Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The Coke Conspiracy

In an article at LiveScience.com on the reputed uncovering of the Coca-Cola secret formula, the evidence is hinted at of a famous conspiracy theory:

"The Coca-Cola Company has used high-fructose corn syrup rather than sugar in the American version of its soft drink since 1985. That was the year it scrapped the 'New Coke' formula — which spent only a few months on the market after the company was flooded by consumer protests — and reverted to a recipe similar to the one it had used up until 1985 (except switching the sweetener to corn syrup)."

This jibes with the theory that New Coke was part of a plot to switch the sweetener for Coca-Cola from sugar to corn syrup. As the theory goes, New Coke was used to give a time lapse, so consumers wouldn't notice the difference in taste in the sweetener change.

For the record, Coca-Cola has always dismissed this as an urban legend, with then Coke prez Donald Keough declaring: "We're not that dumb, and we're not that smart."

Live Science spoke to Mark Pendergrast, historian and author of For God, Country, and Coca-Cola: The Definitive History of the Great American Soft Drink and the Company that Makes It, and here's what he had to say: "I think it's kind of funny that suddenly there's this big flap over this when I found the formula in Coca-Cola inventor John Pemberton's papers and published it in the first edition of my book in 1993. This recipe is very similar to the one I found, so I do think it's probably authentic." But he added: "It's not the recipe of the drink they're selling now. The original formula has been changed."

Doing a Google search, I uncovered the Pendgrast recipe, and indeed the recipes are similar. The Pendergrast recipe lists 30 lbs of sugar, not 30 oz as I suspected, making it 16 times sweeter than I guessed. In any case, the last missing unit of the Coke recipe from the American Life show has been uncovered to my satisfaction. Here is the recipe:

Fluid extract of Coca: 3 drams USP
Citric acid: 3 oz
Caffeine: 1 oz
Sugar: 30 lbs
Water: 2.5 gal
Lime juice: 2 pints (1 quart)
Vanilla: 1 oz
Caramel: 1.5 oz or more for color

The secret 7X flavor (use 2 oz of flavor to 5 gals syrup):
Alcohol: 8 oz
Orange oil: 20 drops
Lemon oil: 30 drops
Nutmeg oil: 10 drops
Coriander: 5 drops
Neroli: 10 drops
Cinnamon: 10 drops

Leaked Coca-Cola Recipe Is Real, but Not 'The Real Thing'
Natalie Wolchover
18 February 2011

Is This the Real Thing? Coca-Cola's Secret Formula 'Discovered'
William Lee Adams

This American Life 427: Original Recipe
Originally aired 02.11.2011

Coca-Cola Formula

For God, Country, and Coca-Cola: The Definitive History of the Great American Soft Drink and the Company That Makes It
Mark Pendergrast

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