Coca-Cola Secret Formula Hidden in Plain Sight?

As corporate secrets go, this one ranks right up there with the Colonel's fried chicken recipe. A radio program claims to have found the secret formula for Coca-Cola.  But is it the real thing? CBS News correspondent Mark Strassmann reports from Coke's hometown, Atlanta.

Coke's secret formula - the Holy Grail of the soft drink universe - finally discovered? Radio newsman Ira Glass says yes, the real thing was hiding in plain sight.

"The photo on the newspaper wasn't on the front page," Glass said. "It was buried."

Glass stumbled upon the photo in a 1979 edition of the Atlanta Journal Constitution. Supposedly, it's the the handwritten original formula of pharmacist John Pemberton, Coke's creator.

"I think this formula has been out there for anyone who cared to discover it," Glass said.

If so, it's a discovery potentially worth a fortune.  

Phil Mooney - Coca-Cola's archivist - said, "We think it's a formula for a cola. But not Coke."

Coke knows the marketing power of the mystique. Officially there's only one written copy of the secret formula - locked away in the vault of a downtown Atlanta bank.

Outside Dallas, Kelly Shelton's a Coke diehard with hundreds of Coke collectibles.

"I doubt they've actually cracked the code," Shelton said. "Because people try all the time."

Glass actually made the formula in the photo and put it to a taste test. Twenty-eight of thirty people sipped and said, nope, not a Coke.

Mooney said knowing the ingredients wouldn't be enough. "You still have to put it together the right way."

Only one company does. Coke is it.

  • strassmannbio2011.jpg
    Mark Strassmann

    Mark Strassmann has been a CBS News correspondent since January 2001 and is based in the Atlanta bureau.