Equipment Evolution

New fountain options stress variety

NORTH SALT LAKE, Utah -- The growing trend by retailers of branding and expanding the soda fountain spells opportunity for makers of beverage-dispensing equipment. Recently, Coca-Cola unveiled two products that dispense up to 16 flavors and up to 50 beverage mixing options. Traditional soda fountains have about eight spigots.

Coca-Cola's new dispenser comes in two versions. Bev-olution, available in the fourth quarter, is a 23-inch, drop-in crew-serve model. The Bev-olution Combo is a self-service, above-counter dispenser. Aimed at c-stores, it comes [image-nocss] in 30- and 44-inch widths. It hits the market in late 2008.

By attaching a drop-in dispenser (the Bevariety Station, pictured), eight-valve units can be transformed into 12- to 16-head units that dispense carbonated and non-carbonated brands along with flavor shots. A special carbonator tank yields a consistently cold product.

Phil Beeson, senior category manager for Atlanta-based Coca-Cola foodservice marketing, told CSP Daily News the number of beverages available for fountain has always been limited by the number of dispenser heads. Bev-olution,developed in conjunction with San Antonio-based Lancer Corp., which produces the dispenser,lets c-stores offer more options and adapt equipment as needed.

Many beverages don't see the light of day in fountain, he said. This provides consumer customization and flexibility of ownership for c-stores. It could let c-stores have a short run on a brand or a flavor of the month to make fountain a destination.

As they up investments in equipment and marketing, c-stores are taking a close look at Bev-olution, as well as a new product from Cornelius, Osseo, Minn., that also dispenses about 16 flavors.

What Coke and Cornelius are doing is very intriguing, Curtis Watson, executive director of foodservice for Maverik Inc., North Salt Lake, Utah, told CSP Daily News. These bells and whistles will play a big role in driving traffic. Flavors used to just be about dumping lemon into diet cola. Now it's about flavoring beverages to your taste.

Watson said dispensers are attractive to the same young adults who enjoy downloading music onto their iPods. This generation is not scared to try technology, he said. They like to push buttons and learn how things work. This drives traffic. This wasn't the case with my parents' era.

Beeson said Coke will customize graphics on a per account basis. Eventually, Coke plans to add more dispensers.

[To read more about how retailers are branding and expanding their soda fountains, watch for the August issue of CSP magazine.]

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