I've got a time machine, and I'm not afraid to use it.
Yes, SodaStream is still alive and well in 2015. The cynics who figured that SodaStream was just a passing craze during the 2010 and 2011 holiday seasons had to eat crow, though thankfully they're able to wash it down with a fizzy SodaStream concoction.
Let's drink to 2012
There were certainly plenty of uncertainties a few weeks into 2012 -- where you happen to be right now. Primo Water's (Nasdaq: PRMW ) flavorstation may have gotten off to a slow start in late 2011, but it seemed as if SodaStream would have a legitimate competitor.
Well, it didn't. Primo Water's near-term cash crunch and poor initial flavorstation distribution and sales led it to a retreat to its bottled water stronghold. It was the right call. Primo Water is a more successful -- and focused -- company in 2015.
Cynics were also concerned about the ill-placed bullish comparisons of SodaStream's business model to that of Green Mountain Coffee Roasters (Nasdaq: GMCR ) . It's true. Unlike the java giant's Keurig ecosystem -- which held up well post-2012 on the patent front, by the way, on the strength of the Keurig 2.0 high-end single-cup brewer -- SodaStream doesn't have a proprietary lock on the high-margin soda flavors. Anyone can put out pourable soda syrup (and many do, in fact, by 2015).
However, what the market missed in 2012 is that refillable carbonators can also be a high-margin business. Oh, and then there was also the big push in 2013 for branding its individual flavors, but I may be getting ahead of myself.
Brand on the run
From 2010 through 2012, SodaStream was marketed in this country on its advantages over branded store-bought soda. SodaStream's product is easier on the environment and marginally better on the pocketbook. It's convenient, though that is debatable. The nutrition-related aspects of its non-diet sodas -- which contain just a third of the calories, fat, and carbs of the cola giants' -- became a stronger marketing angle heading into 2013.
However, the real marketing angle that blew things open for SodaStream in 2013 was when the company went from positioning its soda flavors as reasonable sip-worthy alternatives to making its own flavors aspirational brands.
It started simply enough. SodaStream approached Red Bull and Monster (Nasdaq: MNST ) to see if either company could upgrade SodaStream's own energy-drink syrup. Both initially balked at the idea, fearing that the move would eat into their own sales. However, Monster agreed to create a second brand -- Beast -- specifically for SodaStream, and the branding revolution that began when Kraft Foods (NYSE: KFT ) put out Crystal Light and Country Time syrups in mid-2012 ignited a frenzy.
Jones Soda stepped up to offer some of its eclectic retired flavors as licensed SodaStream syrups, opening new retail distribution partners. SodaStream approached the makers of retired cult brands to bring them back. It also offered up generic versions of brands that the cola giants were no longer making, including Crystal Pepsi and Mr. Pibb knockoffs.
In short, the same SodaStream that tried to make its mark on the market by showing how much it was like the major brands began to grow its user base by offering flavors that just weren't available any other way.
SodaStream also began to build up the brand equity in its proprietary flavors. Teaming up with YouTube celebrity Dane Boe -- the creator of the Annoying Orange series -- for a cost-effective marketing campaign on its orange syrup was brilliant. Paying up a little more for some athlete, musician, and movie-star firepower behind its other brands was even better.
A final toast to 2015
Dramatically expanding its market -- in terms of both deeper penetration of existing countries and new territories -- has silenced most of the naysayers come 2015.
The popularity of SodaStream in more homes naturally encouraged third-party providers to crank out syrup flavors on their own. However, lacking SodaStream's licensed blessing in some renegade cases wasn't a bad thing. The "open source" approach still results in SodaStream selling a lot more of its high-margin carbonator refills that do have patent protection.
Oh, I should also mention that by 2014, CNBC's Herb Greenberg is using his SodaStream regularly. He still won't touch the stock, but he's no longer a vocal skeptic. It could be partly because the May 2013 winner of the SodaStream Flavor Creator contest chose to honor him by offering up a mint-flavored fizzy concoction called Greenberg -- but inertia and market trends ultimately won him over.
Greenberg soda's not my favorite. The winner two months earlier -- the raspberry-spiked Creamerica cream soda -- is what I'm drinking these days. I probably should have brought you some samples. Maybe next time.
If you like traveling through time but 2015 is too far out there, check out Motley Fool's top stock for 2012. It isn't SodaStream, but the special report will be free for a limited time, so check it out now.