Once, the market for pod-based home coffee brewers was wide open, but the Keurig system, launched into home markets a decade ago, ultimately emerged to dominate the field based on the variety of the coffees available for it. It created a line of different sizes, then the Keurig Vue and more recently the nominally techie-themed Keurig 2.0. Beyond coffee, the devices were able to brew cocoa and teas, but the beverages were as hot and flat as a desert playa.

Meanwhile, in the same timespan, SodaStream (originally Soda Club) came stateside and marketed its home soda machines and generic soda mixes as cheaper than the best-known brands such as Coke and Pepsi, even staring down the big store-bought brands with a 2013 Super Bowl ad.

The carbonated beverage giants took notice. Forcing an adjustment of SodaStream's messaging. Pepsi has chosen to partner with the makers of the Sodastream countertop device, which requires CO2 containers. It showed off its home soda varieties at the recent Maker Faire in New York to long lines.

Coke, though, has tapped into Keurig, which recently released its Keurig Kold (not named by any Kardashian) Drinkmaker. The countertop device dispenses with CO2 cannisters in favor of "Karbonator beads" embedded in its pods. The convenience of the system will come at a hefty premium -- $369 for the Kold versus $69 for a basic SodaStream.

Just as Pepsi has forced SodaStream to tweak its playbook a bit, though, Keurig will need to adjust the game plan that led it to conquer countertop caffeination. There are few strong coffee brands in the U.S. outside of Starbucks and a wide variety of palette preferences. Keurig's ascent was built on capturing a large variety of pod options. In contrast, while Coke is a crown jewel brand for the Kold -- one that comes with some popular companion brands such as Sprite -- demand may be cool for the variety of other beverages the company is planning to market under its own brands.

And then of course there are issues endemic to both soda makers. It's arguable whether their output is less expensive than store-bought alternatives, particularly when considering bulk-purchased generic brands. Next to your future personalized health shake creator, nugget ice maker and cocktail concocter, they can both contribute to counter clutter, particularly for those whose passions tend to run hot and cold.

Pods for both devices are harder to find at retail than bottled soda. And unlike coffee, which must always be "prepared" in some way (even if it's just adding heated water to instant coffee), pouring soda requires little more than opening a refrigerator door that is likely not more than a few feet from the new breed of fizzy fixtures.

For fans of the pause that refreshes, the Keurig Kold delivers the closest thing to having The Real Thing on tap. However, when considered as a way to combat the flagging sales of Keurig's coffee brewers, it may be a while before it has its makers sipping the bubbly.

 

Published on: Sep 29, 2015
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