NEW YORK (AP) -- PepsiCo (NASDAQ:PEP) says it plans to start testing a new fountain machine at restaurants that lets people create a variety of flavor combinations, such as strawberry Mountain Dew.
The test follows Coca-Cola's (NYSE:KO) introduction in 2009 of its Freestyle machine, which also lets customers touch a screen to pick from a wide array of flavor combinations. PepsiCo's test is set to begin at five restaurants in Denver next week.
Gina Anderson, a spokeswoman for PepsiCo, said the "Touch Tower" machines let people add up to four flavor shots -- lemon, cherry, strawberry, or vanilla -- to eight varieties of drinks. That means people could create drinks like strawberry Pepsi or lemon Mountain Dew.
She said the company has other tests planned and that the "Touch Tower" being introduced in Denver is the first in a series. The test was first reported by the industry tracker Beverage Digest.
Coca-Cola's Freestyle machine also lets people pick from a wide variety of unique drinks, such as Caffeine-Free Diet Coke with lime or Minute Maid Light Orange Lemonade. The machines are seen as a way to help restaurants and other outlets such as movie theaters boost beverage sales and customer traffic.
Fountain sodas at restaurants are an important part of the broader industry, representing about a quarter of overall sales volume, according to Beverage Digest. Coca-Cola, which is served in chains including McDonald's (NYSE:MCD) and Wendy's, has about 70 percent of the fountain business.
PepsiCo has about 30 percent and is served at chains including Taco Bell and Pizza Hut, which it previously owned.
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