Welcome back, to another post. This one is a gossipingly factual post about well-guarded secret recipes which either are world famous or were world famous. Using the words ‘secret’ and ‘world famous’ in the same sentence automatically triggers an eagerness to know more. I know you and me are always keen to know secrets when we hear of them. More the level of secrecy, more is the curiosity to find it. This natural trait of humans have been proved to be the Marketing world’s treasure trove. They call it the ‘trade secret strategy’ which sets them apart from other competitors.
What is a trade secret?
Today you will find out, how to become rich by means of a trade secret. For simplification, I will give you an example. Let’s assume, you are the best when it comes to cooking. Even if you are not the best, but right now just imagine. On one fine evening, you invent a new recipe. Which you serve to your friends and family who are your guests for the evening. They love it so much that they ask you “How you made it?” This is because, they haven’t had anything like this ever before.
Now this gives you an idea to start a new business where you sell the dish made out of your secret recipe. At first you have all the customers to yourself as you have the exclusivity factor. Then after a period of time, you have competitors who try to replicate your recipe. For momentarily your sales might drop. But eventually, the customers will return to you. The sole reason being, ‘Your recipe has no match’ to what so ever is available out there.
Now you feel great but at the same time you do feel tensed. Because now you are concerned about the secrecy of your recipe. So what you think you can do? Your first guess must be Patenting!!! If yes, then I am afraid that this is not going to help much. As the laws for patenting recipes are very tough. So I pitch in and give you an advice, which is to hide your recipe and maintain the exclusivity. You listen to me and Boom!!! You have become a millionaire in few years. Congratulations!!! And no need to say Thank You.
Fact: Patents can expire but trade secrets do not. As they fall under category of Intellectual Property. Patents require disclosure and detailing but trade secrets have no such obligations.
Brands and concept of Well-guarded Secret recipes:
This sums up the concept of trade secret in layman’s language. Posing something of a value which cannot be disclosed in order to benefit from the end product of that secret. Trade secrets drive brands from zero to hero. You must have noticed how most of the ad campaigns of the brands are designed around their trade secrets. Just because it generates curiosity in the customer who end up buying the products.
So let’s dig in to know, how some of the famous brands of the world can be unique examples of this concept. You will not be shocked to know that most of the brands are Americans. They love to keep their secrets. In India here we believe in spilling the beans. So this clarifies why the western world has more stories of ‘Grandma’s secret recipe’. Whereas in India you hear more of ‘this was taught by my Granny to my mom and then my mom taught me this.’
KFC Chicken Secret recipe
When you talk about crispy fried chicken, most of the east and west will unite in spite of any differences they have. The recipe to this global brand has 11 secret herbs and spices. Which they loudly tell to the world via their twitter handle where they follow exactly 11 people. 6 of them have first name ‘Herb’ and 5 Spice Girls. Don’t believe me? You can check it out on your own here. The original recipe is hand written and signed by Colonel Harland David Sanders with pencil.
The recipe is safely kept in an electronic vault at KFC’s Louisville headquarters. Where only 2 people can access it with the secure pins to open the vault. Are you planning to kidnap these guys? That is of no use because, even if they tell you the pins, there are motion sensors, surveillance cameras and armed guards 24×7 who guard this recipe like a national treasure.
The secrecy is further boosted when you learn that half of the spices and herbs are produced at Griffith Laboratories and then passed over to McCormick & Co. for mixing the second half. Then they are packed and distributed worldwide. So much to maintain the trade secret of a well-guarded secret recipe.
Big Mac Special Sauce Secret recipe
Do you also love the big mac special sauce like me? I love it so much that I could eat the buns with this sauce itself without any patty inside. Well this recipe has a lost and found touch to it. As a matter of fact, Mc Donald’s in an attempt to cut down the cost, created an economical sauce which was nothing like what we get and eat today. Thanks to their ex-employee Mr. Fred Turner who returned to the company and suggested to bring back the original sauce created by ‘Jim Delligatti’. This also boosted their sales figures.
