/This American Life recipe[edit]

On February 11, 2011, Ira Glass said on his PRI radio show, This American Life, that the secret formula to Coca-Cola had been uncovered in "Everett Beal's Recipe Book", reproduced in the February 28, 1979, issue of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The formula found basically matched the formula found in Pemberton's diary.[25][26][27] The recipe revealed contains:[28]

The secret 7X flavor (use 2 oz of flavor to 5 gals syrup):

Physical security of the secret recipe[edit]

After Dr. John S. Pemberton invented Coca-Cola in 1886, the formula was kept a close secret, only shared with a small group and not written down. In 1891, Asa Candler became the sole proprietor of Coca-Cola after purchasing the rights to the business. Then, in 1919, Ernest Woodruff and a group of investors purchased the Company from Candler and his family. To finance the purchase Woodruff arranged a loan and as collateral he provided documentation of the formula by asking Candler's son to commit the formula to paper. This was placed in a vault in the Guaranty Bank in New York until the loan was repaid in 1925. At that point, Woodruff reclaimed the secret formula and returned it to Atlanta and placed it in the Trust Company Bank, now SunTrust Bank, where it remained through 2011.[29] On December 8, 2011, the Coca-Cola Company moved the secret formula to a purpose built vault in a permanent interactive exhibit at the World of Coca-Cola in Atlanta.[30]

Commercial teaser[edit]

On January 23, 2011, in a commercial aired during NFL Football, Coca-Cola teased that they would share the secret formula, only to flash a comical "formula" for a few frames. This required the use of a video recording device to freeze on the formula for any analysis, which ultimately proved to be a marketing ploy with no intention of sharing the full official formula. Ingredients listed in the commercial included nutmeg oil, lime juice, cocoa [sic], vanilla, caffeine, "flavoring", and "a smile".[31][better source needed]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Costa Bir, Lisa. "Hidden Sugar". Body+Soul. NewsLifeMedia Pty Ltd. Retrieved 2013-04-04. 
  2. ^ D'Amato, Alfonsina; Fasoli, Elisa; Kravchuk, Alexander V.; Righetti, Pier Giorgio (2011-04-01). "Going Nuts for Nuts? The Trace Proteome of a Cola Drink, as Detected via Combinatorial Peptide Ligand Libraries". Journal of Proteome Research. American Chemical Society. 10 (5): 2684–2686. doi:10.1021/pr2001447. PMID 21452894. Retrieved 2012-10-24. 
  3. ^ Poundstone, William (1983). Big Secrets. William Morrow and Company. ISBN 0-688-04830-7. 
  4. ^ a b Rielly, Edward J. (2003-08-07). Baseball and American Culture: Across the Diamond. Routledge. p. 133. ISBN 978-0-7890-1485-6. 
  5. ^ a b c Boville Luca de Tena, Belén (2004). The Cocaine War: In Context: Drugs and Politics. Algora Publishing. pp. 61–62. ISBN 978-0-87586-294-1. 
  6. ^ a b Hamowy, Ronald (2007). Government and public health in America (illustrated ed.). Edward Elgar Publishing. pp. 140–141. ISBN 978-1-84542-911-9. 
  7. ^ Benson, Drew (2004-04-19). "Coca kick in drinks spurs export fears". The Washington Times. The Washington Times, LLC. Coke dropped cocaine from its recipe around 1900, but the secret formula still calls for a cocaine-free coca extract produced at a Stepan Co. factory in Maywood, New Jersey. 
  8. ^ Lee, Rensselaer W. III (1991). The White Labyrinth: Cocaine and Political Power. A Foreign Policy Research Institute book (reprinted ed.). Transaction Publishers. pp. 24–25. ISBN 9781560005650. 
  9. ^ Langman, Jimmy (2006-10-30). "Just Say Coca". Newsweek via Retrieved 2007-05-05. 
  10. ^ Ceaser, Mike (2006-02-01). "Colombian farmers launch Coke rivals". BBC News. Retrieved 2009-04-27. 
  11. ^ a b Benjamin, Ludy T. (February 2009). "Pop psychology: The man who saved Coca-Cola". Monitor on Psychology. American Psychological Association. 40 (2): 18. Retrieved 2012-10-24. 
  12. ^ United States v. Forty Barrels and Twenty Kegs of Coca-Cola, the Coca-Cola Company of Atlanta, Georgia, 241 U.S. 265 (U.S. 1916-05-22) (“The judgment is reversed and the cause is remanded for further proceedings in conformity with this opinion.”).
  13. ^ Pendergrast, Mark (2000). For God, Country and Coca-Cola: The Definitive History of the Great American Soft Drink and the Company that Makes it (2nd ed.). Basic Books. pp. 121–. ISBN 978-0-465-05468-8. 
  14. ^ "Coca-Cola Taste Test: High Fructose Corn Syrup vs. Sugar". Huffpost. 2013-04-15. Retrieved 2013-05-14. 
  15. ^ Feldberg, Michael. "Beyond Seltzer Water: The Kashering of Coca-Cola". The Jewish Federations of North America, Inc. Retrieved 2012-10-24. 
  16. ^ Clifford, Stephanie (January 30, 2009). "Coca-Cola deleting 'Classic' from Coke label". New York Times. Retrieved June 10, 2015. 
  17. ^ a b "Coke vs. Coke: A tale of 2 sweeteners". Consumers Union. June 2009. 
  18. ^ Walker, Rob (2009-10-08). "Cult Classic". The New York Times Company. 
  19. ^ "Coca Cola: We Don't Need To Make A Cane Sugar Version Because You Already Have Mexican Coke – Consumerist". 2010-10-07. Retrieved 2013-03-26. 
  20. ^ Pendergrast, pp. 456–57.
  21. ^ The Recipe and image (pdf), This American Life. See Radio episode and notes.
  22. ^ "John Reed & the Coke Formula". Retrieved 2009-11-14. 
  23. ^ Terry, Sue (August 1, 2005), A Rich Deliciously Satisfying Collection of Breakfast Recipes, My Best Book Publishing Company, ISBN 978-1-932586-43-5 
  24. ^ Merory, Joseph (1968). Food Flavorings: Composition, Manufacture and Use (2nd ed.). Westport, CT: AVI Publishing. 
  25. ^ Katie Rogers, "'This American Life' bursts Coca-Cola's bubble: What's in that original recipe, anyway?", Washington Post BlogPost, February 15, 2011, retrieved February 16, 2011.
  26. ^ Brett Michael Dykes, "Did NPR’s ‘This American Life’ discover Coke’s secret formula?" Archived February 17, 2011, at the Wayback Machine., The Lookout, Yahoo! News, February 15, 2011.
  27. ^ David W. Freeman, "'This American Life' Reveals Coca-Cola's Secret Recipe (Full Ingredient List)", CBS News Healthwatch blogs, February 15, 2011.
  28. ^ The Recipe and image (pdf), This American Life.
  29. ^ "Coca-Cola Moves its Secret Formula to The World of Coca-Cola". The Coca-Cola Company. December 8, 2011. Retrieved December 19, 2011. 
  30. ^ Stafford, Leon (December 8, 2011). "Coke hides its secret formula in plain sight in World of Coca-Cola move". Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Retrieved December 19, 2011. 
  31. ^ Goyal, Surbhi (2011-02-17). "Coca-Cola Secret Revealed???". Stellarix Consultancy Services. Retrieved 2016-08-25. 

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