Coca-Cola is launching a drink that tastes like space

The first look at what's to come from the CPG's innovation platform will be promoted with new forays into digital and mixed reality.

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It sounds like an idea that might be out of this world, but Coca-Cola is launching a “leap of faith” limited-time experiment built around the question, “what might outer space taste like?”

The CPG is launching Starlight, available for purchase in individual 20-ounce bottles and 10-packs of 7.5-ounce mini cans – both in Original Taste and Zero Sugar options – beginning Feb. 21 in stores across Canada. The company has not given any indication of how, exactly, the drink tastes like, beyond the metaphorical description that it has “notes reminiscent of stargazing around a campfire, as well as a cooling sensation that evokes the feeling of a cold journey to space.”

In a recent conference call, Coke chairman and CEO James Quincey said that for 2022, its innovation process is increasingly supported by data, and that the company’s “pipeline is robust with built-in agility and consists of big bets along with many shots on goal.”

On a streamed announcement for Starlight, Coca-Cola‘s senior director of global strategy, Oana Vlad, says the drink adds a fresh and unique twist, or brand expression, and is inspired by creativity, collaboration and culture. From a brand perspective, it ladders up to last year’s “real magic” global campaign, which coalesced around a Christmas togetherness campaign, what what the brand calls a celebration of brand values and its connection to culture, gaming, music and sports.

coke-AIStarlight is the first in a series of LTO flavours offering what the brand says are unique designs and experiences for fans across physical and digital worlds and the promise of more exciting things to come.

The announcement is both timeless and timely, Vlad says, as it’s stepping into the future with a nod to the past: 36 years ago, it shot into space in the form of a can aboard the Space Shuttle Challenger.

Josh Schwarber, Coca-Cola’s senior director of digital design, said that the question of “what might outer space taste like?” was an amazing brief to start out with, adding that it’s taking a fresh approach to product development to push boundaries and take risks and create novelty. Schwarber also praised the company’s liquid innovation team as true rock stars, who had free reign to explore and imagine.

The beverage hue is starlit in red, he notes. And for the packaging, Schwarber says it wanted to focus on original sources of light in the galaxy and the night sky. The first key feature is “star field,” trails across the packaging to give it a space feel, whilst a second feature is a starlight gradient, inspired by galactical features like star clusters and nebulas.

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Coca-Cola is bringing the product to market through a digital-first campaign that will include an augmented reality partnership with singer Ava Max, who will star of in an immersive virtual concert, hosted on Creations mobile site. Consumers are invited to buy a Starlight in either format, then go to the microsite to launch the experience and see Max perform.

The product, Coke says, represents another foray into marketing on the metaverse after last year, when it launched its first NFT on Decentraland, a 3D virtual world browser-based platform. The company says it’s also experimenting and learning in the digital space with other AR experiences and things like ASMR. The drink is also going to be promoted through team ups with digital-first brands like Revolution Beauty and streetwear brand Staple, but the company did not provide further specifics.