Secret to why McDonald’s Coke Tastes Best

February 15, 2011 · Posted in innovation · 49 Comments 

McDonalds CokeEveryone who sells Coca-Cola fountain drinks uses the same syrup and fountain machines but McDonald’s tastes better. Learn McDonald’s impossible innovation.

Coke FountainIf you’ve ever bought a Coca-Cola from a gas station soda fountain you’ve probably noticed it doesn’t taste the same as Coca-Cola from McDonald’s. You might have noticed that a Coke from other restaurants also don’t taste the same. If you look at how Coca-Cola controls every aspect from the syrup to the fountain machine you probably wonder why it doesn’t taste exactly the same everywhere.

If you are like most people, you agree Coca-Cola from McDonald’s tastes better than anywhere else. It’s hard to describe the exact way it tastes better but it certainly does. Moreover, it consistently tastes better at every McDonald’s.

What is McDonald’s the secret?

One of steps of Predictive Innovation® is to list the objects for a scenario. In the scenario of making Coca-Cola fountain drinks the objects are:

  • water
  • syrup
  • CO2
  • ratio of ingredients
  • mix of ingredients
  • temperature


Of all those objects, McDonald’s can only control two of them. The rest of the objects are controlled by Coca-Cola or the customers. The two things McDonald’s can control are their water and the freshness of the syrup. CO2 is a standard gas that makes the drink fizzy. The ratio of ingredients and the mix of ingredients is controlled by the fountain machine and that is set by Coca-Cola. Customers can change the temperature by adding ice. Water and freshness of syrup are the secret of McDonald’s fountain drink innovation.


Water is 85% of a fountain drink. If the water is bad you will taste it. Like everything else McDonald’s does, they meticulously control their water. Each restaurant has a reverse osmosis filter providing the best water available. This not only makes the Coca-Cola taste better it also makes their coffee taste better. The water you get at McDonald’s is the cleanest anywhere and that is the #1 reason their fountain drinks taste the best.


Coke syrup bag-in-boxMost Coke retailers get their syrup in a bag box. These bag boxes are small and allow a retailer to provide Coke with a minimal investment.

Coke syrup tanksMcDonald’s sells a lot of Coke. They sell so much coke that they don’t need to buy the syrup in the small bag box. McDonald’s restaurants can get syrup delivered from a tanker truck and store it in a stainless steel cylinder. Because they sell a lot it doesn’t sit around as long. So the Coke syrup at McDonald’s is fresher than their competitors. Fresher syrup makes better tasting fountain drinks.

McDonald’s also controls freshness by cleaning everything daily. Letting syrup sit in hoses and machines allows it to chemically degrade and for bacteria to grow. Keeping everything clean also keeps it fresh and tasting good.

So even though all their competitors have the same basic ingredients that are required to be put together the exact same way, McDonald’s found a way to innovate and provide a better product.

Action Items

  • What are the objects in your product or process?
  • How can you change an object to innovate?

Finding Gold in the Closet at the Detroit Economic Club

February 25, 2008 · Posted in economics, innovation, strategy · Comment 

Today when I attended the presentation by Gary Shapiro to the Detroit Economic Club I uncovered opportunities that were being overlooked. Mr. Shapiro, president of the Consumer Electronic Association, encouraged Detroit to embrace free trade agreements and use innovation to meet the challenges of increasing competition. He was absolutely correct, however as so many others beating that drum, he failed to explain how to innovate. Many of the attendees left feeling even more pressure.

Oddly enough, everyone of the people I spoke to were using the same failing approach to competition and every single one was overlooking huge profits from using resources they already own. Profits from things they currently considered expenses.

Two companies I spoke with were trying to improve efficiency in hopes of lowering prices. The first was a tool and die company that was implementing 6 Sigma to find ways to improve process efficiencies. This is a good thing. I was one of the founders of using statistical process control (SPC) in the USA back in the 1980s. If the company was typical they could expect 10-30% improvements. This would make many managers very happy. But they were actually wasting their time and energy. They had 4 very expensive machines sitting idle. They were probably losing $400,000 per year in missed revenue. More importantly if they just made $1 more from those machines it would be INFINITE improvement in efficiency. They are currently getting zero efficiency. The machines are collecting dust and wasting space. Any money they make from those machines is infinite increase in efficiency.

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