Glass bottles of Coca-Cola on a red platform.
Coca-Cola Still Makes Cocaine In A Factory In
New Jersey
By C.A. Pinkham
Coca-Cola is one of the most recognizable brands in the world, and we're all familiar with the stories about Coca-Cola containing cocaine — stories based entirely in fact. We may not know founder John Stith Pemberton's recipe for Coca-Cola, but we know a couple of the key ingredients from the beverage's founding, one of which is derived from the coca leaf.
When cocaine was outlawed in 1914, Coca-Cola president Asa Candler had already switched the formula from using active cocaine to "decocainized" leaves. Candler insisted the drink still needed coca leaf, so the company lobbied Congress for a special exemption to the ban — and got one, meaning that the Coca-Cola Company was legally allowed to manufacture cocaine.
This is still true today, as a Mayflower, New Jersey facility operated by the Stepan Company imports enough coca leaves to make $200 million worth of cocaine annually and turns these leaves into cocaine to get at those decocainized leaves. For obvious legal reasons, this product needs to be incinerated as part of the manufacturing process.
Cocaine was originally seen as a wonder drug, and chewing coca leaves has been a traditional South American remedy for stomach issues for centuries. This is why it was originally included in Coca-Cola, but inevitably, cocaine's popularity led to a significant backlash in the late 1800s and early 1900s as it became linked to delinquency in the eyes of the public.