Luckily they were able to trace the recipe from their archives. Which was re-introduced with help and insights of an old manufacturing partner who knew the recipe. This was only possible because of this ex-employee’s effort in 2004. Quite shocking!!! Isn’t it? This recipe may not be guarded heavily but it is surely a trade secret. It comes pre-packed in sealed canisters and is dispensed with help of specially calibrated sauce guns. Neither their employees, nor their chefs know the recipe. It is manufactured at a secret facility.
I am sure this well-guarded secret recipe with little variations according to the regions, is loved all over the world. May I take the pleasure in telling you, that I know this recipe? Of course, I am not bluffing. Here is the video where their Executive chef ‘Dan Coudreaut’ has revealed it in 2012. Obviously the exact measures are not mentioned, but I believe in you that you can decode and figure it out on your own.
Listerine (I know not an edible recipe)
This is a wild card entry into this list. Because, going by the definition of recipes it is fair enough to include it here. This one is a funny story, which you will soon know why. This secret recipe was invented by Dr. Joseph Lawrence, who licensed this to Jordan Lambert (Owner of Lambert Pharmacal Company) in 1881 for a royalty fees agreed between them.
Lambert Pharmacal Co. merged with Warner-Hudnut and became Warner-Lambert Pharmaceutical Company in 1955. In 2004 Pfizer acquired the Warner-Lambert, only to sell the consumer product division to Johnson & Johnson in 2006 to complete the transition of this recipe from one giant to another. Now comes the interesting part, in 1959 the Warner-Lambert Co. suddenly realized that the recipe is no longer a secret and the royalty payments can be stopped to the Lawrence family. They sued Lawrence family, only to find the judgment being ruled in favour of Lawrence family. The reason being, it was not mentioned in the initial agreement that the payments should be stopped even if the recipe is discovered by the competitors.
Though it didn’t cause much damage to the company. As by the time Listerine did manage to acquire a huge market share in this segment. The initial owners gained huge profits by introducing a catchy disease “chronic halitosis” to the US people, which is nothing but a scientific term for bad breath. People started considering this as a disease and started using Listerine as an offered solution. This well-guarded secret recipe thus became a master stroke and prime example in world of trade secrets and marketing. The way it was guarded is although much more comical in a sense.
In India, you can declare this as a national dish and no civilian would have any objection. For decades ‘Maggi’ has been the favourite of many. What makes this special is the ‘Maggi Masala’ which makes everyone go weak in their knees. This ‘Maggi Masala’ is what drives the sales of this product. A well-guarded secret recipe which was designed for India and the sub-continent. The masala is well-guarded secret recipe which no rival brands could replicate till date.
This led Maggi to become a market leader in the instant noodles segment. It had a whopping 90% market share till 2015 until the disaster stroked and shook them. No matter what happens, Indians will always love their Maggi. As a result we have “Return of Maggi: Volume and value surpasses pre-ban level of 2014”.
All this was possible because of the trade secret Maggi masala which brings life to these instant noodles. Even though it is not highlighted like the American brands, but the recipe is shared with only few people. All these people need to sign a non-disclosure agreement to safe guard this recipe. There were multiple attempts to decode the recipe, but nobody has managed to come closer to what comes inside the original silver pack.
Hershey’s Milk Chocolate secret recipe
I know this one is a lesser heard brand than Cadbury, but it has a huge international presence. Have you ever tasted Hershey’s before? Let me know in the comments. This company introduced milk chocolate to the world in 1900 which was invented by Milton Hershey. Before they marketed the product, chocolate bars were considered as the food of rich people. The credit must go to Hershey’s for making the milk chocolate bar reach every household.
So without a doubt, the secret recipe became a trade secret. They have a not so secret lab in Pennsylvania which has a labyrinth of concrete hallways, offices and laboratories. This is the place where their trade secrets are guarded and new secrets are developed by their food scientists. They also study advanced analytics data which gives them an edge in the market place over their competitors.
