Fans who love their Coca-Cola extra ice-cold can chill out, literally, thanks to a years-in-the making cooler innovation.
The “Arctic Coke” machine turns an extra-cold bottle of Coca-Cola into a slushy in a matter of seconds, serving up an innovative, surprise-and-delight experience for consumers. Coca-Cola is testing about 800 of the units in convenience stores across the U.S.
Here’s how it machine works: A shopper selects a 20-oz. bottle from the Arctic Coke cooler – which keeps the beverages at a temperature just below freezing – and places it on a platform.
Then, they push a button and watch the icy magic happen.
Artic Coke vibrates the bottle and sends an invisible shiver through the liquid, forming ice crystals in a fraction of a second. The unit backlights the bottle so the transformation is visible.
“Consumers find it both fun and innovative,” said Kim Drucker, director of platform innovation, Coca-Cola North America. “They’re drawn in by the fact that they can be part of the transformation process. And what brings them back is the fact that the drink they just helped make stays colder for longer. The promise of having an icy-cold Coke from the first sip to the last sip really resonates.”
The pilot currently includes Coca-Cola, Diet Coke, Sprite and Powerade Mountain Blast. Cherry Coke, Fanta Orange and Mello Yello will soon be added in select outlets, and the team is continuously evaluating other brands.
Arctic Coke holds 70 bottles, which are chilled to below 30 degrees Fahrenheit, compared to 45 degrees in a traditional cooler.
Drucker describes the finished product as a uniquely slushy drink. “Frozen carbonated drinks are lighter and airier,” she explains. “The Arctic Coke experience is more like what you get from drinking a Coke in a cup with soft, crushed ice. And the ice that forms is made of the liquid inside the bottle, so it doesn’t dilute the drink.”
The hands-on, interactive Arctic Coke experience is somewhat similar to Coca-Cola Freestyle, which lets fans customize their fountain drinks from more than 100 sparking and still beverage choices.
“What we’re trying to do is heighten the sensorial experience,” Drucker said. “They’re getting the same delicious Coke they know and love; we’re just creating a visual effect that engages the consumer and in engaging them in the process of crafting their beverage.”
Creating a “near-frozen” Coke is no small feat. Coca-Cola R&D had been working on the Arctic Coke project for decades before partnering with Supercooler Technologies Inc. in 2015. A team of NASA engineers with expertise in cryogenics developed the precision chilling and proprietary nucleating technologies, which keep drinks on the verge of freezing, and then create the slushing effect.
Coca-Cola debuted Arctic Coke in June 2016 at 20 convenience stores in the Indianapolis area. Sales at the participating locations were up 15 to 20 percent, giving the company the confidence to extend the pilot.
Coke company has used targeted mobile advertising and influencer-driven social media to spread the word and give fans the chance to locate a nearby cooler. Drucker said her team is exploring additional channels beyond convenience retail where the Artic Coke experience cold be a fit.
“Enthusiasm is high among both our consumers and customers,” she concluded. “People are getting excited about the experience we’re delivering with Arctic Coke.”