NEW YORK –
For about a year and a half, Coca-Cola has experimented with limited-edition beverages that have mystery tastes — most of them with vague, futuristic concepts and undisclosed flavours.
The latest one, Coca-Cola Y3000, fits the bill. The one distinction: It’s supposed to taste like the future. Fittingly, the soft-drink giant used artificial intelligence to help determine the flavour and packaging.
It’s important for Coca-Cola to keep customers — particularly younger ones — excited about Coke, its more-than-a-century-old signature product. In recent years, health-conscious consumers have shied away from sugary beverages, making it trickier for soda sellers to market their legacy brands. Coca-Cola has used its Creations platform, responsible for limited-edition flavours like Y3000, to try to make the brand resonate with younger consumers.
Like all Creations drinks, Coca-Cola Y3000 is designed to taste mostly like Coke, with a bit of something else. To come up with that extra note of flavour, and the packaging design, Coca-Cola turned to AI.
The company relied on regular old human insights by finding out what flavours people associate with the future. Then it used AI to help figure out flavour pairings and profiles, a spokesperson said. For the product’s packaging — which appears to allude to a Y2K aesthetic with funky bubbles, pink and blue colouring and a pixelated logo — Coca-Cola used AI-generated images to create a mood board for inspiration. The aluminum can even gives credit where it’s due, prominently noting it’s “Co-Created with AI.”
Y3000, which comes in zero and full sugar varieties in the United States and Canada, will be sold for a limited time starting Tuesday and cost as much as regular Coke.
As with other flavours from Coca-Cola’s Creations platform, Y3000 pairs online experiences with real-life events or merchandise. Customers can scan a QR code on the Y3000 package to reach the Creations site, where they can play around with what the future might look like in 977 years.
The launch also includes a limited-edition capsule collection developed with the luxury streetwear brand Ambush, available at the brand’s website this fall. Coca-Cola has also partnered with the fashion brand Highsnobiety on a collection in the past.
SPACE, DREAMS AND PIXELS
Coca-Cola has released a number of limited edition flavours through Creations, most recently Coca-Cola Ultimate, which was aimed at gamers and made in partnership with Riot Games, publisher of the multi-player online battle arena game League of Legends.
Before Ultimate came Starlight, inspired by space; Dreamworld, which the company said tastes like dreams; and Byte, which is supposed to have a pixel flavour. Coca-Cola has also partnered with musicians Rosalía and Marshmello on limited-edition flavours.
With the exception of the Marshmello beverage (flavoured not with marshmallows, but strawberry and watermelon) Coca-Cola has stayed mum on what these products are supposed to taste like.
“We’re never really going to answer that question” in a “straightforward” way, Oana Vlad, senior director of global strategy at Coca-Cola, previously told CNN. But “the flavour profile is always, we say, 85 to 90 per cent Coke. And then that 10-to-15 per cent twist of something unexpected.”
The flavours are not designed to become permanent offerings, said CEO James Quincey at the Redburn CEO conference last year.
“They’re more engaging and more interesting, demonstrably, than a flavour, a Coke with vanilla or something,” he said. “Testing the boundaries … that’s about engagement with consumers.”