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US: Strawberry Pepsi? New fountain machine in test

PepsiCo testing a new fountain machine at restaurants that lets people create a variety of flavour combinations, such as strawberry Mountain Dew.

The test follows Coca-Cola’s introduction in 2009 of its Freestyle machine, which also lets customers touch a screen to pick from a wide array of flavour combinations. PepsiCo’s test is set to begin at five restaurants in Denver.

Fountain sodas at restaurants, movie theatres and other outlets are an important part of the broader industry, representing about a quarter of overall sales volume, according to the industry tracker Beverage Digest. Coca-Cola, which is served in chains including McDonald’s and Wendy’s, has about 70 percent of the fountain business.

PepsiCo has about 30 percent and is served at chains including Taco Bell, Pizza Hut and KFC, which it previously owned.

Gina Anderson, a spokeswoman for PepsiCo, said the “Touch Tower” machines let people add up to four flavour shots – lemon, cherry, strawberry or vanilla – to eight varieties of drinks. That means people could create drinks like strawberry Pepsi or lemon Mountain Dew.

She said the company has other tests planned and that the “Touch Tower” is the first in a series of new fountain equipment the company is considering. The test was first reported by Beverage Digest.

Coca-Cola’s Freestyle machine also lets people pick from a wide variety of unique drinks, such as Caffeine-Free Diet Coke with lime or Minute Maid Light Orange Lemonade. Unlike the PepsiCo machine, however, Freestyle’s options are all pre-set and don’t let customers mix and match flavours.

The PepsiCo Touch Tower is also much smaller than Coca-Cola’s Freestyle, which is roughly the size of a vending machine. PepsiCo says its machine, which has a tablet-like screen, is intended more for outlets that don’t want equipment that takes up a lot of space. The company says it’s also developing other machines that would suit variety of needs.

Coca-Cola has positioned its Freestyle machines as a way for restaurants and other outlets such as movie theaters to attract more customers and boost beverage sales. The company says Freestyle is in 7,000 outlets in the US, including Burger King and Wendy’s. It’s also being tested in Tokyo, London and Toronto.

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