Last year was rough for the at-home beverage carbonation systems maker, SodaStream. Its stock plunged 60 percent from a year ago, and after several years of impressive growth, sales have declined the past couple of years.
Sales were never strong in the U.S., but then they also slowed down in Europe, where the company’s performance had always been steady. The only region where the company saw growth was in Australia. Add the spit-spat involving its celebrity spokeswoman, Scarlett Johansson -- over her relationship then clash with Oxfam due to the company’s controversial factory in the West Bank -- and 2014 was a year SodaStream would like to forget.
Now SodaStream, which has had its share of confrontation with beverage companies and will face increased competition from the likes of Coca-Cola, is betting that a change in its message can help the company rebound. Rather than tout its products’ environmental benefits, the company is emphasizing the health and wellness benefits of drinking water.
For years, SodaStream has touted a “reduce, reuse and recycle” approach in the U.S. The company insisted its home carbonation systems were an “Active Green” product, a claim with a degree of truth but one that came across as silly with its “the more you use, the more you save” mantra. True, making one’s own fizzy drinks has less of a carbon impact than driving to the store, especially considering the fact that bottled drinks have already consumed fuel as they are shipped from bottling plant to retailer. That reasoning, however, got lost with American consumers. SodaStream also made the case that drinking bottled water was a wasteful habit, and while the company was on point, the overall messaging, including boasts about its reduced carbon footprint, fell flat with consumers like a defective canister of CO2.
One wonders if SodaStream even believed its own campaigns. Clearly no one was reading SodaStream’s environmental blog — the articles spouted the same information, and nothing has been posted since last summer. The same goes for positive news about the company: There hasn’t been much said about SodaStream in a good light, so that section has been pretty sparse, too. Instead of agreeing to “Set the Bubbles Free,” consumers ignored SodaStream’s old slogan and instead left the bubbles sitting on retailers’ shelves.
So, what is the answer? Water must be more exciting! In what turns out to be a conveniently timed survey, SodaStream has revealed that American SodaStream users drink 43 percent more water than “average Americans.” Those of us who have a SodaStream machine on our kitchen counter or wet bar, says the survey, apparently drink more than twice the amount of water daily. Hence the company introduced its new tagline, “Water Made Exciting,” and has made a subtle logo change: Now “Stream” is highlighted instead of “Soda.” Meanwhile the company is introducing a new line of “natural” flavors, while Fast Company has noted more exotic concoctions such as Yuzu Mandarin and Lime Basil are in the works.
Whether SodaStream can recover and then thrive with this new strategy remains to be seen. A small pilot project with PepsiCo, if it turns into a bigger deal, could reverse the company’s fortunes -- or irritate its consumer base since many of them want to avoid the big beverage giants in the first place.
The company also has to improve its distribution system, which worked in some markets but flopped in others — and left stores with too many carbonators over past holiday seasons.
Like any company, SodaStream needs to focus on its marketing and products’ performance: Excessive attention put on “green” consumers is a losing proposition because companies limit themselves when focusing on such a small, niche market. Creating passion, emphasizing cutting-edge performance and product design — similar to what the home cleaning brand, Method, has done over the years — is what could turn SodaStream’s fortunes around as its messaging becomes more inclusive.
Image credit: SodaStream
Based in California, Leon Kaye has also been featured in The Guardian, Clean Technica, Sustainable Brands, Earth911, Inhabitat, Architect Magazine and Wired.com. He shares his thoughts on his own site, GreenGoPost.com. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram.
Leon Kaye has written for TriplePundit since 2010, and became its Executive Editor in 2018. He is also the Director of Social Media and Engagement for 3BL Media. His previous work can be found at The Guardian, Sustainable Brands and CleanTechnica. Kaye is based in Fresno, CA, from where he happily explores California’s stellar Central Coast and the national parks in the Sierra Nevadas. He's lived in South Korea, the United Arab Emirates and Uruguay, and has traveled to over 70 countries. He's an alum of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and the University of Southern California.