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Popeyes Buys Its Recipes for $43 Million. Wait, Popeyes Didn't Own Its Recipes?

Popeyes core recipes changed hands in New Orleans on June 16
Popeyes core recipes changed hands in New Orleans on June 16Photograph by Christopher Jacob; Courtesy Popeyes Chicken

Food companies go to great lengths to safeguard their coveted recipes—KFC’s and Coca-Cola’s are stored in vaults—no doubt because they’re considered to be any successful brand’s secret weapon. Yet curiously, a recipe isn’t always owned by the restaurant. Such has been the case at fried-chicken chain Popeyes, which announced on Tuesday that it just bought several recipes used in its core menu for $43 million. (The chain won’t specify which recipes.) How did it not own its recipes?

Until now, the recipes have belonged to Diversified Foods and Seasonings, a Louisiana food manufacturer started by Popeyes founder Al Copeland in 1984 after he opened Popeyes. For the last 23 years the chicken chain has paid DFS a $3.1 million “spice royalty” to license the use of its recipes.