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Why the Keurig KOLD Failed

Keurig Kold Failed

Make your own Coke! Except, it takes about 90 seconds, you get less than a can to drink, and for more than the cost of buying one at the store. Anyone? Anyone? Didn’t think so. Yet that’s exactly what Keurig tried to sell us with Keurig KOLD, a pod machine dedicated to producing cold, fizzy drinks, including Coke. The idea was to compete with SodaStream, which is understandable since that company grosses about $200 million per year. Yet within nine months, the KOLD was here… and gone.

So where did Keurig go wrong? Let’s look closer.

Keurig KOLD vs. SodaStream

I bought my SodaStream a few years ago, and it solved a very real problem for me: I like carbonated water, but there wasn’t a convenient way to drink it that didn’t involve lots of plastic waste. Suddenly, we could have sparkling water on-demand, without buying plastic bottles at the store, and the appliance was small, inexpensive, and attractive (I personally own the Yves Béhar-designed Source in white). You can make soda with it too by adding flavored pods that you purchase separately: Its drink flavors are all SodaStream brand (you can make an imitation Coke or Sprite, but not the real thing), and a cup of SodaStream cola will run you only 13 cents (possibly less if you hit on a sale). Other plusses: It’s fairly quiet to run, it doesn’t need to be plugged in, and you can control the amount of carbonation to suit your preference.

In contrast, the KOLD was priced at a shocking $369 for the device alone. Every eight-ounce drink you made in it would cost between a dollar and $1.29. Yes, that’s more than the price of soda from the supermarket, so there’s no chance of the machine paying itself off. Pay for the machine and you get the extra work of making the soda yourself, including keeping the house stocked with pods, as well as plugging in and allowing the machine to loudly rumble as it cools for several hours. And you should know that this device is large— it dwarfs my toaster— and to work it needs to stay on your countertop and stay plugged in, so it’s a big countertop commitment, both visually and sonically. Because it hums. All the time.

Comparing SodaStream Source and Keurig KOLD

Keurig Kold Technology

Developing the technology behind Keurig KOLD took about $100 million, five years and 50 patents. As far as technology goes, is pretty neat: It makes a cold, carbonated beverage in 90 seconds, without a CO2 canister. KOLD’s secret: carbonator “beads” inside the machine, made of minerals including aluminum silicate, released CO2 when they got wet. The machine had to reach the precise right temperature (39 degrees) for optimal carbonation to take hold.

I will concede that I like drinking my carbonated beverages cold, rather than room temperature, so I always end up adding ice cubes to my SodaStream beverages, which is an extra step that the KOLD cuts out. But the KOLD’s “magic” ability to carbonate using these “beads” freaked me out, and in an age when many of us are trying to remove chemical processes from our food supply, it seemed ludicrous to be adding this in… especially since it seems less convenient, not more, than buying a can of soda from the store. SodaStream’s sodamix varieties boast all-natural formulations with no high-fructose corn syrup and no aspartame— no such claim from KOLD.

Moreover, KOLD entered the market just as soda drinking was fizzling to a 30-year low. Which brings me to my final question…

What problem were you solving again?

Keurig revolutionized coffee by solving a problem: They created a mess-free way to make an economical, single-serve cup in seconds. Before Keurig started spending its $100 million on the KOLD, I wonder if they had bothered to ask themselves what problem they were trying to solve with it. Convenience, speed, cost… KOLD doesn’t win with any of these metrics.

Technology is an incredible tool that we can use to make things easier, and make our lives more comfortable, but the reason to invest in it has to be compelling. I love technology (clearly), but buying an expensive appliance that causes tons of waste, takes tons of time, makes more work for me junks up my countertops? Why?

Often manufacturers get caught up in their own ability to build something new and cool, without asking if anyone would really want it. It’s up to us as consumers to vote with our wallets about what they should be investing their time and money in to truly improve our lives, not just dazzle us with something useless and shiny. Sorry Keurig KOLD— it’s not us, it’s you.

Did you try the Keurig KOLD? Would you? Let me know in the comments!

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