Coke serves up its latest conceptual variety: ‘pixel-flavored’ cola

Dive Brief:

  • Coca-Cola teased the second beverage to come out of its new experimental Creations platform, with a focus on reaching the gaming community.
  • The limited-edition Coca-Cola Zero Sugar Byte is a soft drink intended to evoke the flavor of pixels. To promote the offering, Coke partnered with gaming organization PWR on a Pixel Point Island in Fortnite where visitors can hunt for hidden treasures, play mini-games and participate in other activities.
  • A real-world version of Zero Sugar Byte will be available to U.S. consumers starting May 2. Coke continues to hone an innovation strategy targeted at enthusiast groups glued to channels like gaming. 

Dive Insight:

Coke is quickly building its Creations platform that seeks to push new flavors out to the market on a rolling basis. The strategy underpins how large food and beverage brands are reworking the ways they insert themselves into pockets of consumer culture, including categories like gaming where enthusiasts often express an aversion to ad-supported media. 

Rather than enact a months-long media campaign for a permanent flavor addition that may or may not stick, Creations is dedicated to limited rollouts that emphasize tailored digital and real-world experiences. The quick-hit approach follows Coke culling a large portion of its beverage portfolio

In line with the larger Creations mandate, Zero Sugar Byte embodies a concept rather than a traditional flavor like cherry or vanilla. Starlight, the first soda produced from the initiative, was “space-flavored,” capitalizing on renewed interest in space travel driven by companies like SpaceX and Blue Origin. The limited-edition soft drink, which carried a distinct cooling sensation, was available at retailers starting in late February and included an augmented reality (AR) performance from pop singer Ava Max that could be accessed by scanning a QR code on the packaging.     

Zero Sugar Byte shows Coke iterating on aspects of Starlight while trying to offer something fresh. Like Starlight, the pixel-themed beverage has unique packaging, bearing lettering recalling the blocky graphics style of vintage video games. Zero Sugar Byte will also feature a scannable label that links out to an AR game, per CNN Business.  

Coke is at the same time layering in a metaverse component through the bespoke island in Fortnite made with PWR, a gaming company that focuses on designing experiences for the popular multiplayer shooter. Pixel Point Island, which has a neon-tinged, isometric aesthetic resembling “Tron,” includes activities like a race through bubbles and a castle defense game. The access code for the virtual space, open for a limited time via the Fortnite Creative portal, is 8565-0287-3178.

Cozying up to gamers remains one of Coke’s bigger agenda items. The category has factored heavily into “Real Magic,” a global brand platform the marketer launched last year. In March, Coke struck a multiplayer pact to become the founding partner of Wild Rift Esports, the first mobile esports program from League of Legends developer Riot Games.