First introduced in 2009, Coca-Cola Freestyle®, the touchscreen-operated beverage dispenser, has reinvented the fountain beverage experience, offering an unprecedented array of choices in a fun, interactive format. Today, the revolutionary machine is helping Coca-Cola serve more drink options, including new flavors, to meet people’s evolving tastes, contribute to its environmental priorities and enhance customer brands and their guest experiences.
“When we introduced Freestyle, it was truly a disruptive innovation. Today it’s a billion-dollar business,” said Chris Hellmann, Vice President and General Manager, Coca-Cola Freestyle Division, The Coca-Cola Company. “Choice and customization are not fads—they’re here to stay. So we’re focused on making sure the Coca-Cola Freestyle platform stays current and contemporary and that we continue to offer more of the beverages people want.”
While traditional fountains offer between six and eight choices, Coca-Cola Freestyle uses micro-dosing technology to deliver more than 200 sparkling and still beverages on demand, including more than 117 low- and no-calorie options–and more than 100 varieties that can’t be found anywhere else. Choices are displayed in four groupings–low- and no-calorie, fruit flavors, caffeine-free and “show me everything.” To date, more than 50,000 units have been installed in the United States and a small number of other countries combined.
A win for both Coca-Cola customers–restaurants, cinemas, convenience stores, amusement parks, among others–and consumers is that beverage servings are up 8% in Freestyle outlets, and calories-per-serving in these locations are down nearly 10%.
Coca-Cola views Coca-Cola Freestyle as much more than a dispenser but also a marketing asset that creates value for our customers. The company’s research shows that traffic to outlets with a Coca-Cola Freestyle dispenser is higher than outlets without one, which means more visits, beverage sales and overall revenue for Coca-Cola customers.
Consumers like to customize their own unique beverage mixes on the Freestyle machine, which comes in various sizes and can display customized or individualized on-screen messages. Coca-Cola works with customers to enable limited-time promotional beverages. Wendy’s, for example, introduced a Freestyle-exclusive Dave’s Cherry Cream Soda (named after founder Dave Thomas), and Zaxby’s launched limited-edition Sprite and Mello Yello mixes for University of Georgia and Georgia Tech fans to enjoy during college football season. Consumers are able to connect to the Freestyle mobile app when they enter an outlet with a machine and cue up their favorite beverage, and in 2019 they will be able to create a new mix through this method.
There are also environmental opportunities and advantages in coordination with the use of a Freestyle machine. Refillable cups, equipped with microchipped, 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 refillable cups directly interact with Coca-Cola Freestyle, conveniently providing preset pours of favorite and new tastes while helping people reduce their packaging footprints. In this way, Coca-Cola Freestyle can help toward making progress against our goals and vision for a World Without Waste.
In addition to helping consumers avoid waste, Coca-Cola Freestyle machines can contribute to cutting waste in product transportation and manufacturing. Coca-Cola Freestyle’s SmartPAK™ cartridges, which 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% recycled content.
Freestyle machines have capabilities beyond dispensing beverages. The computer system within the machine records all data involved in every single pour. The data helps shape Coca-Cola fountain beverage offerings in support of the company’s consumer-centric growth agenda and influences its digital marketing programs and more. Based on information gleaned, for example, Sprite Cherry was launched in North America in 2017 as the first national brand inspired by Coca-Cola Freestyle.
Coca-Cola recently unveiled its newest Freestyle unit, the Coca-Cola Freestyle 9100, which will be available nationally in 2019. In addition, the team plans to push the new Freestyle operating system to all dispensers in the market to deliver new benefits to existing customers, including access to a diagnostics dashboard with real-time drink inventory levels.