Since 2013, Pepsi has been testing an interactive fountain unit similar to Coca-Cola’s Freestyle. It looks like the testing is complete and they chose to launch the interactive fountain dispenser as Pepsi Spire (after trademarking Pepsi Touch, Pepsi Fusion, and Pepsi Smart Cooler). The Pepsi Spire comes in three sizes offering restaurant customers up to 1,000 beverage combinations, here’s the media release from Pepsi. It is currently available in over 50 locations in the U.S. Spire’s launch comes nearly five years after Freestyle, but Pepsi has taken this time to tweak issues that were present during Coca-Cola’s launch: customer frustration and social integration.
Pepsi launched Spire with three different sizes, relative to Coca-Cola’s Freestyle launch in only one size. This will certainly be pleasing to restaurant owners. One of the initial concerns for Coca-Cola’s Freestyle was that some restaurant may not have strong enough customer traffic to justify the available flavor combinations. This would exclude the Freestyle’s availability for smaller restaurant. Having smaller units with fewer combinations solves this problem. This leaves only the top flavors and most popular combinations available for the smaller unit (40 combinations for Pepsi Spire 1.1), and offers the broadest assortment for the largest unit (up to 1,000 combinations for Pepsi Spire 5.0).
Pepsi also understood that the “maker” movement is both interactive – and social. Despite no direct mention of social media integration, Pepsi has demonstrated the ability to incorporate the usage of mobile phones, Facebook, Twitter and other social platforms with their equipment. While it is widely understood that most dining experiences are social, Pepsi found a way to make this experience more inclusive with your peers. Pepsi’s smart equipment also has the ability to provide the restaurant customer with popular beverage combinations at that location, further integrated social and local demographics.
The launch of Pepsi Spire has spurred Coca-Cola to improve the Freestyle. Coca-Cola recently introduced a mobile app allowing users to share their drink combinations with other users and pre-mix drink combination to scan at the Freestyle unit. Coca-Cola also announced two smaller Freestyle fountain units coinciding with the Spire’s launch. To minimize market news and maintain a competitive landscape against the Pepsi Spire, Coca-Cola’s Freestyle has also introduced smaller Freestyle units that dispense 35 drink combinations or 80 drink combinations.
The Pepsi Spire’s adoption rate should be relatively quick given their unit size flexibility as well as their own customer exclusivity contracts. Beyond customer push tactics, consumer trends and social integration will help pull the Pepsi Spire into more on-premise locations.
The Cola War heats up again with the arrival of Pepsi Spire, this time on the fountain unit frontier.