The world's largest beverage maker said Thursday a new vault containing the formula will be on display for visitors to its World of Coca-Cola museum in downtown Atlanta. However, the formula itself, which dates back to 1886, will remain hidden from view.
Atlanta-based Coca-Cola said the decision to move the formula from a vault at SunTrust Banks Inc. had nothing to with the bank's decision in 2007 to begin selling its long-held stake in Coca-Cola. The bank, which provided underwriting services to Coca-Cola when it went public in 1919 and received some of Coca-Cola's first publicly traded stock, at one time held more than 48 million Coca-Cola shares.
"The time has come for our secret formula to come back home," CEO Muhtar Kent told employees and city and state officials who were on hand for the unveiling of the exhibit, which comes as the company celebrates its 125th anniversary this year.
Coca-Cola is all about marketing, and that was on full display at the museum Thursday.
Attendees watched a video of Kent placing a metal box, which the company says contains the formula, inside a five-foot high safe several days ago and locking it. Visitors were then escorted through a room full of pictures and historical information about the founding of the company and the secret formula. That display leads into a cylindrical room, where images of glasses filling with Coca-Cola splash across the walls before lights come on and reveal a giant, metal-encased vault with a keypad and a hand-imprint scanner.
A railing keeps visitors several feet away from the vault door. The vault never opens, and Coke officials wouldn't say if the keypad and hand scanner were there for show or were part of the security measures in place to protect the formula the company says is inside.
Several executives from SunTrust were on hand for the opening of the exhibit. Bank spokesman Mike McCoy said SunTrust was honored to safeguard the formula for as long as it did. He said the relationship between Coca-Cola and SunTrust has enriched the bank's history. "We're celebrating this as well," McCoy said.
In May 2007, SunTrust said it had sold 9 percent of its holdings in Coca-Cola stock as part of a plan to return value to its own shareholders. The following year, the bank sold another batch of shares and said that its remaining 30 million Coca-Cola shares were to be put into a structured transaction to be sold in seven years.