- Both Coca-Cola and PepsiCo are looking past plastic water bottles and launching interactive water coolers that allow customers to choose flavor and carbonation levels of the water that is dispensed into their personal, reusable bottles, according to the Wall Street Journal.
- Coca-Cola’s Dasani PureFill station is a concept that was imagined in 2016 and has been piloted on college campuses. The system will expand this year to schools, zoos and aquariums. PepsiCo piloted its system last year and has similar expansion plans to PureFill but also includes hotels, offices and stadiums. Although it has yet to be named, the system has six flavors and personalized levels of carbonation and temperature.
- Coca-Cola offers a free, chilled water option, which is the most popular. The pricing is 5 cents per ounce for drinks that are flavored and/or carbonated. Payment is accepted via an app, Apple Pay and in some cases, a credit card, according to the Wall Street Journal.
In 2016, bottled water surpassed all beverages and became America's favorite drink for the first time. Although a popular packaging option, only about 30% of plastic bottles are currently recycled at a time when consumers and investors alike are asking for greater sustainability from companies.
A Plastic Solutions Investors Alliance comprising 25 investors managing more than $1 trillion in assets asked Big Food and other companies to limit single-use plastic packaging. Consumers too are loudly making their opinion heard by supporting brands like JUST Water, Boxed Water is Better, Icebox Water and RETHINK Water, which offer more environmentally friendly paper-based cartons as well as driving the trend toward reusable water bottles. Aluminum cans have similarly begun to make an appearance in the world of water as a more sustainable option since, according to the Aluminum Association, 75% of aluminum ever produced in the U.S. are still in use today.
Even with the environmental concerns associated with bottled water, consumers are showing no signs of slowing their demand for the actual drink itself. As consumers move toward healthier beverage options, water remains an alluring choice as it offers a way to enjoy flavor and fizz without the sugar and calories of soda despite the packaging challenges. Many manufacturers have made significant investments in the segment.
PepsiCo bought SodaStream for $3.2 billion in August last year and launched Bubly in an aluminum can to compete directly with LaCroix. Similarly, Coca-Cola acquired glass-bottled Topo Chico for $220 million as the company angled itself to take part of the premium sparkling water category, which is growing by double digits.
As governments and businesses have started banning single-use plastics, bottled water manufacturers are searching for recycled and alternative packaging. Some are even looking to get rid of packaging altogether. By investing in technology like the new dispensary systems, Coca-Cola and PepsiCo might be on the way to finding a potential solution to balancing the growth in bottled water with the environmental interests of consumers.