Coca-Cola is concluding a yearlong effort to flavor the abstract with a new soda the company says tastes like dreams.
On Wednesday, Coca-Cola announced its new soft drink, Coca-Cola Dreamworld, a soda meant to capture "technicolor tastes and surrealism of the subconscious" by inviting drinkers to "dream with open eyes," the beverage giant said.
"This dream-inspired product brings to life the playfulness and brightness of dreams — with each sip, the line between fantasy and reality blurs and fans will be able to unlock new tastes, emotions, and adventures," a Coca-Cola spokesperson told NBC News.
Dreamworld arrives as the fourth and final addition to the Coca-Cola Creations roster this year, a series of limited-edition flavors that the company has been releasing since February, with the debut of Coca-Cola Starlight. Since then, the company has released Coca-Cola Byte and Marshmello’s Limited Edition Coca-Cola, the company's first drink created in collaboration with an artist.
Since Dreamworld’s flavor is based on a concept as opposed to a food, it is unclear from the labeling what the soda actually tastes like. And, it seems, that’s exactly what Coca-Cola intends.
The soda is marketed toward "Gen Z’s passion for the infinite potential of the mind," Alessandra Cascino, the creative and shopper program director at the Coca-Cola North America Operating Unit, said in the press release.
“Like the Coca-Cola Creations that came before it, Dreamworld plays with the unexpected and will no doubt provoke discovery and debate among consumers … which we welcome,” Cascino continued.
But Dreamworld's abstract flavor profile is not unprecedented in the Creations lineup. Though the flavor of the Marshmello co-created Coke beverage was described as a mix of strawberry and watermelon (both of which are flavors that are very real), Starlight's flavor was marketed as a taste of outer space, and Byte's flavor was reportedly gaming-inspired and described as "the first-ever Coca-Cola flavor born in the metaverse."
However, despite the conceptual descriptions for these sodas, many have attempted to pinpoint their exact flavors in terms of more traditional tastes. A writer for the Food Network said Starlight tasted like “minty cotton candy sprinkled with vanilla," and a BuzzFeed writer described Byte as "a bit like a Cherry Coke but much lighter."
CNET writer Katie Teague received a can of Dreamworld, and she wrote: "It had a fruity candy smell — like Skittles mixed with Coca-Cola — but it definitely didn’t taste the same way. I immediately got a citrus flavor from this soda, but I thought the overall flavor was similar to Marshmello’s limited-edition Coke."
The Creations series is also known for its multimedia elements. For example, Starlight's release came with an augmented reality concert from Ava Max, and Byte's release was accompanied by a series of multiplayer mini games developed in Fortnite Creative. Similarly, Dreamworld is accompanied by an augmented reality music experience in partnership with Tomorrowland, as well as "an exclusive Dreamworld-inspired digital fashion collection for the metaverse."
Devin Peterson, a professor of food science and technology at the Ohio State University, said given that the scientific community has continued to discover connections between aroma and emotion, more flavors intended to elicit emotional reactions could be expected to emerge in the food industry.
"I think that in general, more authentic, more natural, more realistic flavors are certainly part of what I see as the future," Peterson said. "But, I think what I would also say is more creativity, or more diversity, in experiences is certainly part of what I think the consumer seeks. And in that regard, I see this being part of the trend."
Some, however, remain critical of Coca-Cola's shift into the surreal. Jaya Saxena, writing for Eater, said: "Coca-Cola is clearly not comfortable with being one of the most successful companies of all time. In capitalist parlance, if you are not growing, you’re dying, which means there has to be 'innovation' and new products and a soda that tastes like dreams that no one asked for. There is no room to just be, to offer a product a lot of people like, and sustain a company on that."
"This innovation is not borne of actual creativity, but desperation," she continued.
Coca-Cola's "Dreamworld" flavor will be available in stores on Aug. 15.