Brief - The Hustle

Coke’s high-tech fountains offer valuable data

Written by Juliet Bennett Rylah | Dec 20, 2022 9:54:15 AM

As kids, we filled our fountain cups with flavors to create overly sugary, kinda gross Frankenstein sodas. Coca-Cola evolved that technique in 2009 with its Freestyle machines.

These babies not only dispense 100+ flavors, but also send crucial data back to Coke, per Food Dive.

Freestyle machines…

… were designed by Italian car designer Pininfarina, and use the same microdispensing tech used to deliver drug dosages.

There are 50k+ Freestyles in use across restaurants, movie theaters, stores, and amusement parks, pouring 11m+ drinks daily.

Using the machine’s touchscreen or an app, customers select a base drink (e.g., Sprite, Coke, Barq’s). Then, they can add other flavors, such as vanilla, orange, or raspberry. Some machines even offer exclusive blends, like SeaWorld Orlando’s “South Pole Chill.”

For customers — and the businesses that hope to attract them — the ability to experiment is the draw.

For Coke…

… it’s the data it receives, including what, where, and when each drink was poured.

Coke uses that data to influence its R&D and distribution.

For example, if a flavor combo is particularly popular — like Sprite Cherry or Coke with Orange Vanilla — Coke might offer it in bottles or cans so its fans can drink it at home or work.

Unsurprisingly, PepsiCo released a competing machine, the Pepsi Spire, in 2014.

BTW: In 2018, Serious Eats tried 127 flavors, finding some surprisingly good and others repulsive.