“This is by far the worst idea you’ve had, and you used to put cocaine in your drink and try to sell it to kids.”
~Coca-Cola Product Consultants Shortly Before Being Shouted Down
Coca-Cola holds an important place in America’s heart, and its economy. Ever since their humble beginnings as a non-alcoholic version of the poorly named John Pemberton’s French Wine Cola nerve tonic in Atlanta in 1886, originally-addictive-as-shit and still-technically-addictive beverage has grown to become the most valuable brand in the world, raking in over 45 billion dollars a year, with the power to do anything they want, from brushing aside antitrust legislation proposed by Pepsi to allegedly getting Colombian union leaders assassinated. The point being, Coca-Cola is an ingrained cultural and economic powerhouse, with dozens, if not hundreds, of brands and varieties across America and the globe.
Naturally, a very large part of Coca-Cola’s whole “made enough money in 2014 to surpass the GDP of 83 different countries” popularity comes from the fact that they make a delicious, American product. Coca-Cola is wonderful, and anyone who says otherwise is a Pepsi executive who contractually has to say that he hates Coke, even though we all know that Coke and Pepsi are the most interchangeable beverages imaginable. The taste preference in Cola brands generally falls between “the sweet one” and “the slightly sweeter one” with a handful of outliers saying, “I prefer the organic cola from Whole Foods because ouch stop that why are you flicking my ear that’s extremely annoying okay you know what you clearly don’t want a dialogue so I’ll just leave, you assholes.” But, Coke came first, and Coke is the world leader, and even if we might prefer the slightly sweeter one, Coca-Cola can do no wrong.
Well, okay that’s not true. They can do a lot of wrong. The following is wrong.
The Worst Coca-Cola Products in the World
Normally with lists like this, we focus either solely on the American versions or international iterations of a drink. It’s “The worst Mountain Dew Flavors in America” or it’s “The Strangest Pizza Hut Menu Items in the World” but we pick a side. The problem with Coca-Cola is, they’ve got a lot of “what are you doing” products out there, but only a thankfully small amount of them make it to America. Those drinks, however, are so ridiculous that they’re just begging for us to write about them, so here we are.
First, we need to get one thing clear. New Coke is not going to make this list. Whenever someone talks about bad products made by Coca-Cola, they include New Coke, because they are lazy lemmings who just titter buzzpoints and we hate them because they get more page hits than us. Wait, ignore that second part. But the point remains that as dumb as New Coke was, it wasn’t bad. They just took Coke and made it sweeter. Their logic was, “people took the Pepsi challenge in that ad campaign, and thought Pepsi was better in the first sip, so let’s try to make Coke taste more like Pepsi” because this was 1985 and no one was really thinking rationally with all the coke out there. No, not, well, we meant cocaine, you got that right? We can understand the confusion. Next time we make a cocaine joke, we’ll just distinguish that kind of coke from Coca-Cola by linking it to the scene where Bob Morton does a bunch of blow off two women’s boobs in Robocop.
Anyway, the point stands, they tried to make coke taste like Pepsi, the competition that was far less popular, probably because of how much coke everyone was on, and people either say it was the biggest marketing disaster of all time, or the best marketing coup ever (considering how sales skyrocketed when they went back to the original formula). That doesn’t mean New Coke was gross, it just means that New Coke was different, and we hate and fear change, as evident by how much everyone freaks the fuck out every time Facebook slightly alters how your newsfeed looks.
New Coke tasted fine. Get over it. The following beverages cannot be judged so politely, however.
Honorable Mention: Fairlife
Okay, so this isn’t actually a “gross” product. Coca-Cola has recently started offering a “premium” milk under the branding of Fairlife (as of the writing of this of this article, it’s only available in Denver, the Minneapolis area, and Chicago). There is nothing inherently bad about this product—it’s just milk that’s twice as expensive as the milk you get at a grocery store. They claim that it has 50% more natural protein and calcium than the competition while being better for you, overall. That’s fine—we could argue that spending twice as much for a gallon of milk seems like a waste of money to us, but we know that there are Millennials becoming first time parents every day, and this is totally the kind of shit they could get suckered into buying. We’re not here to judge. Coca-Cola thinks they can make some money in this milk company that they own, so good for them.
However, we can’t write this article without mentioning this product, because look at that fucking ad for it. That’s, and we’re not shitting you here, an official advertisement for this. The first ad campaign roll out just takes sexy women and gives them clothes made out of milk. Which means at various points, no less than a dozen people who make more money than you sat down, looked at a picture of a woman standing on a scale, slightly hunched over, hands on her hips and a confused and borderline mortifyingly embarrassed look on her face, with massive amounts of white liquid shooting out of her ass, and every one of the people involved in this thought, “Yup, this works. Makes milk sexy again.”
Just look at that picture, really hard, and think about that. Hopefully this’ll put you in the right mindset, because it’s going to get pretty bad from here on out.
