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Is the Formula for Coca-Cola® the Same in All Countries?

In Mexico, cane sugar is added to the concentrated Coca-Cola® formula instead of corn syrup.
Several soft drinks in India, including Coca-Cola, were found to have toxic and unsafe levels of chemicals.
Coca-Cola bottling is a franchised operation.
A bottle of soda.
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  • Written By: Tricia Ellis-Christensen
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Images By: Liaurinko, Polesnoy, Mike Mozart, Karandaev
  • Last Modified Date: 16 October 2014
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Coca-Cola® is an internationally recognized drink, popular in many countries throughout the world. The company that produces the soft drink has an interesting way of distributing it around the world, which many people may not realize. You don’t get exactly the same Coke® in India that you do in the US, because bottling of the drink is franchised.

What occurs is the following: the company produces a concentrate with the patented formula for Coca-Cola®. This remains the same wherever you purchase the product. This concentrate is then sold to companies who have purchased franchises to bottle Coca-Cola® in their area. Each bottling company adds water and whatever sweeteners are used for that specific type of coke.

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Slight variations may occur if the bottlers don’t conform to standards of production, for instance using less of the concentrate than is recommended, or changing the type of sweetener used. Though the formula for Coca-Cola® concentrate doesn’t change, there can be slight differences in sweetness since bottling agencies may change the amount of sweeteners used to fit the local population’s palate, and some versions of the cola are said to be sweeter or sharper in other countries. The United States has seen, especially in countries close to Mexico, a rise in the amount of Mexican Coca-Cola® imported into the US and sold at a number of Mexican and Latin or South American grocery stores. Cola aficionados say there are differences between south of the border and American produced versions of the drink. They cite the fact that most Mexican bottlers add cane sugar instead of corn syrup, and many people prefer the Mexican version, though at first the taste can be a little unusual.

Thus the main difference is the way in which the formula for Coca-Cola® has ingredients added to it from one country to another. The type of water used may create a major difference in both taste and safety. Some countries, particularly emerging countries with high levels of pollution have been under investigation for producing Coca-Cola® with alarmingly high levels of pesticides. In 2003, for instance, a government independent investigatory agency in India found that water filtration was not ridding the water of substances like DDT and Malathion.

Several soft drinks in India, including Pepsi®, were found to have toxic and unsafe levels of these chemicals. This led to a decline in sales in Coca-Cola® that lasted for several years, and an outright ban on selling Coke® in certain parts of India for a short while. Technically water filtration should eliminate most of these chemicals, but the presence of higher amounts of the chemicals in certain areas may mean filtration methods aren’t adequate to the task. Coca-Cola® has defended their product and claims they test all their soft drinks, wherever produced, to make sure they meet safety standards. They also stand by the formula, though they do recognized small differences in taste when it is bottled outside of the US.

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anon956921
Post 14

When I was in France I tried Coca Cola and believe me, it tasted the same as when I was a child, 50 years ago. I was told they use real sugar and that was the difference between United States Coke and European Coke.

anon345866
Post 13

I'm from Argentina and the Coca Cola we drink here is just awful. It's bitter, it tastes like cough medicine and I just can't handle it, but a lot of people like it. It's weird, because I have memories of really liking coca cola until maybe 2005 or some year close to that time. I'm sure it was better a couple of years before. It's so bad that even I don't like these kind of drinks, and I definitely prefer Pepsi over Coke.

anon329524
Post 12

I am from Italy, and I have to say the Coca Cola that I was drinking until mid 90's had a different taste for me. I remember it was more sparkling and sweeter than now. It's true that it's different from one country to another, because I tried it in Germany, France, the U.K. and USA. I think the best is in USA and in Germany.

But I tried also cherry Coke in the USA, the UK, France and Germany and I think that the best taste is in USA and a little bit similar in U.K. I think that France and Germany's cherry coke is not delicious like the American version.

anon320280
Post 11

The US Coke is dangerous. Its proven that high fructose corn syrup causes cancer. The German Coke is the same Coke as Mexican Coke. It is made with real sugar. It is not as harmful as the US Coke.

serenesurface
Post 10

It's not just the formula of Coca-Cola that changes in different countries. The name and looks can be slightly different too. In some countries, Diet Coca-Cola is called Coca-Cola Light.

ysmina
Post 9

@simrin-- That's shocking to hear! Especially because Coca-Cola originated in the US. So one would think that the American one is the best.

But you know, it's probably an issue of palate. Did you drink Coca-Cola for the first time in the Middle East? That might be why you like that one better.

When I went to Germany, I hated the taste of Coca-Cola there, probably because I'm used to the taste of American coke.

SteamLouis
Post 8

I'm originally from the Middle East and I still have family over there and I visit them in the summers. Coca-Cola in the Middle East definitely tastes different than in the US. I think the sweetener that is used is different. The acid content also seems to be different. I enjoy the Coke in the Middle East much more than American Coca-Cola.

I only drink Diet Coke and I drink it every day. I love the flavor of the Arab one. It's sweet but not overwhelming and the acidity is just perfect. The Diet Coke in the US is too acidic, it gives me stomach cramps. Sometimes I joke around and say that the American Diet Coke can clean rust. It's that strong in my view.

I wish they would bring the Coca-Cola formula from the Middle East here.

StarJo
Post 7

Wow, I always thought that products by big name corporations like Coca-Cola would be required to be the same across the board! I'm surprised to learn that there is some leeway when it comes to bottling and flavoring.

I have become so accustomed to the Coca-Cola here in the United States that I doubt I would like it any other way. In fact, now that I know that there is a difference, I will take some Coke from home with me when I visit Europe this summer.

orangey03
Post 6

Well, this article makes me glad that I didn't try the Coca-Cola while in India! I had no idea that drinking soda could be so dangerous!

When I travel abroad, I'm afraid to drink the water. Now, it seems I need to be afraid of the soda, too!

Perdido
Post 5

@Oceana – I have tried it, and I have to say that I prefer it over the American kind. The sweetness seems more authentic.

Some grocery stores and dollar stores also sell plastic bottles of “throwback” sodas that are sweetened with cane sugar instead of corn syrup. These are usually in the refrigerated section right next to the registers. This is a good way for you to get a taste of the good stuff.

I can remember a time when many soda manufacturers used real sugar instead of syrup to sweeten sodas. It is hard for me to drink the modern versions, because they actually taste like syrup. I buy the old-fashioned or the Mexican Coca-Cola whenever I see it for sale.

Oceana
Post 4

Has anyone here tasted Mexican Coca-Cola? I'm curious about it. When I go to the Mexican restaurant down the street, I always order water, but I think I may try the Coke next time, just to see how it compares to the American version.

anon102559
Post 1

Thanks for this! I knew that the Coca-cola that I'm drinking in France tastes very different from the stuff I drink in the UK, but I didn't know why! I thought it was due to local preferences or something, but the reasons here make a lot of sense.

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