“Our new range of Pepsi flavoured syrups have been hugely successful,” enthuses Jörn Viefhues, Managing Director of SodaStream Nordics AB, which manages SodaStream’s activities, including the sale and distribution of SodaStream machines, gas cartridges and flavoured syrups, in the Nordic region. “We have sold four times the amount we expected to sell.”
A closer look at the figures makes this success a little easier to understand. While in absolute terms, Germany is the biggest market overall, market penetration is much higher in the Nordic region.
“Here in Sweden, SodaStream is well-established in many households,” says Mr. Viefhues. “Whearas in other countries, it is still less widely established.” Mr. Viefhues points to the high quality and palatable flavour of Swedish tap water as one of the reasons for the company’s success here.
“People are accustomed to drinking tap water in Sweden because it tastes good and can’t be beaten on price,” he notes. “This provides a solid basis for us to operate. When people trust in the main ingredient, they are quickly won over by the convenience of the SodaStream machine.”
The SodaStream concept remains relatively unchanged since the beginning, although the machines have undergone a significant design makeover and are now available in electronic and nonelectronic versions. At its essence, the machine allows still water to be carbonated at the touch of a button by inserting a bottle of tap water into the machine and forcing pressurized carbon dioxide into the water to give it a sparkling texture.
The more gas that is pumped through the water, the fizzier the water becomes. This flexibility is very attractive to consumers who like a bit of fizz in their water but find some fizzy mineral waters too gassy. The carbonated water can then be flavoured with a wide range of concentrated syrups, including many leading soft drink flavours.
“At the end of the day, what our customers are producing themselves at home is no different to what they buy at their local fast food outlet,” says Mr. Viefhues. The convenience of enjoying branded soft drinks without the need to transport bulky and heavy bottles has always been one of the key selling points of the SodaStream concept.
Today, this takes on an even greater significance as the need to reduce plastic waste tops the environmental agenda worldwide. “Sustainability is a core tenet of the SodaStream ethos and we have been looking at ways to reduce our carbon footprint and plastic use still further,” describes Mr. Viefhues. “While people keen to cut down on plastic packaging can achieve a significant reduction when they buy a SodaStream machine, the concentrated syrups were still a source of plastic packaging waste. From 2021 on, these will be phased out and by next year will have been completely replaced by metal containers.”
SodaStream has also redesigned its bottles, including the introduction a few years ago of a stylish glass caraffe for use with its machines. More recently it launched My Only Bottle. The 0.5l bottle has a carry loop in the screw-on cap and is designed for use on the go. But the company is not just putting the onus on consumers to make the environmentally friendly choice, it too is working on reducing its own environmental impact.
“Wherever possible we are removing plastics from our supply chain,” says Mr. Viefhues. “We have also significantly reduced energy consumption in our factories and have switched to renewable power generation.”
Much of this is made possible by SodaStream’s start-up culture. “I joined the company two and a half years ago and am still astonished by the speed at which SodaStream operates,” Mr. Viefhues remarks. “Initiative and urgency are part of the company’s core philosophy and this allows us to be hugely flexible and reactive.”
The other key trend besides sustainability that is currently affecting SodaStream Nordics’ business is the digital revolution. “We supply a growing number of online traders and are seeing online sales rise accordingly,” Mr. Viefhues notes. “While bricks and mortar sales still dominate, the online business is catching up, and in light of the coronavirus crisis, is more important than ever. Demand has actually gone up since the lockdown took effect which means that we are still confident of continuing to write our story of growth and success.”
For the future, SodaStream hopes to increase its already strong market penetration still further. “80% of Scandinavian households have the big three of coffee machine, toaster and kettle in their kitchen,” says Mr. Viefhues. “Our goal is to put SodaStream on the same level of ubiquity.”