The Lay Press Has It All Wrong Regarding Coke’s Trade Secret Recipe

On the 15th of February This American Life let us all in on their discovery: a three-decades-old photograph of a handwritten ledger that looked all-the-world as if it listed the original recipe for Coca Cola, probably the most famous “trade secret” in America, if not the world.  Here’s the problem, from an IP value perspective.  If Coca Cola’s trade secrets are components of its value, then the unveiling of a trade secret, so that it no longer qualified as a trade secret, despite more than a century of concerted, effective protection, would certainly affect its value.

Why then did investors ignore the news? Coke stock was trending gently down when the news hit, and continued as if there were no news.  That’s because there was no news.

McDonald’s Secret Sauce, KFC’s herbs and spices, even Krispy Kreme’s purported secret recipe are all advertising tools.  And they work. These companies get what the lay press appears to miss … it’s all about publicity…it’s all about convincing the buying public their food offering is unique. Coke’s ingredients are found on the bottle … of course the special way they keep from letting any of that secret ingredient from their original recipe creep back into the formula – cocaine – is mildly interesting, but hardly worth the 100 publicity-generating articles (sample) (and that coca process isn’t described in the formula, anyway...PSSST... it's described here).

So, yes, I’ve succumbed, and penned article number 101.  But please, call it what it is.