After I wrote up the news this morning about PepsiCo buying SodaStream for a bubbly $3.2 billion, a commenter got me thinking about what rival Coca-Cola’s next steps should be. Spoon reader “James” asked:
So now that Pepsi has Sodastream and Dr. Pepper has Keurig, what consumer hardware company is Coke going to buy?
I almost feel like a sports radio talk DJ, because I’m about to give a hot take on this question: Coke should not buy or invest in any hardware company that allows users to make their own Coca-Cola beverages at home. Instead, Coke should focus on getting their existing products into the hands of people in the fastest way possible.
Coke actually dipped its toe in the home hardware market in 2016 with the Keurig Kold, a countertop pod-based device that would let you make your own cold beverages at home. Coke referred to its partnership on the device as a “game changer,” but Keuring killed off the Kold just ten months after its launch.
While there were a lot of reasons the Kold failed: it was expensive, required a lot of space, and took a minute and a half to make a soda. A second-gen version of the Kold (or similar device) could address those issues, but what it can’t address is the consistency and convenience of popping open a can and chugging.
When you’re thirsty and craving a particular drink, you want that drink. Not some approximation thereof. You know when you buy a can of Coke that it will taste exactly like a Coke. There is a giant infrastructure in place to make sure each drink tastes the same, every time. Not so when you make a drink at home. Your flavor amounts could be off, the carbonation levels could be different, and the minerals in your tap water could impact the taste. Homemade sodas can approximate your favorite drink, but they won’t be the exact drink you want.
Then there is the convenience aspect. Coke products are available just about everywhere you go. And it’s super easy to stock up and keep a bunch of them ready to go in your fridge. Thirsty? Boom. Grab one and start drinking. There is no waiting for a machine to carbonate your water or add flavor or any of that. Plus, there’s no machine to maintenance or keep clean.
And though I’m referring to Coca-Cola drinks, this advice applies to all beverages. The growth and ubiquity of seltzers on store shelves will still make the experience of drinking from a packaged can easier and better than making something at home.
With this in mind, instead of investing in any type of hardware that attempts to recreate the Coke experience at home, Coke should invest in methods that get their existing drinks to people faster and more conveniently. Perhaps put money in robot companies like Nuro, which is working with Kroger on self-driving delivery vehicles that could theoretically bring cases of Coke to your door any time of day or night. Or get into the high-tech fridge game a la Byte Foods to provide drinks conveniently in the office. Or heck, get a drone to deliver a Coke based on a person’s mood.
The point is, Coke should stick to doing what it does best: making Coke drinks and (for better or worse) making me want Coke drinks.