Does McDonald’s Coke taste different than everyone else’s Coke? That is a question I have had for many years. And apparently many other people have asked the same question over the years. Earlier today, I came across and article by Fox News that was recently written about this very topic. Here is a link to that article: Foxnews
Now just to be clear, I am not promoting anything here and to be fair, I really don’t normally watch much regular TV, especially the news. Well, with exception of CNBC which I have live on my brokerage account TV so I can follow the Market and converse back and forth with my friends in the investing world and on TV. But this article popped up on Twitter today and it brought back some old memories. So I thought I would share them with you.
If you have a few minutes, sit back and read this little blog. But, if you have a short attention span, you may find this a bit lengthy. So you are forewarned. So let’s get on with it.
I don’t know about you, but I’m guessing that if you are a soda drinker, or maybe used to be one, you will likely agree that there is something different about the Coke served by McDonalds versus that served everywhere else, including that which you can purchase at the local grocery store. It seems, well, as McDonalds put it, more refreshing.
If you read the article in the link I provided above, you may decide that it explains why Coke does indeed taste different than anywhere else. And I am not going to argue that the article is or is not correct. But, I am going to share with you a little information I was given many years ago that, at least for me, might have at least some truth to it. So here is my story.
Back many years ago, I happened to be indulging in some “cocktails” with a certain Coca Cola Executive. His name escapes me now, but this would have been back around mid-1981-82, somewhere in there, which is probably a good thing as I was sworn to secrecy and have actually kept my word until now. But let’s just say this fellow would have had the connections to know what he was talking about and we will leave it at that. Besides, I’m sure he is long since retired, well, maybe even dead. That’s it! He’s dead so he won’t come after me.
So we are discussing how it is that Coke can provide this syrup of theirs to everyone around the world and it is the same everywhere around the world, yet the very people who are making the syrup do not know the formula. How is that possible? Well it is, but that is for another story. But, it is key in understanding what I am going to share with you.
Back to the story. As we sat and discussed the marvel of just how well accepted Coke is all over the world, this fellow shared a “secret” with me. He said Coke had a new product coming to market in a few months. Something that was so big, it would revolutionize the industry. It would be huge. HUGE!!!! Well, what is this new mystery elixir? Do tell me more.
I was then told that not only would he share with me what it was, but that he had some and if I would promise not to say anything to anyone, he would share some with me. He said he had a sample out in his car. And so we worked our way out to the parking lot and as we meandered towards his car, he said that to demonstrate just how big this product would be, he would do a bit of a blind taste test with me. I agreed to be a taste tester, but I warned him that I am a bit different than most people, so the results he might get from me might be different than what he expects.
So once we got to the car, I was instructed to face away from the car whilst he put the whole sample thing together. When instructed to turn around, he told me that I would drink first from cup A and then follow up right away with cup B. And then, I would tell him which cup had the real Coke in it. Okay, right. So both cups have similar tasting products in them.
Cup A was first consumed. Then I quickly followed with cup B. One tasted like good ol’ Coke and the other tasted like soap. And that was pretty much what I remember telling him. Yuck! Give me some more of the first one. I need to get that second one’s taste out of my mouth.
Well, in case you have not guessed it yet, that new top secret product was going to be called Diet Coke. Yep. The Diet Coke many of you may still drink today. I find it revolting and it leaves a horrible after taste in my mouth. But I give him credit. Diet Coke did become HUGE! Just not to me.
Now as we stood out there in the parking lot on a beautiful Wednesday evening, we continued to talk more about the Coca Cola Company. I remember it was a Wednesday evening because the bar we were at had a special on well drinks every Wednesday evening. And we were there to take advantage of such.
So back on Coke, I commented about the fact that Coca Cola was a bit like McDonalds. One of the most important requirements McDonalds maintained, even to this day as far as I know, is that a Big Mac is a Big Mac anywhere you go. It must taste the same everywhere. Coca Cola must do the same thing with their Coke. Well, that got him talking about a secret he claimed virtually nearly no one in the world knew. At least according to him.
He said I was spot on. Even more so, both Coke and McDonalds had a secret that even pretty much everyone who who works for either company knows anything about. A pact, created years ago. It seems McDonalds wanted to “modify” the Coca Cola recipe so it tasted different than anywhere else. A sort of signature taste that would set them apart from other competitors. They had played around with Coca Cola and had figured out what they needed to change to get a more “refreshing” taste.
So a discussion was held between a few people within each organization and a pact was made, secured with only a handshake so no documents would be shared or secrets let out of the bag. I wonder if they had a secret handshake too? The pact, would be that McDonalds would be allowed to use a modified formula and in return, McDonalds would never serve any non-Coca Cola Company drinks in their stores.
Now remember way back at the beginning of this story, I mentioned how Coca Cola syrup was somehow made, yet the people who made it did not know the recipe? Well, in this same manner, the recipe for Coca Cola meant for McDonalds is used, but the people who make it don’t know that it is different from the original recipe. Better yet, the people at McDonalds don’t even know their recipe is different. At one time, a few may have known. And maybe today there are a few people who know. But the idea was to never let it be known that this special recipe for McDonalds even exists.
Is this possible? I don’t know. But to this day, there is a special division within the Coca Cola Company just for McDonalds. Hmmm. Sounds like an Area 51 kind of thing to me.
But I was sworn to secrecy and I have kept my word all these years – at least until now. I have no reason to doubt the person who shared this with me. I don’t have a clue how he knew or why he would share it with me. Well, maybe the cocktails had a bit to do with it. Nevertheless, I still to this day maintain that there is something different about Coke at McDonalds than anywhere else. And I’m not sure the reasoning given in the article linked above explains it all.
I had a conversation with a Pepsi executive a few years ago. Nothing related to this. But he pointed out that if you were to put a typical Pepsi dispenser next to a typical McDonald’s Coke dispenser, and then see which one will fill a cup first, that Pepsi will win every time. Something about how fast the little aerator where the mix comes out and into your cup can properly mix the carbonated water with the syrup. He said he thought McDonalds had some requirement about how that thing worked, or something along those lines. His attempt was to say that Pepsi’s was superior and he didn’t understand why Coke didn’t just put a similar type aerator on their units. I call that thing an aerator, but it is probably really called something like a nine syllable word.
So am I letting a cat out of the bag? I don’t know. Maybe the article is right. Or maybe some variation of the article and what I am sharing with you is the truth. You might think I would look this stuff up on the Internet. But somehow, I never have.
Maybe it is because I want to believe some super secret story was shared with me some 35 years ago. The guy was right about Diet Coke. They did publicly announce the product within a few weeks after our conversation. It became available a few months later. And it did become a HUGE thing for the Coca Cola Company. Even if I still think it tastes like soap.
Take what I say with a grain of salt, or maybe in this case, with a glass of Coke. But the next time you drink a Coke, especially if it is at McDonalds, think about my story. Let me know what your thoughts are. I really would like to hear. Do you think the Coke at McDonalds tastes different compared to other sources?
Thanks for reading this little blog. I’ll see you next time on Where In the World Is Jim.