The average beverage is developed within the confines of a company’s marketing department or the precincts of its innovation team before getting tested with consumers. Now the soft drink industry is taking the flavor experiment beyond the walls of a test kitchen. Following Coca-Cola’s rollout of a soda fountain called Freestyle in 2009 that allows consumers to mix their own beverages, Pepsi is introducing its own version, called Spire, across the U.S.
“All of the units we’re deploying are what we call ‘smart equipment,’” says Pepsi spokesman Jeff Dahncke. “We can gather real-time insights and identify popular beverage customizations. Over time, this will allow us to tailor specific offerings based on consumer preferences.” The largest Spire machine can mix more than 1,000 combinations using not only the company’s soda brands, but also its iced teas, lemonade, and other drinks, along with shots of flavors such as lime and vanilla. Coca-Cola said it decided to roll out Fanta Cherry in supermarkets because it found the concoction was a popular selection on the Freestyle, which can dispense 146 flavors, according to USA Today.