Custom Made

Variety is one of the many things that consumers today are looking for in their products. Another is the ability to customize. Even with the wide variety of beverage options on the shelf, consumers still value making something their own.

The Coca-Cola Freestyle dispensing machine is one example of how companies are looking to meet those needs through innovative new product concepts. The Freestyle can dispense 125 sparkling and still brands that consumers can mix by simply navigating the touchscreen on the freestanding unit. Using Purepour Technology—a micro-dosing capability—consumers have the freedom to create a beverage to their particular tastes. Available in more than 800 restaurants and more than 60 markets in the United States, the Freestyle has been able to give consumers customization in the off-premise.

“Consumers are looking for something they’ve simply never experienced and Coca-Cola Freestyle is a new way to enjoy a refreshing beverage,” says Sydney Taylor, group director, Coca-Cola Freestyle. Launched in 2009, the Coca-Cola Freestyle can be found in nearly 4,000 outlets in more than 80 markets across 45 states and Puerto Rico. Future U.S. introductions are planned throughout 2012, the company says, and there are plans to roll out the Freestyle to other countries.

In New York City, one company creating fresh juice drinks is offering its customers customizable versions of their favorite flavors. DeLIFEful Foods, LLC, based in Brooklyn, is a raw, fresh-pressed juice company that makes same-day deliveries to its customer base in the New York City area. The company launched a website, delifefulfoods.com, last month allowing for online ordering, the ability to learn about the ingredients in each drink as well as the nutrition facts and ultimately the option to customize one of the five or so seasonal flavors in its lineup to their personal preference. Made from only fresh fruits and vegetables, flavors include Green Revival (apples, string beans, spinach, ginger, lime and cinnamon), Kickin’ Ginger (pineapple, ginger, lime, fever grass), Sweet Sweet P&P (pineapple, pomegranate and ginger), Sunny Plum (apple, plum, ginger and lime) and Starfruit Passion (pineapple, persimmon and ginger).

“We are very open to any feedback received by our consumers and we always look to incorporate the ideas as much as we can into any new formulations that we make,” says Tirrell Barronette, company co-founder. “There have been instances where a consumer might like the Kickin’ Ginger, but they thought it was a little too spicy so we have toned it down for them.” Barronette estimates the company makes about 150 to 200 16-ounce bottles, and 50 to 100 gallon-sized containers a week. Sixteen-ounce bottles retail for $4-$5.

Paying a premium price for a premium product is not foreign to many consumers. But when it comes to getting a drink just the way you like it, preference may take precedence.

Starbucks’ Drink Builder app helps its consumers customize their coffee and keep it on record for future visits to the coffee house.

“We know that a customer’s beverage choice is very personal and that they value customization to fit their lifestyle and nutritional needs. Starbucks offers more than 170,000 ways for customers to create their perfect beverage by choosing from a type of fresh milk, the intensity of coffee or decaf, and any combination of syrups or toppings, blended, brewed—you name it,” says a Starbucks spokesperson. “The Drink Builder function of the iPhone app allows customers to create their own style of beverage and save it on their phone for future reference or to share via SMS and e-mail with friends and co-workers going on a ‘Starbucks coffee run.’ Users can also get nutritional information on Starbucks drinks and modifications, such as requesting nonfat milk and no whip.”

The concept of creating a beverage from scratch is what inspired the Indianapolis-based company uFlavor, which is in the midst of launching. The company aims to offer consumers a number of different ingredients, flavors and colors to create their own concentrate (25 servings) that they then can add to water, carbonated water, beer, juice, tea—just about anything. Conducted through the company’s website, consumers also will have the option to publicize their creations for others to purchase too.

“There is a very large trend toward personalization and customization—making something that is yours,” says Phil Lavoie, in charge of business development for the company. “We are trying to put control back in the end users’ hands. We have lots of choices out in the marketplace, but we don’t have a lot of ability to be flexible within those choices.”

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