Do you remember mixing soda fountain flavors as a kid? You’d scamper over to the self-serve machine, determined to fill your cup with equal parts Coke, Sprite, Root Beer, and, if you were feeling really adventurous, Pink Lemonade.
Oh, you still do that as an adult? I’m not the only one? Phew!
You’ll be happy to know that Coca-Cola has made soda-mixology a whole lot easier (all the while maintaining perceptions of our maturity).
Introduced back in 2009, the Coca-Cola freestyle machines are finally beginning to surface in select fast-food chains and drugstores.
How can the machines offer so much variety?
Instead of drawing its ingredients from bulky 5-gallon boxes of syrup, Freestyle breaks tradition and employs compact flavor cartridges. The machine builds beverage selections using micro-dispensing and PurePour technologies originally developed to deliver extremely precise doses of drugs. The process blends the highly-concentrated ingredients with water and sweetener at the point where the beverage is dispensed. Genius.
As you can see, all colors of soda, energy and fruit drinks, waters, and seltzers. If you want it and Coke owns it, it’s here.
For users – Freestyle offers novelty and a break from the mundane.
Tired of regular Diet Coke? How about infusing it with lime, vanilla or orange? By all means, get creative – pair original diet with varying parts of raspberry and vanilla.
For Coke – Freestyle offers real-time data and field reporting.
The machines are RFID enabled. Chips detect when ingredients are low and radio suppliers to refill. Freestyle also transmits daily reports including brands/flavor combinations sold, foot-traffic trends, troubleshooting information and service data.
Ooh, a long line! Try again later. Like any new technology, there is a learning curve to get through before efficiency can be achieved. The machine, albeit intuitive, can be intimidating to first-time users. The selection process can be time-consuming as new users combat information overload.
More than Just a Pretty Face…
|Seriously, I love this thing...|
Sure, the machines are sexy and fun to use. And yeah, they are more efficient and easier to maintain than traditional soda fountains. But what Coke is really banking on is their ability to see into the future; crystal balls for the beverage industry, if you will.
With so many choices and combinations, Freestyle is field research!
Its ability to log and report consumption trends back to corporate serves as an R&D primer to product development. Data trends may help identify the rising popularity of certain flavor pairings or totally new genres (coconut water, anyone?). And so, rather than strict product distribution, Freestyle is a vital tool in Coke’s ability to sustain its competitive advantage.
What will your favorite flavor combo be?