There is nowhere for Coca-Cola to go. It is the standard of the soda industry, such that I cannot come up with an apt comparison because every time I try to think of a company whose name has become synonymous with a whole type of product my mind immediately thinks “Coca-Cola.” We all know what Coke is, even those late to the game — there is no one left to convince. Which is probably what accounts for Coca-Cola’s “Creations,” a series of sodas whose flavors supposedly represent the abstract.
On August 15, Coca-Cola will release its fourth and final “Creations” flavor: Dreamworld. What does Dreamworld taste like? According to a press release, it “bottles up the technicolor tastes and surrealism of the subconscious with an invitation to savor the magic of everyday moments and dream with open eyes.” Finally, a surrealism of the subconscious soda! I have always wanted a beverage that tasted like Un Chien Andalou.
Searching for any other details on what it might actually taste like sounds like having a conversation with someone who just did DMT and is really trying to sell you on the experience. “Coca-Cola Dreamworld taps into Gen Z’s passion for the infinite potential of the mind by exploring what a dream tastes like,” said Alessandra Cascino, Coke’s creative and shopper program director. Chase Abraham, Coke’s senior creative strategy manager, said that while previous Creations flavor, Starlight, “illuminated the idea of escapism and the infinite, out-of-this-world possibilities of space, Dreamworld flips this script by inviting fans to look inward at the infinite possibilities of the mind.”
The soda also comes with an Augmented Reality musical experience created with Tomorrowland, and a “Dreamworld-inspired digital fashion collection for the metaverse via a partnership with DRESSX and more.” Please stop me if you know what any of this means.
I am not opposed to soft drink innovation. American snacks have been stagnant for some time, so on some level, sure, give me a soda that evokes the uncertain nature of reality, what else am I doing with my life? The problem is, it means putting trust in Coca-Cola, who are probably going to make whatever new flavor they have as broadly palatable, and thus boring, as possible. In a review of Coca-Cola’s “Byte” flavor, which the company described as “inspired by the playfulness of pixels, rooted in the experiences that gaming makes possible,” Mitchell Clark described the drink as “sickly sweet” and reminiscent of cough syrup and Red Bull. According to Taste of Home, Starlight was also impossibly sweet, and the “first sip tasted like licking a Bubble Yum wrapper.”
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. So this innovation is not borne of actual creativity, but desperation. At least “healthy Coke” seems truly weird.