By combining Coca-Cola Freestyle®, the touchscreen-operated beverage dispenser, with micro-chipped, self-serving reusable cups, mugs and bottles, Coca-Cola is using its innovative spirit to help reduce packaging footprints and give people more of the drinks they want.
First introduced in 2009, now with tens of thousands of units installed worldwide, Coca-Cola Freestyle offers more than 100 sparkling and still beverage choices, including more than 70 low- and no-calorie options and 90-plus caffeine-free selections. This revolutionary product delivery method is helping the company respond to people’s evolving tastes and introduce them to new products and options. It also is playing a role in reducing waste.
Refillable beverage containers, equipped with micro-chipped, ValidFill® radio frequency identification (RFID) technology, have recently been introduced for use with Coca-Cola Freestyle machines via a variety of universities, cruise lines and theme parks. These smart refillable cups directly interact with the Coca-Cola Freestyle, conveniently providing preset pours toward favorite beverages and new tastes while, helping people reduce their packaging footprints.
Ohio State University (OSU) in the United States and the University of Reading in Great Britain are two universities that have implemented the innovation.
OSU launched its MyCup program in 2016, handing out 15,000 personalized, premium cups to all incoming first year and returning sophomore students. The 24-ounce high-tech cups, which came encoded with 10 free drinks, communicate with the university’s network of more than 20 Coca-Cola Freestyle dispensers. Once the free drinks have been consumed, students can recharge their cups with additional drink bundles semester after semester.
Coinciding with the start of the 2017 academic year, Coca-Cola European Partners (CCEP) and The University of Reading partnered to place Coca-Cola Freestyle machines on campus and offer compatible, micro-chipped refillable bottles for purchase by students and staff. Users, who had access to pre-paid refills throughout the 10-week term, were able to pour familiar favorites and try drinks and flavor variants from Coca-Cola’s global total beverage portfolio – including some not even available in Great Britain stores. Free drinking water was also available through the trial, a request from students.
Since September 2017, over 2,300 refillable bottles have been purchased for use on The University of Reading campus, with 24 refills the average per bottle used. CCEP is in dialogue with a number of customers, including other universities, to roll out similar Coca-Cola Freestyle and refillable bottle programs.
The Sustainability of Freestyle
In addition to helping consumers to avoid waste, Coca-Cola Freestyle machines can contribute to cutting waste in product transportation and manufacturing. Coca-Cola Freestyle’s SmartPAK™ cartridges have a smaller carbon footprint than traditional syrup packaging, are manufactured in a Gold LEED certified facility with renewable power and water conservation technology and contain 15-30 percent recycled content.
When considering the savings on consumables, fountain profit margin and earnings from incremental retail purchases, each ValidFill®-enabled container drives an estimated $88 in annual profit. The ValidFill® RFID technology also enables Coca-Cola to gain consumer insights related to its beverage portfolio, and Coca-Cola Freestyle makes sharing a variety of beverage opportunities in one spot possible, and fun.
Investments in the development and distribution of the Coca-Cola Freestyle beverage dispensers and ValidFill® RFID self-serve technology are promoting sustainability and revolutionizing the fountain experience for consumers. Reducing packaging and strengthening the sales and profit potential of beverages is just one of the ways Coca-Cola is innovating in the beverage delivery space and partnering to help shape a better world.