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KFC’s Secret Recipe

One of the most famous trade secrets of all time is KFC’s secret recipe “blend of 11 herbs and spices” used on its Kentucky Fried Chicken.

For years, people have tried to uncover or replicate this secret recipe without success. Interestingly, in August of this year the secret recipe may have been shared with Jay Jones of the Chicago Tribune.

It appears that in researching a story about the roots of the franchise for the Chicago Tribune’s Travel section, Jones inadvertently stumbled onto what appears to be the recipe. During a visit to Kentucky, Jones spent some time with a nephew of the Colonel leafing through old scrap books. At the back of a family photo album was a last will and testament of his Aunt (the Colonel’s second wife). In a handwritten note on the back of album was a document titled “11 Spices – Mix with 2 Cups White Fl.” which proceeds to list quantities of 11 different herbs and spices. While the coincidence is remarkable, it’s unclear whether this is in fact the secret recipe (neither the Colonel’s nephew, nor the company appears willing to admit this to be true). In addition, many individuals have claimed to have discovered the recipe over the years, including a couple who purchased a former home of the Colonel, claimed to have discovered the recipe in the home, and were sued by the company to maintain the secret recipe (which recipe was later claimed to be incorrect).

This story illustrates a couple of important points of trade secret law. A trade secret is something that garners commercial value by not being generally known, and which is subject to efforts to maintain its secrecy. A trade secret can be incredibly valuable if secrecy can be maintained and can last almost indefinitely. However, once a secret is lost the value is gone. Moreover, even the most stringent of security efforts can fail due to unforeseen circumstances as is illustrated by the KFC story. KFC claims to use a heavily guarded vault to secure the Colonel’s handwritten recipe, and uses other measures, such as two different suppliers to prepare the herbs and spices so no one individual or entity knows the entire secret. But they did not foresee the recipe appearing in a family scrap book, nor the fact that a writer working on a historical piece would have stumbled onto that recipe.

DISCLAIMERThe information provided is for general informational purposes only. This post is not updated to account for changes in the law and should not be considered tax or legal advice. This article is not intended to create an attorney-client relationship. You should consult with legal and/or financial advisors for legal and tax advice tailored to your specific circumstances.

DISCLAIMER: The information provided is for general informational purposes only. This post is not updated to account for changes in the law and should not be considered tax or legal advice. This article is not intended to create an attorney-client relationship. You should consult with legal and/or financial advisors for legal and tax advice tailored to your specific circumstances.

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