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Some of the marketing points behind SodaStream's (Nasdaq: SODA ) soda carbonation systems have been shot to bits.
SodaStream's soft drinks are cheaper than branded beverages? Not exactly. It costs $2 for a 64-ounce serving between the refillable CO2 carbonators and the flavored soda syrup. Odds are that a two-liter bottle of Coca-Cola (NYSE: KO ) or Pepsi (NYSE: PEP ) will cost you less than that. Store brands -- which is what the SodaStream product is more comparable too -- will set soda slurpers back even less than that.
The argument that SodaStream is the next Green Mountain Coffee Roasters (Nasdaq: GMCR ) ? Not exactly. Green Mountain's Keurig provides a product that is not only cheaper than premium brews, but also more convenient. SodaStream is facing off against cheap cans and bottles of pop that don't require a barista's touch.
SodaStream's fresh beverages taste better than bottled pop? There may be some people out there who feel that way, but I've been woefully disappointed after going through more than a dozen flavors since I bought my machine last month. I wouldn't wish SodaStream's Diet Cream soda on my worst enemy. I think a shot of Robitussin would work better than a few of the iffy diet flavors. The upshot here is that I have learned which flavors I really do like -- and I have found myself using the SodaStream more and cracking open a can of Diet Coke less.
Having said that
Now that we have that out of the way, let's go over the two selling points that are likely to make SodaStream a popular gift this holiday season.
The first marketing advantage is that SodaStream's drinks are healthier than conventional beverages, particular when it comes to non-diet flavors. A SodaStream soft drink has a third of the calories, carbs, and sugar -- and far less sodium -- than traditional soda. This matters in a country where parents are shoveling a ton of soda into their kids.
The second marketing advantage is SodaStream's eco-friendly ways. There are no empty cans or plastic bottles to recycle. The SodaStream bottles are reusable after rinsing off. Unlike many other kitchen appliances, SodaStream also doesn't require batteries or electricity. The carbonation process consists of a few manual taps.
It didn't surprise me to see SodaStream's Crystal home soda maker winning a 2010 Green GOOD DESIGN award this week. It also didn't come as a shock that Dr. Oz singled out SodaStream -- along with Tupperware's (NYSE: TUP ) Smart Steamer -- as healthy holiday gadgets on Monday's show.
Is that enough?
Selling your strengths
SodaStream's health and eco benefits may be enough to overcome its shortcomings elsewhere. There's a reason why Lexus and Prius cars fight for parking spaces at Trader Joe's or Whole Foods (Nasdaq: WFMI ) .
Just like at Whole Foods, folks are willing to pay a premium on principle or if something is genuinely healthier. Smart Balance (Nasdaq: SMBL ) has created an entire line of heart-healthy products, based on the success of its flagship buttery spread. No one is going to pick Smart Balance over butter or most margarines in a taste test. The brain outranks the taste buds, and a modest premium is more than expected.
SodaStream certainly hasn't been slowed by its value -- and arguably taste -- shortcomings. Revenue and adjusted earnings climbed 52% in its first quarterly report as a public company. It sold 449,000 systems during the quarter, and is probably selling a lot more this holiday quarter.
Is that enough? It's certainly impressive, and the stock has pulled back considerably since its post-IPO highs to create an intriguing entry point for investors who also see the value in the eco and health advantages. As long as system sales continue to climb -- with carbonators and syrup concentrate to follow -- this won't be just some 2010 holiday fad.
Is SodaStream the real deal or a passing craze? Share your thoughts in the comment box below.