Now, the Coca-Cola company making milk is not something we find particularly objectionable. That leniency goes the fuck away when we start dealing with “fruit-flavored carbonated milk drinks” which is a combination of words that should only exist in an Aphasia treatment center, or maybe the area of hell reserved for asshole dairy farmers. We’ve actually talked about this particular beverage before when trying to point out the grossest sodas we could find in America, but this monstrosity given to us by the suits at Coke warrants further discussion.
Introduced in 2009 (yes, to Americans) and, as far as we can tell, still available in certain markets (*cue screeching violins from Psycho*), Vio is, and we’re quoting Wikipedia here so you don’t think we’re trying to be hyperbolic, “milk with carbonated water. The available flavors are Citrus Burst, Peach Mango, Very Berry, Your Mother Knew The First Time You Masturbated and She Knows Every Time that You Lie, and Tropical Colada.” Okay, fine, we made up one of those. We’re pretty sure they don’t have a Peach Mango variety. Oh shit, they do?
Naturally, we don’t need to tell you why all of this is awful, because you have a human body, a human head, human taste buds and, potentially, a human soul. So you, you sweet, gentle, caring person, you know that milk should not be carbonated and then artificially flavored to mimic the taste of two or more varieties of fruit smashed together. You know this, deep down. You know this, and we love you for it. Coca-Cola, listen to our pleas. End this horror show.
This thankfully was never sold in America, so we’ll understand if you have no idea what you should be looking at based on the 1960’s-looking newspaper ad scribbled in Gibberish (or Italian, whatever, learn English or merh merh). But let’s put it this way—the above image is from a blog article on Coca-Cola’s own website entitled, “Beverly – Love It or Hate It?” When your own company is like, “Hey guys, listen, a lot of people think this sucks rancid ass” (they might have prettied up the language a tad in the article, but whatever) you should probably be worried.
Beverly, made for the Italian market and discontinued in 2009, was a non-alcoholic apéritif, which is one word we hate and one word we only pretend to know when people serve us fancy-handled shot glasses of booze and are like, “Drink this weird-tasting thing before you eat your meal, don’t worry there’s booze in there.” Apéritifs tend to be bitter, which Beverly absolutely is, so buying a bottle of it means you’re paying for a bitter, probably herbal tasting soda that, again, does not have any alcohol in it. This is a tactic known as “taking away the one good thing about a weird thing, leaving you with a weird bad thing.” The kind of person who would actively want to drink a non-alcoholic aperitif is we don’t have a way to finish this sentence because we’ve had thousands of volunteers searching the mountainsides of rural Italy, and we’ve yet to find a goddamn person who meets that criteria. They might as well market a soft drink for fucking Big Foot. “This tastes like grass and leaves, and is perfect for Big Foots who don’t like to drink.” This is a fucking travesty of an idea.
Of the international items on this list, Beverly is one that you might have had before if you were part of the kind of family that would go to the World of Coca-Cola museums in Atlanta, Las Vegas, or Epcot, since this was offered at the Coca-Cola tasting stations. And if you were part of one of those families, we’d first ask, did it taste as bad as we imagine? And secondly, we’d ask, did you ever forgive your parents for taking you on such bad vacations? “Welcome to Epcot, Disneyworld is just across the fucking street, let’s drink non-alcoholic aperitif at fucking Epcot.” Only your family probably didn’t say “fucking” because we’re guessing you also had that family that locked up the one TV in the house as you were growing up. Anyway, what we’re trying to say is, we’re sorry about your childhood, and we’re here for you now. Stay strong.
2006 was such an optimistic time. The economy was booming. We finally had a James Bond movie that was strictly badass and not at all campy. We were excited, blissfully oblivious to what was just around the corner. This was not a time for tightening your belt, or bailing out Wall Street, this was a time for adventure! This was a time for mixing things that have never been mixed before! Let’s go crazy, the world is beautiful!
That was our mindset back when Coca-Cola BlāK was launched on April 3rd, 2006. Coca-Cola BlāK was a combination of Coca-Cola…and coffee. It was a “coffee-flavored soft drink” that was artificially sweetened, so if you ever were like “Man, I wish that Coke would make a super sweet coffee, and then carbonate it, and also make it taste a little like Coke, and also error error human interaction interface malfunctioning return to factorrrrrr….” well then you were in luck, you Godless Russian communist spy robot commissioned in the 80s.
It was a “mid-calorie” beverage option, meaning it had twice the caffeine of Coke and half the calories. We’d say it was ahead of its time, but the opposite was true. It was a horrible idea that could only have existed in 2006, back when a company could sink millions of dollars into trying, and ultimately, failing to trick the world that they want to drink something that doesn’t taste all that great. They tried so hard, you guys. They would go around giving free bottles of the stuff to people, hoping they’d become “hooked” to this Coca-Cola alternative with a weirdly spelled name.
They didn’t. No one liked it. And then 2006 ended. And its brief time was done. Coca-Cola BlāK was discontinued in 2008, and no one noticed.
