Several months ago, during a visit to the home of one of my brothers here in New York City, he and his wife proudly introduced me to their newest gadget: a SodaStream.
I’m sure most of you reading this are probably familiar with SodaStream, the home soda making device. It has been around for many years—mainly in Europe—and recently made some big inroads into the U.S. market. The company generated a lot of attention when it went public on the Nasdaq in 2010. Betweeen 2007 and 2011, according to a recent article in Forbes, its U.S. sales jumped from $4.4 million to $85 million.
The device comes in something like seven versions, with the price ranging from $80 and $200.
When I first heard about Soda Stream, my initial reaction could best be described as interested on a personal level, and at the same time, putting on my Beverage World editor hat, a bit wary. What would this mean for the beverage companies I write about all the time? If consumers are able to bottle their own soft drinks at home, well, then, where does that leave the bottlers? Yes, SodaStream only has about 0.7 percent of the CSD market, according to the Forbes article. But there are plenty of examples in history of simple inventions that upended entire industries.
So, what happened during a more recent visit to my brother’s home in October was a bit surprising to me. There, in the corner of their kitchen counter continued to sit the SodaStream. Only this time, when the subject came up in conversation, gone was the unbridled enthusiasm they had regaled my ears with months before. Instead, clearly expressing shopper’s remorse, they both explained to me they had fallen out of love with their soda-making device. My curiosity piqued, I asked my sister-in-law, what happened?
“It just doesn’t make enough,” she told me.
Understanding what she was getting at, I asked: “You mean it’s too much of a hassle for what it does?” That was precisely it, she said.
There’s a reason, I guess, why there’s an entire industry devoted to bottling soft drinks in large factories. And that’s because for most consumers they prefer their soda to remain a pleasurable experience, not work. What my brother and his wife were telling me is that once the novelty of making their own soda at home wore off, the experience—from replacing the CO2 cartridge, to buying the syrup refills, to making the soda itself and then chugging it down quickly before having to do it all over again—became just another at-home chore. And we have enough of those.
This is not to say that there isn’t a lasting place for some machines that bring home the beverage experience. Heck, Mr. Coffee is proof enough of that. And Starbucks just recently introduced the Verismo, a machine that aims to bring the Starbucks store experience to the home by allowing consumers to brew their own lattes and espressos.
But time may prove that some drinks are well enough left up to the experts.