Most of their employees do not have access to this lab. So it is fair to assume that the recipe is truly well-guarded secret recipe. Do you know that this recipe was a result of 3 years of hard work? Because back in those days preserving Milk products was a huge challenge. So Milton Hershey worked around a way to stop fermentation of milk and then used it in the milk chocolate bars. Till date they follow this procedure in order to maintain the taste. This increased the shelf life and the milk chocolate became a super success.
This one is a recipe for an alcoholic drink and I wanted to include this very badly. Not because I am fond of alcohol or something, but because of the sheer historic value tangled with this recipe. A drink which is a work of a 16th century Alchemist, passed on by the Marshal of King’s Henri IV of France to the monks of Chartreuse monastery. Only to be deciphered in 1737 by monks of ‘Mother House of the Order—La Grande Chartreuse’, a monastery that presently stands deep in the Chartreuse Mountains.
This is a recipe which makes the Chartreuse liqueur. Hey, please do not confuse this with liquor. You can read the difference between Liquor and Liqueur here. It has 130 herbs and a procedure known only to 2 monks at a time. The story of this recipe is even more historic. If you really want to dig in you can read it on their official website. This recipe has evaded ‘French Revolution’, got arrested while in possession of a monk, sold to someone and then returned to its home only to be expelled by French government in 1903.
The recipe stands apart because only those 2 monks selectively crush the herbs before sending it to the Voiron facility for maceration in selected alcohol and distillation. It is also deemed as “Elixir of Long Life”. Monks with well-guarded secret recipe is a story worthy of becoming a full-fledged Hollywood flick. What you think???
You can also read more detailed account of Chartreuse here: The Story of Chartreuse Liqueur: The Elixir of Long Life
I know you almost expected this one in the list. I saved it for the last only to give it a ‘last but not the least’ effect. The original recipe was invented by ‘John Pemberton’ and then sold to ‘Asa Candler’ who claims to have made significant changes to the recipe. This rendered John’s recipe obsolete from being original. Asa is also the founder of Coca-Cola Company. The handwritten recipe from Pemberton is always well-guarded because it is a trade secret.
The recipe has always found itself in heavily guarded bank vaults. On December 08, 2011 they moved this recipe to ‘THE WORLD OF COCA-COLA’ in Atlanta after 86 long years. You will have to break into this state of the art Vault which contains the recipe, in order to steal it. But even after stealing it you will have no buyers. No seriously!!! I am not kidding. In 2006 a Coca-Cola employee tried selling the recipe to Pepsi Co., but to his utter disbelief Pepsi Co. informed Coca-Cola about this and the plan was busted.
So you need to be wise if you want this multi-billion dollar recipe. Same as others, this one too is rumored to be known to only 2 executives at a time. Who cannot travel in the same plane and if one of them dies the other must choose a successor within the company and impart the secret to that person. This also makes the average consumer more curious and fond of the beverage. The exclusivity feeling associated with the recipe. You will be surprised to know that the original recipe contained cocaine till 1903, which was replaced by caffeine. So technically speaking the recipe is not the original one anymore by any means. Only the hype is real.
According to me the trade secret is one of the marketing gimmicks to raise curiosity about the product. The emotion ridden backstories invoke feelings in the consumers. This is how people become more likely to buy a product. No doubt that the products listed above have quality and taste. What I am pointing out is the fact that trade secret is a weapon used for aggressive marketing campaigns. Let me know your thoughts on well-guarded secret recipes of the world in the comments below.
I tried to include the brands which are really world famous. In U.S.A. most of the brands have their secret recipes, but only few of them are known outside the country. So what will you do if you invent a secret recipe? Will you patent it so that you can have royalty paid for initial years and then anyone would be allowed to use? Or will you keep it a trade secret and try to stretch your luck? Please comment below and let me know. Thank you if you are still reading, this is foodie_khiladi signing off with warm regards. Found this informative? Feel free to share with your buddies.