In keeping with the 21st century’s high tech space-age development, Coca-Cola has come up with yet another innovation to provide more accessibility and availability for their products. It permits customers to choose a drink that matches their taste and preference–with an astonishing number of options. The Coca Cola Freestyle soda machine has 125 beverage choices, including energy drinks, sodas and waters that are not previously offered in the United States. The main brands (or base products) featured in the machine are Coke and its varieties (Zero, Diet and Caffeine Free Diet), Fanta and Fanta Zero, Barq’s and Diet Barq’s, Vault, Powerade and Powerade Zero, Dasani and Dasani Sensations, Minute Maid and Minute Maid Light, Pibb Zero and Pibb Xtra, Sprite and Sprite Zero and Hi-C. The number of beverage choices alone can cover a few pages of a restaurant’s menus or table tents.
Using the touch-screen interface, a customer taps the Coke button and up comes several other buttons of Coke in different flavors. Each of the main brands (or base products) has different flavors inside, ranging from the moderately tame Sprite with Orange to the idealistic Caffeine Free Diet Coke with Peach. Once a customer completes his order, the device whirs into action to formulate the drink, mixing carbonated water with one of the twenty-six concentrated syrup cartridges. It doesn’t sound too complicated, does it? And just takes a few seconds to get it.
Additional flavorings that supplement the base products include lime, vanilla, cherry, raspberry, orange, grape, peach, strawberry and fruit punch. Once blended with the base products, the many flavor combinations to choose from include Coke with Raspberry, Cherry Vanilla Coke, Coke with Orange, Coke with Lime, Diet Cherry Vanilla Coke, Coke with Lemon, Sprite with Vanilla, Hi-C Raspberry Lime, Seagram’s Lime Seltzer and countless other flavors.
Testing of Coca Cola’s Freestyle has started as early as July 2009, but distribution did not start until June 2010. It was only recently that its flavors have reached all of its 125 flavors.
The market’s reaction to the high-tech space age apparatus is one of awe and amusement. A 61-year old man once visited Burger King on South Federal Highway in Fort Lauderdale, took his empty cup and walked towards the soda machine. When he stood in front of the lofty, sleek, silver machines, he stared in awe and confusion at the face-level touch screens. He felt disoriented at first, but he successfully got his own choice of drink. He said the new technology would take a little getting used to, but he knew that he would eventually get the hang of it.
Customers are amazed and surprised at the extensive scale of choices. A group of teenagers in Burger King on Green Haven in Sacramento gathered around the Freestyle machine and sampled different choices and tried a variety of flavors. They say it’s cool. Some even visits the place not to order food but only to try the machine. And those who are already eating does not content themselves with only one soda, but two or three, because once they see the machine, their curiosity gets the better of them and makes them want to taste more of the machines’ many flavors. It gets particularly interesting too, since they get to serve themselves, and does not need to choose from menus, menu boards, or table tents.
Considering the absolute coolness of this thing, it would be difficult to imagine customers going back to using the regular soda fountain that they have gotten used to.