Here's How Your Decisions Help Coca-Cola Create New Flavors

All Coke fans have a favorite flavor, whether it's tangy Lime or sweet Orange Vanilla. Coca-Cola has introduced plenty of variations on its successful classic Coke over the years. While some of the brand's innovations have missed the mark – such as the failed "New Coke" that was pulled from shelves after just three months on the market in 1985 (via Time) — others, like Cherry and Vanilla, have stood the test of time.

How do all of these new flavors come to be, anyway? How do the folks in the soda labs know what's a good product to sell to the populace and what's better suited to scrub the rust off the exhaust pipes of the delivery trucks (via CarHop)? The answer to this question actually lies within you, the consumer! Whether you knew it or not, you play an integral role in the creation of new Coke flavors simply by drinking soda.

Freestyle machines learn from your combinations

Like all companies, Coca-Cola tries to keep in tune with the times, using consumer data to influence new product ideas. For example, the company developed Vitaminwater Fire, a spicy watermelon and lime flavor, in response to the global popularity of spicy foods, chief technical and innovation officer Nancy Quan explains in a CNN Business video. One of the ways Coca-Cola observes such data, though, may have gone over your head.

"Our Freestyle technology is actually a really great platform for us to get real-time feedback from the consumer," says Quan, describing the touch-screen soda dispenser introduced to restaurants, movie theaters, and other establishments in 2009. "They can actually mix and make their own product," she says, adding that Sprite Cherry was released en masse because so many customers Freestyled the drink.

Once a concept is identified, according to Quan, it undergoes rigorous testing to ensure a successful product. Scientists carefully focus on flavor, texture, and smell, while also experimenting with formula alterations, such as more nutrients and less sugar. All the while, of course, employees are anticipating what consumers will want next. The next time you're mixing your sodas to make a new flavor, keep an eye out — you may just see it on shelves one day.