Coca-Cola’s relationship with Pepsi is a lot like Johnny’s relationship with Daniel-san in The Karate Kid. Johnny was far superior, but Daniel-san was newer to town, so Johnny got way too competitive with the new kid, eventually pushing him to compete against him and, in the process, shooting himself in the foot (or sweeping the leg, whatever). New Coke was Coca-Cola’s “SWEEP THE LEG MOMENT.” Johnny knew he could beat Daniel-san on his own, but he bowed to pressure, and knocked himself out of the game.
Most of Pepsi’s strategy seems to be to come off as edgy and cool, form partnerships with Taco Bell, and then sit back and watch Coke freak the fuck out every time they think they’re being challenged by their lesser rivals. So, when Pepsi released a Spanish brand called “Kas” they went ahead and made some normal flavors for it. Grapefruit, orange, lemon, and…as we hesitantly pause ‘cause it’s not normal but whatever, apple. Randomly included in this list of “sweet tasting pops” that “are sweet and taste like soda should” they put out a “bitter” flavor, and flavored it after herbal extracts. This, as we’ve exhaustively pointed out, is a very gross thing to do. And we see through it. They put out normal flavors that people would buy, then were like, “Oh, and some really nasty bitter shit that no one will like. Your move, Coca-Cola.”
And Coca-Cola, for whatever reason, decided that instead of responding with a hearty laugh and a “alright, Pepsi, you do you”, that their best course of action would be to make Mare Rosso, their own bitter herb-flavored soft drink that they likely proceeded to market the fuck out of in Spain, spending way more money than needed to promote an awful, bitter soda. Just, herbal and, yeah.
As a general rule, when we drink soda, the last thing we want to drink is a bright neon-red fizzy drink that tastes like gnawing on a ginseng root, so, you know, good job, Coca-Cola company, you let Pepsi punk you into making a pointless beverage. Congrats.
The above glass bottle, etched with leaves and displaying a color that hovers somewhere between “iced tea” and “you know, like, when you leave a bottle of water out in the rain, and some mud gets in there, and you leave it out for a week? You know the weird kinda brown color that eventually takes on? Yeah, it’s like that” was an Argentinian sports drink that was available from 2003 until it was discontinued a year later. Described by Wikipedia as an “odd choice of flavor”, it was made to taste like Yerba mate which, as best as we can tell, is a plant that’s mashed into a tea-like drink that’s popular in Argentina. It generally tastes a lot like a bitter green tea, has a lot of caffeine, and is served non-carbonated. We stress this, because naturally Nativa was carbonated, and in general we have a hard time supporting non-sweet non-carbonated beverages being sweetened and carbonated because, by this point, we pretty much know what we like in the “Sweet, carbonated” category of things.
To summarize, Coca-Cola looked at Argentina and were like, “Huh, they this like, tea-like sorta bitter herbal drink down there, do they? And they drink it on their own, prepared freshly by culturally entrenched means? Let’s bust in there and make it into a soda and jam it down their throats” and were surprised when, a year later, shit didn’t pan out. Of course it didn’t pan out, Coca-Cola. This was a bad idea. Stop it, you’re embarrassing yourself.
Kvass is alcoholic. We point that out to really knock home how terrifying of a concoction this is. It’s alcoholic and it still makes the list. It’s alcoholic and a version of a traditional Russian beverage that tends to have less than 1.2% alcohol, which makes its inclusion a lot less surprising, but let’s not downplay the alcoholic aspect to this drink. Because, oh God, why does Russia drink this, and why does Coca-Cola need to try to corner that market?
Kvass has been around Easter Europe since the middle Ages, and is often referred to as “bread drink” or “bread cider.” It’s fermented rye bread, basically. Like, when you have a beer at a restaurant and you say, “No, I won’t be ordering food, this is my bread, ha ha” and your coworkers say, “Jesus, you’re an alcoholic, this is a work lunch, order some food, you’re on your sixth beer, we’re worried about you” that’s basically what Kvass is, but it’s actually your bread. They take rye bread, mush it up, let it become about 1% alcoholic (which, and this is a direct quote, makes it “classified as a non-alcoholic drink by Russian and Ukrainian standards” which is the most representative statement about Eastern Europe we could ever ask for) and then flavor it with strawberries, raisins, or mint, because if mushed up bread left out to ferment didn’t sound gross to you, why not mash some jam in there as well?
Listen, just look at it this way. Here’s what a jar of kvass looks like as it’s fermenting. Here’s a bag of prison wine being fermented. We’re just saying.
Not only is this terrifying, the fact that Coca-Cola is trying so hard to get in on that sweet sweet Kvass action is actively distressing. It’s like Rocky Balboa opening up a meat packing plant with Ivan Drago as a silent partner. It just feels wrong.
Listen, Coca-Cola, you’re rich and successful just the way you are. You don’t have to take so many swings and misses when you’ve got the most consumed soft drink int eh world. Just stick with what you know. And please, stay off the coke.