In July of last year, during the first wave of the pandemic, PepsiCo introduced the SodaStream Professional connected sparkling water system for offices. At the time we noted that the machine, which reduces the need for single-use platic bottles was a good idea, but its future seemed questionable given that offices were closed. Even now, more than a year later, it’s unclear when or how workers will return to the office, so like any good company, PepsiCo has adapted, and is now bringing its SodaStream Professional to college campuses.
PepsiCo has installed its SodaStream Professional at William and Mary College and College of the Holy Cross (it’s also installed a machine at Dana Hill High School in Dana Point, California), which dispense customizable carbonated water. Customers can choose from a number of flavors, adjust the fizziness of their drinks and even offer up enhancements like electrolytes and vitamin B.
There is an accompanying QR-coded bottle and mobile app that people can use to control the machine. Users download the app and scan the QR code with their phone. At the machine, they scan the bottle’s QR code which allows users to order via the app, contactlessly dispense the drink, and remember certain flavor/fizziness preferences for future drinks. For those without the QR-coded bottle, the machine works with other vessels, and can be controlled with the on-board touchscreen. Pricing for the drinks is dependent on the arrangement made by the university.
The move to colleges is a smart play by PepsiCo, given the unknown future of office work. Schools have re-opened (fingers crossed) and are once again alive with activity on campuses.
But PepsiCo isn’t stopping with the new beverage station. The company has also launched a branded convenience store at Kansas University that features cashierless technology. The new store is powered by New Stand, and is not as high tech as the computer vision + artificial intelligence-powered Amazon Go, so students can’t just grab what they want and walk out. But it does allow users to scan their items with the New Stand mobile app at checkout.
And if that weren’t enough, during a video chat this week, Greg Herman, Sr. Marketing Director, Beverage Innovation – Foodservice at PepsiCo told me that in addition to these programs, PepsiCo is also still running its robot delivery program that it launched back at the start of 2019. That program used small, rover bots from Robby to carry around snacks and beverages that students could order. Herman didn’t provide too many details on the program, but we haven’t heard much about it since launch, so it’s nice to see it’s still going.
Between these programs, cereal dispensing robot vending machines, and 3D printed plant-based meat, colleges are fast becoming hotbeds of food tech innovation.