1 Thing That Would Fizz Up SodaStream

SodaStream could do one thing to win it credibility with soft-drink giants.

May 12, 2014 at 5:32PM

This promises to be an active week for SodaStream (NASDAQ:SODA) as the leader of in-home carbonation gears up to report quarterly results on Wednesday morning. It's not just the earnings that will keep the market buzzing. Last month's chatter about Starbucks taking a minority stake in SodaStream sent the shares higher, and Wednesday's earnings call is likely to find analysts fishing for clues on the merit of the rumor.

However, the biggest event to happen this year for SodaStream didn't have anything at all to do with the Israeli-based company. It was Coca-Cola (NYSE:KO) investing $1.25 billion for a 10% stake in Keurig Green Mountain (NASDAQ:GMCR) that truly turned heads.

  • Why did Coca-Cola invest more than the entire market cap of SodaStream into a coffee company entering the carbonated beverage market?
  • Is Coca-Cola taking a big risk on a machine that we haven't even seen? Keurig Cold won't hit the market until Keurig Green Mountain's next fiscal year.
  • With Coca-Cola picking sides, which beverage giant is next to partner, invest in, or acquire SodaStream?

The final two questions are loaded more with conjecture than facts, so let's focus on the first question. Coca-Cola could have invested in Keurig Green Mountain simply because it was a smart thing to do. We've seen Coca-Cola buy into everything from juices to energy drinks to vitamin-fortified water, so it wouldn't be a surprise to see it stake its claim in a fast-growing coffee specialist. However, a part of the deal is that it will offer up its brands for Keurig Cold when it hits the market several months from now. 

SodaStream has a pretty global reach with deep market penetration in several European countries. Why didn't Coca-Cola simply make its flavors available to SodaStream? Well, the answer is pretty simple when you think about it. Coca-Cola -- or any soft-drink giant -- is unlikely to offer its signature syrup lines at the retail level. Folks would simply buy or make seltzer and make their own Coke or Pepsi. There would be no more lugging around of cans and bottles, dealing a blow to supermarkets, bottlers, and potentially the beverage companies themselves. 

Clearly, there is something about the Keurig Cold system that is appealing to Coca-Cola that doesn't apply to SodaStream, and that is likely to be the way that Keurig Green Mountain's machine delivers carbonation. We still don't know the inner workings of Keurig Cold, but it has been said that CO2 cartridges will not be required. This has resulted in a fair deal of skepticism, but one can conclude that the carbonation process may be in the actual flavor pods. This actually gives soft-drink companies more control in the process and protection. The pods will cost more, so they may not necessarily be eating into the bottling partners when the beverage is sold more on convenience than on value. Keurig Cold will also be likely to dictate the exact carbonation levels so folks aren't merely creating fizzier Cherry Coke or less bubbly Sprite Zero concoctions.  

This is, after all, what Keurig Cold can offer Coca-Cola that SodaStream presently cannot. Even with the recent stateside introduction of SodaCaps -- Keurig-like pods that contain syrup -- SodaStream still lacks the controlled and consistent experience that beverage makers likely crave. This has left SodaStream teaming up primarily with popular brands making juices, lemonades, and other beverages to introduce carbonated drinks through SodaStream. 

We all basically know what this means for SodaStream. If it wants to beat Keurig Cold to the punch and land the big-name pop stars, it's going to have to introduce a similar appliance. It has a little time to do this, but waiting until Keurig Cold is introduced next year may be too late. SodaStream needs to disrupt itself before Keurig does, and successfully doing so will likely bring every soda behemoth not named Coca-Cola to SodaStream's door.

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Rick Munarriz owns shares of Keurig Green Mountain and SodaStream. The Motley Fool recommends Coca-Cola and Keurig Green Mountain. It recommends and owns shares of SodaStream and Starbucks and has the following options: long January 2016 $37 calls on Coca-Cola and short January 2016 $37 puts on Coca-Cola. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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