Coca-Cola. Its formula was once one of the most valuable and best-protected trade secrets in history. For over 100 years, the composition that makes this bubbly beverage so unique has remained protected by the tightest of security measures. In America, Coca-Cola executives have gone to jail because of their attempts to sell the famous composition to rival companies like Pepsi. Many on the Internet say that the slender- bottled drink is nothing more than a combination of sugar, corn syrup, caramel color, caffeine, phosphoric acid, coca extract, kola nut, lime, vanilla and glycerin, but the exact alchemy has always remained a mystery. Until now.
In Medellin, Colombia, one unidentified man started manufacturing and selling his own Coca-Cola. From a battered Renault-12, he would distribute his product as the real Coca-Cola to local stores. When confronted by suspicion, he explained, "I’m a direct factory distributor and the company sell me the product at a cheaper price.” Very few in his humble neighborhood of Santa Cruz La Rosa noticed the difference between the original Coca-Cola and the “chiviada," as counterfeit goods are known in Colombia. No one went to see a doctor complaining of a stomachache; no one was poisoned. This Colombian Coca-Cola’s authentic taste and neat packaging aroused so little suspicion that it was been distributed for several months in the neighborhood before being discovered as a counterfeit.
And then police broke into his makeshift factory to discover a version of the drink with "the same appearance, packaging, flavor and tingling in the throat sensation that is produced by the the original ‘gaseosa’" (‘gaseosa’ is the Colombian name for sparkly beverages, to be drunk with empanadas, bread or bakery products). They seized 1,330 Coke bottles of different sizes, 280 bottles of carbonated water, five gallons of melaza (a sweet caramel compound), funnels, syringes and 680 watermarked caps.
In a country without much money, creativity makes the daily bread. But even the commander of the local police was taken aback by the versatility and stealth of this Colombian Coke-forger, announcing: "This is unprecedented. We are surprised by the ingenuity of Colombians who now falsify Coca-Cola.”
Ilustration: Gastón Lisak