NEW YORK (Reuters) - Coca-Cola Co said on Tuesday that its flagship cola recipe is still secret after nearly 125 years, denying a story by a public radio show that it has uncovered the formula.
“This American Life,” a weekly radio program, said it found the closely guarded formula in an article in Coke’s hometown newspaper, the Atlanta Journal Constitution, from February 1979.
A photo that appeared with the article shows pages from a notebook with a handwritten list of ingredients such as sugar, lime juice, vanilla and caramel. It also lists oils of cinnamon, neroli, coriander, nutmeg, lemon and orange.
The show, produced by WBEZ Chicago and distributed by Public Radio International, claims the notebook originally belonged to a friend of John Pemberton, the pharmacist who created Coca-Cola in 1886.
The book passed through various hands and eventually landed with Georgia pharmacist Everett Beal, who was an acquaintance of the newspaper writer, according to Beal’s widow, who was interviewed by “This American Life” host Ira Glass.
Coke, the world’s largest soft drink maker, denied that the formula is the same as the one for its cola, which is kept in an Atlanta bank vault.
“Many third parties, including ‘This American Life,’ have tried to crack our secret formula. Try as they might, they’ve been unsuccessful because there is only one ‘Real Thing,’” said Coca-Cola spokeswoman Kerry Tressler.
The show said the recipe matched another one once found in a notebook owned by Pemberton, which is in Coke’s archives.
Archive director Philip Mooney told the show that many similar, if not identical, recipes have surfaced in the past that claim to be the one for what has become one of the world’s best-known brands.
“Could it be a precursor? Yeah, absolutely,” Mooney told the show. “Is this the one that went to market? I don’t think so.”
Reporting by Martinne Geller, editing by Gerald E. McCormick