Commentary

Keurig Kold Brings Fizzy Sodas To The Den

Keurig Green Mountain held a media event in Manhattan yesterday for its Kold single-serve, pod-based home brewing systems, which goes on sale online today and at select retailers in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles and New York in October.

"While Keurig Kold was announced earlier this year, Keurig finally unveiled the product and gave journalists a palate-on experience,” writes Mashable’s Lance Ulanoff, whose own sample of choice “tasted like fresh-from-the-bottle Coca-Coca.”

Ulanoff was “impressed” but his observation comes “amid skepticism from analysts and investors that the machine … will take off,” Reuters’ Anjali Athavaley writes, citing its price “of $299 to $369 per unit, a slower than anticipated rollout and recent trends in soda consumption in the United States.”

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“We essentially had to take a bottling plant and shrink it down and make it look beautiful,” Keurig CEO Brian Kelley tells Bloomberg’s Jennifer Kaplan. “Consumers want variety, they want to make the drink for themselves, but they want it to taste perfect.”

One nettlesome issue was carbonating the beverages without a cumbersome tank. 

“Keurig solved the carbonation problem by creating pods in which the top half is made of carbon dioxide beads,” Kaplan writes. “… Keurig also says the Kold can chill drinks to nearly freezing in 19 seconds.”

Favorites such as Coca-Cola, Diet Coke, Coke Zero, Fanta, Sprite, Dr Pepper, Canada Dry are available; so, too, will be Keurig’s own line with artisanal names such as Flyte, Waterful, and Red Barn Craft Sodas.

“[Kelley] says the Kold will open a new market for a company known for its coffee brewers and K-Cup pods,” Annie Gasparro writes for the Wall Street Journal. “A former Coca-Cola Co. executive, Mr. Kelley also has the backing of that beverage giant, which owns a 16.8% stake in Keurig, according to FactSet.”

“We’re confident this is the next big growth engine for the company,” Kelley tells Gasparro.

The New York Times’ Stephanie Strom writes that the company has been thinking about building a cold machine since buyers of Keurig coffee systems indicated strong interest six years ago, according to Keurig Kold SVP Tara Murphy, and it has been five years in the making, according to a release.

“She said Keurig was aiming Kold at bars and den areas and keeping it away from kitchen counters already occupied by Keurig coffee makers,” which are in about 20-million households. “It’s for people who entertain a lot and want to have the latest technology to show off,” Murphy tells Strom.

Mashable’s Ulanoff asked Kelley if he was concerned about third-party pod makers cannibalizing his new business, as has happened with Keurig K-Cups. Kelley replied that “it was 17 years before patents expired,” and off-brand K-Cups appeared. “The patents for Keurig Kold won't expire until 2031 at the earliest,” Ulanoff writes, and “Kelley sees that as part of the company's business advantage.”

But none of this comes cheap.

“Sadly, the product and supporting pods won't run cheap, with the Kold unit priced at a cool $370 and Kold pod four-packs costing about $5 each,” rues CNET’s appliance maven, Brian Bennet. 

Comments “staleroy” below Bennet’s story: “Sorry, but unless you got money to burn or no access to a refrigerator this product will just bomb.” Says “james_72”: “Or you can just buy a 2 liter for $1.50… the flop is going to be epic with this.”  

But there’s a slothful consumer born every moment, as someone surely once said.

“Despite the awful price, I can still see the appeal of the Kold, and I have this sinking feeling I’m going to end up buying one,” writes Chris Mills for Gizmodo. “Drinking sugar water from a gigantic, secretive corporation is bad; buying a $300 machine and an endless supply of $5-a-box capsules, just so I don’t have to remember to refrigerate my cans, is downright slothful. But I’m probably going to do it anyway.”

Three reviewers on the Keurig website, who apparently received a machine “in return for an unbiased review,” voted positively about recommending the device to a friend; one thought it took too long to set up and was better suited to a college dorm than a home kitchen. 

An upbeat video on Keurig’s website shows us the “future of refreshment.” Keurig boasts that it has “all the fizz without the fuss” of, presumably, going to the store, lugging home a bottle, getting ice from the freezer, opening the cap and pouring. It’s “fresh made at the push of a button” right on your kitchen counter … er, den or bar.

What with 3D printing coming to pop-ups and village rec centers near you, and prices for home and enterprise units steadily declining, how long will it be before every home becomes its own factory?

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