Coca-Cola is bringing flavor, fizz and fun to the water fountain this summer. The company will pilot the DASANI PureFill station on the Georgia Institute of Technology campus next week as students return for the fall semester. 

The idea behind the innovative machine – which provides free, ultra-filtered water with the option of adding flavors and/or carbonation for a small fee – emerged last summer during a two-day “Shark Tank”-style workshop hosted by Coca-Cola North America’s R&D team. A cross-functional team of employees led by Sustainability Managers PJ Newcomb and Nicole Smith presented the pitch to senior leaders at the company, who recognized its potential and quickly green-lit the project.

DASANI PureFill
An employee tries out the DASANI PureFill prototype at Coca-Cola headquarters in Atlanta.

“The team recognized that hydration stations were being installed all over the place, especially on college campuses,” explains Kim Drucker, director of brand innovation, Coca-Cola North America. “And this represented an opportunity to enter the space of convenient, on-the-go hydration."  

The project team simultaneously kicked off a consumer research initiative and turned to Coke’s in-house Concept Design Center to build out a prototype. An inter-disciplinary crew of machinists and mechanical, electrical and industrial engineers led by Tom Perrin tackled the challenge head on, piecing together a solution using existing hardware and parts in a matter of weeks.

“We call this process ‘kit bashing’ because we use a kit of off-the-shelf components,” Perrin explains. “It’s a time-saver that allows us to rapidly prototype and test new technologies. Our goal is to get in front of consumers, ask the big questions and adjust, if needed. In the case of this project, the question we wanted to ask is ‘If flavors and carbonation were available with free water, would you buy them? And, if so, how much would you pay?’”

DASANI PureFill
A cross-functional team of Coke employees led the design, development and commercialization of DASANI PureFill.

DASANI PureFill was constructed using a Lancer beverage dispenser, a proprietary Coke chiller and a bag-in-box (BIB) system for the flavors. The team partnered with a vacuum-forming company to design the machine's exterior.

“Typically at Coke, we design from scratch and build from the ground up,” said Jeffrey Busch, director of equipment commercialization, Coca-Cola North America. “This often leads to great innovations, but can take years to see the light of day. The beauty of this machine is that it was built entirely with off-the-shelf parts – with speed and agility in mind.”

DASANI PureFill is paired with a custom-built smartphone app, which lets users track their hydration and geo-locate a nearby machine, and a cashless payment system. Busch said this feature tested well with Millennials, who also liked the link with the DASANI brand.   

“Young people, especially college students, always have two things with them throughout the day – a water bottle and a smartphone,” Busch said. “So we’re trying to dial in to those habits and add value to a water brand they know and love with a unique solution for on-the-go hydration.”

Dasani PureFill
A smartphone app lets users track their hydration and geo-locate a DASANI PureFill machines.

Two flavors will be available during the Georgia Tech pilot: Berry and a second created exclusively for DASANI PureFill, Peach-Ginger. Down the road, the team is considering adding more flavors and even additives like vitamins and protein for a more personalized beverage experience.