The Failure of Coca-Cola Blak — Reason and Opinion

Photo by Olena Sergienko on Unsplash

As an avid coffee enthusiast I have never been a fan of the so called, coffee tonic drink. Coffee and carbonated tonic water over ice with perhaps a dash of sweetener or a zest of lime juice (if you put lime in your coffee you’re insane) makes up a “Coffee tonic” drink. This is my opinion of course, and I never found this drink to be appealing to my pallet. As it turned out, most of the United States didnt take to the idea or taste of carbonated coffee drinks too when Coca-Cola launched Coca-Cola Blak in 2006.

Coca-Cola launched their first coffee flavored soft drink back in 2006, first in France and then the United States on April 3, 2006. Their aim was to appeal to the palates of those in their mid 20s to 30s who were “looking for a pick-me-up at any point in the day” (via mashed). It was a mid-calorie drink with about 45 calories, 12g of sugar, and 12g of carbs within an 8 oz glass bottle. The drink was originally made with real sugar for the international markets, but altered to a mix of high fructose corn syrup, aspartame, an artificial non-saccharide sweetener 200 times sweeter than sucrose, and acesulfame potassium, another calorie-free sugar substitute for the US Market. Though artificial sweeteners are nothing new to the US food and drink markets, it seemed to have a large impact on the Coca-Cola Blak flavor profile.

Simply put, people didn’t like it. Coca-Cola discontinued the drink 16 months after it’s launch. Most of the employees tied to the drink said the fail was due to “bad timing” or “It was a trend before it’s time” (via cnn). My assumption is that it was just an odd drink, and still is. I haven’t tried this product myself, but I have read that there was a “brutal” aftertaste and tasted unbearably sweet like a “coffee candy drink”. I believe it’s a clear sign of failure when a soda company has, basically, horrible tasting drink reviews. Although this was out of left field for Coca-Cola already established soda markets, this failure didn’t seem to scare them.

As of 2019, Coca-Cola has relaunched another carbonated coffee drink called Coca-Cola Plus Coffee. Seeing that Starbucks has taken the world by storm with 31,256 stores around the world, coffee is now “trendy”. Learning from their failure, Coca-Cola has reintroduced their coffee drink to include more real coffee and an extra jult of caffiene (via mashed). First launching outside of the US, places like Australia and Italy, Coca-Cola “pleased with the initial response”. Coca-Cola is so sure of their success they even acquired the European coffee chain Costa Coffee in 2019. Javier Meza, Coca-Cola’s global chief marketing officer of sparkling beverages doesn’t expect Coke Plus Coffee to be as big as regular Coke, but “there’s going to be a segment of consumers that are going to be willing to try this product,” and over the next five to ten years he expects Coke Plus Coffee to be a “sizable part of the portfolio,” (via mashed).

They haven’t sold me on the idea of this product just yet. Maybe that is what they need to do more of, teach the US to love it and invest a little more into advertising now. This product was a clear failure and no brainer to customers not to like it, but I’m sure a company as big as Coca-Cola is used to trial and error with faliures. Perhaps they are on-to something.