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The secret recipes that have an emotional hold on you

Jed Kim

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The Chicago Tribune may have stumbled upon KFC's secret recipe for their famous fried chicken. During a recent interview with the nephew of Colonel Sanders, a reporter was shown a handwritten recipe. It was a list of 11 herbs and spices, with a note: 'mix with 2 cups white flour'

KFC denies this recipe is the real thing, claiming the original recipe is locked up in a safe encased in two feet of concrete and monitored with surveillance cameras.

Take Two talked with LA Weekly Food Editor Kathryn Spiers about the history of secret recipes in processed food. 

"They tried the recipe," notes Spiers, "But it didn't taste the same, until they added MSG. But it's not like KFC is going to say they do that." Spiers nots KFC isn't the only company that wouldn't want to cop to having less than attractive ingredients as part of their secret recipe. "Dr. Pepper, on their website they have FAQ's about prune juice. They deny having prune juice in Dr. Pepper." Dr. Pepper claims it never contained prune juice, and the current secret recipe is locked up in two separate vaults. 

What happens when companies change these recipes? Consumers revolt. "Consumers hate change," notes Spiers. "Around 2014 when Kraft bought Cadbury and announced they'd be reformulating Creme Eggs, sales went down and so did consumer satisfaction." SPiers points out the last time Kraft did a recipe change, they didn't tell the public until 3 months later, seemingly taking a cue from their past mistakes. 

The real reason why secret recipes aren't revealed might be because the actual ingredients aren't all the special. "People wanted to know for the longest time what the secret ingredient in McDonald's french fries were, and it's most likely just sugar in the form of dextrose." 

Knowing how dear some snack foods are to consumers, such as Girl Scout Cookies and Coca Cola, maybe it's best to keep the secret recipes under wraps so the public can continue to believe that our favorite foods are made of things like love and magic.