When a new food product is invented, the creator obviously has good reason to keep the recipe close to his or her chest. But in certain cases, the "secret recipe" for a food or drink product takes on a life of its own, and adds to the overall lore and appeal of the product itself.
Secret recipes are nothing new. Back in the old days, before the government required food and drink manufacturers to list ingredients on the label, legitimate companies as well as snake oil salesmen made good money selling products they claimed could cure everything from arthritis to stomachaches, all based on a "secret recipe." These tonics usually did more harm than good, thanks to the fact that active ingredients ranged from nothing at all to morphine and cocaine. Once the labeling laws were passed, many of these tonics disappeared entirely, but some wiggle room remained.
It was still possible to maintain a somewhat secret formula, and Coca-Cola certainly capitalized on that. By being allowed to list only "natural flavors" as a catch-all for certain groups of ingredients, they were able to keep the world guessing as to what exactly went into the magic elixir.
Today, it's harder than ever to keep a formula secret. Chemists and food scientists are able to break down just about any food product and figure out exactly what goes into it, and whole books have been published claiming to reveal the recipes to foods with famous secret formulas. But in reality, until the company itself comes out and releases the exact recipe (as McDonald's did with its "special sauce"), we'll never know for sure exactly what goes into these foods and drinks.
This is quite possibly the most legendary secret recipe on earth; the lore surrounding the Coke formula is almost as famous as the beverage itself. The only written copy of the recipe was locked in an Atlanta bank vault for decades — in 2011, it was transferred to a vault in an exhibit at Atlanta's World of Coca-Cola interactive museum — and the fact that the recipe has been such a tightly-guarded secret has been great for Coke’s PR. Every so often someone claims to have come across inventor John Pemberton’s original recipe, but it’s been tweaked so many times since the original days that to reproduce it today would be nearly impossible. Oh, and only one producer
in the country is allowed to produce decocainized flavor essence of the coca leaf, a key ingredient, and they’re not likely to sell it to you anytime soon. Photo Credit: Getty ImagesClick Here to See More of the World’s Most Closely Guarded Recipes
Bush’s Baked Beans
While it may seem like a marketing ploy more than anything else, the recipe to Bush’s Baked Beans is, in fact, a secret. The recipe was created by the founder’s daughter-in-law Kathleen, and in fact only current owner Jay Bush knows the recipe (him and his dog Duke, of course). The beans contain brown sugar and bacon, but as for the spice blend, even the supplier doesn’t know it. Photo Credit: © Flickr / Ernesto Andrade
In 1737, a monk named Jérôme Maubec happened upon a secret formula for an elixir for long life that had been given to the monastery by an officer of King Henry IV, and decided to modify it. He distilled 130 flowers and plants into a powerful elixir, and over the years it was used as the base for Green Chartreuse and Yellow Chartreuse. The formula that goes into each of these products is still a closely-held secret, one that plenty of would-be copycats have attempted to replicate. Photo Credit: © Flickr / Ruth Flickr