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Why Does My Coca-Cola Have A Yellow Cap?

by Rudy Sanchez on 02/24/2020 | 3 Minute Read

The signs of spring are many, and cannot go easily ignored. Pitchers and catchers start to report to Florida and Arizona. Snow melts. Birds sing. Bees buzz. You know the drill.

However, you might also see a bottle of Coca-Cola donning a yellow cap.

Although Coca-Cola has been on the market since 1886, it wouldn’t be until 1935 that the soft drink would be certified Kosher, indicating that the beverage conforms to Jewish dietary laws. The recent influx in Eastern Europeans immigrants settling in the US were just as eager as anyone to enjoy all the things life America offered, which included ice-cold and refreshing Coca-Cola. 

The interest prompted Atlanta-area Rabbi Tobias Geffen to reach out to the local soda company, leading Coca-Cola to become one of the first major consumer brands to create kosher-certified products.

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Coca-Cola’s formulation is a tightly-held trade secret. It would take Coca-Cola trusting Geffen to keep his word and never disclose the recipe to anyone else. Of course, Coca-Cola didn’t share the exact recipe, but rather a list of ingredients, one of which, glycerin, would need changing, as it came from non-kosher animals fats. This prompted Coca-Cola’s glycerin supplier, then Procter & Gamble, to develop a vegetable-based alternative, and that alone would have made Coca-Cola kosher year-round.

Rabbi Geffen, however, identified another ingredient they would need to change in order to make Coca-Cola kosher for Passover, the annual Jewish holiday commemorating the Jewish people’s escape from Egypt. During this time of year, typically in the spring, additional dietary restrictions apply, as well as stricter oversight concerning the preparation of foods certified Kosher for Passover. 

Coca-Cola distinguishes “Passover Coke” with a distinctive yellow cap, which not only signals to Jews celebrating Passover that, yes, this Coke comes sweetened with cane and beet sugar, but also hipster foodies that swear it tastes better and folks looking to avoid high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) for health reasons.

The primary difference between year-round Coke and Passover Coke is the absence of grain-based, i.e., corn, sweeteners. Ashkenazi Jews observing Passover do not eat food containing grains, or grain-derived ingredients, which would include Coke. This prompted the brand to develop a new recipe that tasted just like regular, HFCS-containing Coke minus the grain-derived ingredients, the previously mentioned cane and beet sugars.

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The label, save for the nutritional information and perhaps a “kosher for Passover” banner, remains mostly the same. This, perhaps, is a deliberate move by Coca-Cola, communicating that this is still the same Coke, with a slight, temporary tweak that you can enjoy through Passover.

Some folks have speculated that Mexican-made Coca-Cola and Passover Coke are the same, as they are both made with cane sugar. However, not all Mexican Coca-Cola gets made with cane sugar, and some of it comes with a mix of sucrose, glucose, and fructose. In other words, it contains HFCS, just in smaller quantities.

Coca-Cola historically used cane sugar in Mexico because of protective tariffs imposed by the Mexican government on other sweeteners in addition to sin taxes aimed at battling obesity as the Aztec nation is one of the largest consumers of the beverage on a per capita basis. Those tariffs resulted in cost-cutting by the soda bottler and the inclusion of more fructose. 

However, thanks to the surge of popularity for the imported version of Coke, Coca-Cola themselves started importing the soda in glass bottles to the US, and they ensure that all imported cola comes sweetened with sucrose rather than HFCS.

So, if you're looking for a Coke without all the HFCS this upcoming spring, watch out for the yellow cap.