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Why Did Coca-Cola Refuse to Patent Their Secret Formula?

Dr. John Pemberton sold the first glass of Coca-Cola on May 8, 1886, at Jacob’s Pharmacy in downtown Atlanta. At the time, they would serve nine drinks a day. Little did they know that their little soda fountain would turn into a multi-billion dollar business. But did you know, one of the main reasons the company is so successful, is because they keep their secret recipe under wraps? They even went as far as not patenting their formula to hide it from the public eye. 

What seems like a risky move, The Coca-Cola Company never put a patent on their secret recipe. Applying for a patent meant that they would need to reveal their formula to the public. 

The History of The Coca-Cola Company

Coca-Cola has been a catalyst for social interaction since its conception in 1886. Dr. John Pemberton sold his very first glass of the fizzy concoction at Jacob’s Pharmacy in Atlanta, Georgia. In its first year, they were able to sell over 3,000 drinks.

Pemberton, a local pharmacy created the syrup for Coca-Cola. He brought a jug of the product to the pharmacy and gave out samples on the first day. He then started charging five cents for a glass of the soda fountain drink. He would mix the carbonated water with his syrup to produce the so-called Delicious and Refreshing drink we all know and love today. 

When they were thinking of a name, Pemberton and his bookkeeper Frank M. Robinson thought that having the two Cs in the name looked appealing. Robinson was the one who suggested having the name penned the way we see it in today’s iconic trademark.

They published an ad in The Atlanta Journal inviting everyone to try the new soda fountain drink. Soon enough the Coca-Cola name appeared everywhere.

Pemberton never expected his drink to reach this level of success. He sold portions of his business to different people and just before he passed in 1888, the rest of his company was sold to Asa G. Candler, who eventually bought additional rights to gain complete control of the corporation. (Source: The Coca-Cola Company)

How Does Keeping the Recipe a Secret Help with Coca-Cola’s Success?

According to reports, one of the main reasons Coca-Cola is staying afloat in the beverage industry even when the market was shrinking, was because its strategy of keeping the recipe of their iconic drink a secret. While the industry struggled, its resiliency proved that it was a good move.

In 2014, The Coca-Cola Company published its full-year result showing a 5% drop in net income. At the time, most businesses suffered from the global macroeconomic crisis. 

The volume grew 2% for the year, which it said was below our expectations and long-term growth target. 

Muhtar Kent, Chief Executive Officer, The Coca-Cola Company

On a global scale, soda sales have been affected greatly since more consumers are choosing healthier options. The trend also affected competitors; PepsiCo and Dr. Pepper. In this tough market, brand experts say that Coca-Cola’s strength came from the mystery of its secret recipe. 

The very idea of mystery attracts attention and is often seen as an element of quality. A typical consumer would think that it must be a valuable product if they are doing all these things to protect the recipe.

Ben Voyer, Social Psychologist, and Marketing Expert

(Souce: CNN)

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