Bubbling to the Top
Home carbonated-beverage making is gaining ground with consumers, and vendors are moving to take advantage
By David Gill
The Cuisinart Compact Sparkling Beverage Maker uses SodaSparkle recyclable technology. cuisinart.com
The urge for Americans to make everything they eat and drink at home has taken hold in yet another category: carbonated beverages.
This is evident in the increasing number of home carbonation products that have entered the market over the past few years. Vendors such as SodaStream, Cuisinart and iSi have already become established in the marketplace.
Later this year, they will be joined by Mastrad, Hamilton Beach and KitchenAid. Mastrad previewed its new carbonation product, called PureFizz, at this year's International Home + Housewares Show in March. Hamilton Beach is readying its own carbonation product, Fizzini, with a specific launch date yet to be determined. KitchenAid will enter the category with a soda maker that it will develop with SodaStream, as part of an agreement between the two companies.
The Mastrad PureFizz, which carbonates all types of beverages, is slated to launch on the market later this year. shopmastrad.com
To give a sense of how popular home soda making has become, data from The NPD Group show that sales of home soda machines in the 12 months ending in March of this year ballooned by 147 percent over the same period in the previous 12 months. Among beverage appliances of all types, this growth rate was almost triple that of citrus juicers, the second ranking beverage category in terms of sales growth in that time frame.
"We have been growing about 50 percent a year for the past few years," said Yaron Kopel, SodaStream's chief innovation and design officer. SodaStream became a public company in 2010. Last year, it expanded an already extensive line of soda makers with the launch of the Source, its first electric soda maker, which won a red dot design award for 2013.
iSi currently offers its soda siphon in two fabrications, aluminum and stainless steel. Jessica Acree, marketing manager for iSi North America, said sales of the soda siphons have been increasing in the high double digits for the past five years. No wonder, then, that other vendors want to get in on the fun.
"Fun," in fact, is one reason cited for the popularity of home carbonation. "We have millions of fans who say it's fun to make beverages with their own flavor mixtures," Kopel said. Part of the SodaStream offering is what Kopel termed its "flavor partnerships" with manufacturers such as Kool-Aid and Ocean Spray. SodaStream's flavor portfolio now numbers between 60 and 70.
This leads to another element in home carbonation's growth, the aspect of customization. "We take the approach that you can carbonate whatever drink you want to, to create a kind of spritzer," Acree said. Kopel added that this also includes using whatever ingredients the home soda maker wants in the proportion he or she wants as well.
The health aspect is also important in this trend. "With the big focus on diabetes and obesity in this country, there is a very high awareness of the health benefits," said Mary Rodgers, director of marketing communications for the Cuisinart and Waring brands of Conair. "Plus, it serves as a vehicle for parents who want to convert their kids from soda to sparkling water."
Cuisinart's Compact Sparkling Beverage Maker uses SodaSparkle, a technology involving a recyclable carbon dioxide charger placed into the carbonator. The user inserts the charger and twists the cap, turning water into sparkling water in seconds.
Not only is there the matter of individual health, but the health of the environment also benefits from home carbonation. "Store sodas generate a lot of energy and waste in terms of the bottles you throw away," said Mathieu Lion, president and CEO of Mastrad. "This eliminates that waste. One of these products can make hundreds and thousands of liters of carbonated beverages which you can store any way you want."
Indeed, Mastrad is positioning the PureFizz as a replacement for store-bought sodas of all kinds. The user can make carbonated beverages out of water, juices and cocktails without the need to buy soda or sparkling water from the store, thus reducing the amount of plastic bottles in circulation.
The category has come far over the past few years, but still has a long way to go, according to the vendors. "I think this category will continue to be bigger and bigger," Kopel said. "Our flavor partnerships will be a major contributor to our growth, along with our ability to make products that are easy on the eyes."
Rodgers agreed, saying, "You're seeing more players in the category, and consumers are definitely sold on it. I think in the next five years, you'll see more in innovations just from the changes in technology, which will make it interesting to see how people will use these to innovate the industry."
Lion predicted double-digit growth in carbonation products "for many years to come. We have many items that will go with (the PureFizz) coming soon, and of course, more competitors will come in. This is a vibrant category."