Coke’s Ultimate Vending Machine

Now we have some real beauties! 104 flavors– hmmm…

Yes, public health advocates are getting increasingly vocal about the negative effects of soda on the body, but Coke isn’t giving up its 70 percent market share to tap water without a fight. The Atlanta-based company is rolling out the big guns with the Freestyle, a super-sleek, touch-screen soda fountain that lets users create up to 104 different flavors of fizzy refreshment.

This high-tech beverage machine shoots out a wide range of traditional sodas, flavored waters, and energy drinks in every conceivable combination. Raspberry Coke? Check. Grape Sprite? Why not. Peach Fanta? No problem. The fountain is a study in excess, totally over the top. And yet … admit it: You want to try it.

“Consumers are telling us they want choice,” says Helen Tarleton, senior communications manager for Coca-Cola. She points out that the while the Freestyle might get some flack for offering so many options, more than half of them are low- and no-calorie. “When you’ve only got six or eight valves to work with, maybe only one is diet,” she says.

Soda fountains have remained pretty much the same since they were popularized in the 1950s — a basic ratio of syrup to carbonated water is combined in a container, then released out of the spigot. The Freestyle completely changes the game with a touch screen that instructs the machine to mix flavors on the spot, using technology originally developed for dialysis and cancer treatments. It’s only got one nozzle, and works by releasing the flavorings into a stream of carbonated water. The new technology ensures that one soda doesn’t taste like the flavor poured before it.
The Freestyle has been in development for five years but, according to the Wall Street Journal, Coke has been ramping up distribution in the last six months, testing 69 of the machines in 53 outlets. It’s a gamble for restaurant owners, since the Freestyles cost 30 percent more than traditional machines, but there’s a potential payoff, since the whiz-bang factor may entice customers to spend more on beverages.

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For company execs, it’s an information goldmine. The Freestyle is basically a wireless computer, and has the ability to send Coke specifics on what people are creating and how much they’re spending. It’s consumer data in real-time — a marketing windfall. And Coke can talk back, telling the fountain to, say, discontinue a slow seller. But Tarleton says thus far, there aren’t many. “We’ve found that customers are trying almost all the products almost every day,” she says.

So what’s not to like? Well, have you ever watched your grandfather navigate an ATM? Segments of the population might not be comfortable with the touch-screen technology, causing long waits at the machines. Also, it’s estimated that the Freestyle sodas may cost consumers an extra 10 cents a cup. But a dime seems like a fair price for total flavor control.

Hat tip : Jacob Grier

Read more: Full Story here Slashfood

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