The seven-ingredient formula was created by John Pemberton, an Atlanta chemist and former Confederate army officer who crafted cough medicines and other concoctions in his spare time. In 1887, he sold the recipe to a businessman, Asa Griggs, who immediately placed it for safekeeping in the then Georgia Trust bank.
Glass came across a recipe that he believes is the secret formula in a back issue of Pemberton’s local paper, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, while he was researching an entirely different story.
Coke’s secret recipe is, in fact, part mythology. Contrary to the mystique surrounding it, the soda has in fact changed substantially over time.
Cocaine, a legal stimulant in Pemberton’s day, was removed from the drink in 1904 after mounting public unease about the drug. Extract of coca leaves have still been used but only after the cocaine has been removed.
In 1980, the company largely replaced sugar, squeezed from beet and cane, with the cheaper high-fructose corn sweetener that has become ubiquitous in American food and drink. Coke purists were not impressed.
Despite such occasional controversies, one element has remained constant: Coke’s commitment to keeping its own secret. Speculation about the recipe has been a popular talking point for more than a century, proving good for business.
True to form, the company has treated the This American Life story with the disdain that has marked its commercial strategy since the 19th century.
“Many third parties have tried to crack our secret formula. Try as they might, they’ve been unsuccessful,” Coca-Cola’s Kerry Tressler said. (guardian news)