Coke Once Built An At-Home Soda Maker, And It Was A Huge Flop

BreakMateYouTube/lazyjones27This is Coca-Cola’s ‘BreakMate,’ the company’s first at-home soda brewer.

Coca-Cola’s plan to create a an at-home soda dispenser with Green Mountain Coffee sent the Keurig-maker’s shares flying earlier this month.

But this isn’t Coke’s first foray into the home-brewing market.

The company’s first personal soda brewer, called the BreakMate, was introduced to test markets in 1985, and hit the national market in 1988. Coke marketed the 60-pound machine, which initially cost $US1,799, to small offices.

Coke executives lauded the machine as a game-changer for the beverage industry.

“This is the largest development project we have ever undertaken,” W. Andrew Harvill, then of Coke’s fountain sales department, told the Los Angeles Times in 1988.

Within a decade, the company expected the machines to generate roughly 2% of the company’s sales, or the equivalent of 20 million gallons of Coca-Cola concentrate each year, according to the Times.

“If you make Coke available,” Harvill said at the time, “then people will drink it.”

Coke pitched the machine to office managers as a way to increase employee productivity. Without a BreakMate, a Coke brochure read, employees “are forced to spend valuable business time leaving their immediate work area . . . to find the nearest available soft drink source.”

The BreakMate, manufactured by German company Siemans, held three refillable litres of syrup that had the capacity to produce 31 6.5-ounce servings or 20 10-ounce servings.

Take a look at the unwieldy predecessor to the SodaStream:

Here are the syrup litres, which were hidden under a plastic flap on the front of the machine:

At 22 inches wide and 18 inches high, the machine took up a fair amount of counter space:

The machines were plagued with operational problems, however, and people soon realised that buying two-liter bottles cost less than brewing it on their own. There were also concerns about product consistency and cross-contamination, according

Coca-Cola eventually stopped making the machines and in 2007, the company stopped all product support, Coke spokesman Petro Kacur told Business Insider.

Mark Swartzberg, a Coke analyst at Stifel, has predicted that the soda giant’s new at-home brewer could suffer a similar fate.

“The opportunity is small… and carries significant execution risk,” Swartzberg wrote in a recent client note, according to the Wall Street Journal. “In our opinion, one of Coke’s problems … is not routes-to-market but innovation in the bottle.”

Watch how the BreakMate worked:

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