Dec. 8, 2011 - Atlanta - The vault where the formula is purported to be kept appears to have many security features. Coca-Cola's secret formula found a new home at the World of Coca-Cola after being housed at SunTrust since 1925.
Photo: Bob Andres
Photo: Bob Andres

Coke says secret formula for sale on eBay not the real thing

Proving you have an authentic copy of Coca-Cola’s secret formula is akin to substantiating UFO footage or a Bigfoot sighting, with one exception.

Aliens and Sasquatches don’t have a high-priced team of attorneys, much less the final word.

So even if Ringgold antiques dealer Cliff Kluge has obtained a document of one of corporate America’s most closely guarded secrets, as he claims, good luck confirming it. He hasn’t had much luck selling the type-written, one-page recipe, either, with no bidders meeting his minimum asking price of $5 million since making it available on eBay Friday.

Either way, the real winner is … Coca-Cola, which was all too happy to indulge the latest claim that their secret — concocted 127 years ago by Dr. John S. Pemberton— is out.

“This happens every few years, and the desire to possess the secret formula speaks to the power of the brand,” the company’s archivist, Ted Ryan, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Tuesday. “But there is only one copy of the formula, and we’ve got it locked in our vault (at the World of Coke museum in downtown Atlanta).”

True or not, Coke holds all the cards.

“Throughout the years, a number of handwritten formulas have surfaced and have been presented to Coca-Cola,” writes the web sleuths at Snopes.com. “The company routinely waves them off as ‘not authentic,’ and that usual ends the matters. After all, no one can authenticate his tattered copy of the recipe … unless Coca-Cola shows theirs, and Coca-Cola never does.”

In 2011, NPR’s “This American Life” radio program claimed it had discovered the formula within a photograph accompanying an article published 34 years ago by the AJC. Coca-Cola insists the recipe — with ingredients including vanilla, lime juice, lemon oil, orange oil, cinnamon oil and nutmeg oil — published online by NPR was not the real thing.

“There have been many attempts to replicate the formula, and I suspect that’s what we have here, another imitator,” Ryan said in reference to Kluge’s document.

Kluge claims he discovered the formula among of stack of papers he recently purchased at the estate sale of a prominent Chattanooga chemist.

“There is no doubt (at least in my mind) that whoever typed the letter had seen the original recipe for Coca Cola … more evidence and external factors are falling in place to bolster the fact that this could be the original, with an emphasis on the word ‘could,’ ” Kluge writes on eBay. He did not respond to an interview request from the AJC.

According to Ryan, Kluge likely does possess a soft drink recipe: “It’s for a cola. But not Coca-Cola.”

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