Tuesday, June 14, 2005


The redoubtable Mr. D. Montana has a lot of Food Industry secrets lurking in the Basement Levels of his brain, one of which he has graciously chosen to share with the Great Unwashed Hordes of Blogdom™. [That’d be us, Esteemed Readers.]

But there’s another little secret that we’re both privy to, something that came up in the course of a lengthy telephone discussion yesterday evening.

Those of you who are old enough to remember the Great Coca-Cola Marketing Fiasco of 1985 will recall that Coca-Cola, with great fanfare, announced at that time that they were reformulating Coca-Cola. Henceforth, said the Marketing Geniuses, “New Coke,” with a seemingly Pepsi-like flavor profile, would be the flagship soft drink. The “Original Formula” would be retired.

Imagine the surprise of the Coke Marketing Double-Domes when a huge public outcry erupted.

Among certain circles - in Atlanta, especially – the notion of tinkering with the Sacred Formulation of Coca-Cola was viewed with the same horror that you would expect were someone to translate the King James Bible into Snoop Dogg gangsta-speak:
  1. In tha beginn’n God created tha heaven n tha earth.
  2. And tha earth was witout form, n void; n darkness was upon tha face of tha deep. And tha Spirit of God moved upon tha fizzle of tha wata
  3. And God said, Let there be light: n there was light.
  4. And God saw tha light, that it was good: n God divided tha light frizzom tha darkness.
  5. And God called tha light Day, n tha darkness he called Niznight. And tha even’n n tha bustin’ were tha first day.
  6. And God said, Let there be a firmament in tha mizzidst of tha wata, n let it divide tha wata from tha wata
  7. And God made tha firmament, n divided tha wata which were rappa tha firmament from tha playa which were above tha firmament: n it was so.
  8. And God called tha firmament Heaven. And tha pimpin’ n tha blingin’ were tha second day.
What was the point, anyway? If you wanted something that tasted like Pepsi, you could simply buy Pepsi. Die-hard Coke drinkers, meanwhile, did not want someting that tasted like Pepsi. They wanted the Real Thing, that supercharged phosphoric acid-laden Cola Pong, not some test-marketed-to-death focus-group alternative.

After almost three months of noise, smoke, and mouth-foaming media frenzy, the Coca-Cola folks did something practically unprecedented: they backtracked. “Original” Coke was resurrected as “Coca-Cola Classic,” and “New Coke” was kept on as a second flagship brand. Later rechristened “Coke II,” it has since died a natural death, at least here in the U.S.

But what most people don’t know is that Coke Classic is not the Real Thing. Not anymore. Hasn’t been, for a long time.

It’s not because they took the cocaine out of Coca-Cola. That happened in 1905, after the passage of the Pure Food and Drug Acts, when the company switched to using coca leaf from which the cocaine had previously been extracted. [The amount of cocaine in Coke was microscopic to begin with; after the switch, it was infinitesimal.]

No: the biggest difference between today’s Coca-Cola Classic and the Coke we grew up with is the sweetener. Today’s Coke is sweetened with high-fructose corn syrup, but back in the day, the sweetener was sucrose. Cane sugar – or beet sugar.

You don’t think it makes a difference? Think again.

If you want to experience the Real Thing in its true, pre-corn syrup glory, go to a major metropolitan area in the springtime – the month before Passover, which usually falls close to Easter. Look for Coca-Cola Classic that’s marked Kosher for Passover. Typically, the marking is on the bottle cap – in Atlanta, the Kosher for Passover Coke has a yellow cap so it’s easy to spot.

Why “Kosher Coke”? Because products derived from corn are off-limits to observant Jews during Passover, acceptable soft drinks must be formulated with sucrose. Good old sugar.

The way all soft drinks used to be made.

The Kosher for Passover version of Coke is only available in the springtime, during those few weeks leading up to Passover. After that, it's back to the Regular Crap – not the Real Thing. Now, if they would only sell it in heavy returnable glass bottles...

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