PepsiCo is testing 30 new Aquafina Water Stations that provide flavored, sparkling and still water products, according to Vending Times.
Half of the 30 station prototypes offer the products at no charge, while the other half require a $1.39 payment for dispensing 32 ounces into user-provided bottles.
The beverage giant said as consumers drink more water and increase their use of refillable bottles at places such as schools and offices, these tests will help PepsiCo study consumer preferences and see what people are looking for from the Aquafina Water Station.
PepsiCo is testing some of its stations at places such as Penn State University where students can try out the company's zero-calorie Aquafina brand products with added peach, strawberry, lime or raspberry lime flavorings — using their own containers.
This campaign positions PepsiCo as an on-trend manufacturer and a mission-driven company that cares about cutting down on waste and responding to issues that are important to their customers. The university tweeted that students would be introduced to "new tastes in an effort to increase water consumption." The goal, of course, for PepsiCo is to encourage them to purchase Aquafina beverages in off-campus venues as well.
PepsiCo is smart to use this project as a low-risk test to learn more about how consumers will respond to the machine before it considers rolling it out more broadly in the future. The project will allow the company to find out how many people will pay for the Aquafina products and how many will seek out the free machines to avoid the charge. PepsiCo also may be interested in seeing whether consumers will go for the sparkling or still water at no cost, or head to a nearby tap water source for free.
Arch rival Coca-Cola has done something similar by testing its "PureFill" water fountains on the Georgia Tech campus. It offered its Dasani brand water for reusable bottles but requires payment for bubbles or flavoring. A special app showed where the foundations were located.
"Young people, especially college students, always have two things with them throughout the day — a water bottle and a smartphone," Jeffrey Busch, director of equipment commercialization for Coca-Cola North America, told just-drinks. "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."
In Coca-Cola's case, it probably received a favorable image boost for Dasani, tapped into the youth penchant for healthier beverages and technology and, by giving students the option of berry or peach-ginger flavoring, likely got a better sense of their taste preferences. In addition, whether they chose still or sparkling water also is valuable marketing information.
There's an ongoing debate about whether consumers will value something they can get for free and whether they will pay for something if they can go a bit out of their way to get it at no charge. Some people will opt for the free water in their own container and forego the sparkling and flavoring add-ons if they have to pay for them. Others will find the options a convenient and intriguing choice. Any of those outcomes can provide helpful information for a food or beverage manufacturer.
With water surpassing soft drinks as the top selling beverage in the U.S., PepsiCo and Coca-Cola have well-known water brands they can turn to. These machines could be a great way to do that. Last year, a survey from the International Bottled Water Association found nearly all of the participants said they drink either tap, filtered or bottled water. More than 80% of those surveyed said they should drink more water, and 90% believe that bottled water is a healthy and convenient beverage.