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Coke's Vending Program Shifts Into High Gear

Posted On: 6/23/2011

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Interactive Vender Enters Beta Test Phase And Takes Center Stage In Spectrum Of Innovative Equipment Displayed At Chicago Show

Coke Touchscreen VendersCoca-Cola has kicked off the beta test of its Interactive Vender project with a second-generation machine showcased at the recent National Automatic Merchandising Association One­Show in Chicago. The beverage giant also unveiled a striking new thermoformed panel for its closed-front packaged beverage venders, and drew crowds for a close look at its touchscreen Freestyle fountain beverage dispenser.

The second-generation Coca-Cola Interactive Vender incorporates the same screen layout and functionality as the prototype, but officials described refinements to its inner workings as contributing to "a more robust, reliable and scalable solution." Coca-Cola launched its pilot test a year ago at Simon Property Group malls in the Southeast, and in other high-traffic public venues nationwide. The test machines have performed strongly and generated excitement by transforming the vending experience "from a functional transaction to a memorable interaction," reported Coca-Cola Refreshments vice-president of industry communications Ira Gleser.

Coca-Cola Refreshments, which encompasses the vending operations of recently acquired Coca-Cola Enterprises, is currently swapping out the initial test machines and replacing them with the second-generation model, which incorporates enhancements suggested by the first part of the trial.

It is also deploying additional machines into new test sites. The beta test will primarily target venues where younger consumers gather, since the pilot study identified them as the demographic most attracted to interactive technology. Coca-Cola will evaluate its future deployment strategies based on the results, Gleser explained.

The high-tech machine, developed by Coca-Cola, Samsung and interactive marketing agency Sapient, is based on the chassis of Royal Vendors' Model 804 and fitted with a 46" LCD touchscreen and a sophisticated controller providing multimedia functionality. Flash technology, motion graphics, high-definition video messaging and Bluetooth short-range wireless capability can support a broad spectrum of patron-pleasing features such as "click-through" promotions that allow consumers to interact with Coca-Cola brands and learn about location-specific promotions.

The machine's touchscreen panel is arranged into three media zones. A customizable dynamic display for advertising and related video content is at the top; beneath it is the selection zone, where consumers can scroll through a graphic product display of the machine's selections, and "spin" any bottle icon 360º to review nutritional information. At the bottom is an "interactive" application zone from which the consumer can "click through" to display a promotional message (and many other video programs) in the advertising zone at the top. Content for all three zones is updated remotely.

The state-of-the-art Coke vender provides a platform for applications ranging from games patrons can play on the machine's screen to mobile phone ringtone and "wallpaper" downloads, digital coupons and social networking. One such example, demonstrated at the NAMA OneShow, was a game that consumers activate by touching the "Memory Match" button in the machine's application zone. Filling the entire screen, the game challenges the patron to match pairs of Coca-Cola brand logos -- like the classic card game "Concentration" -- before time runs out.

Coca-Cola also plans to incorporate some of its high-profile marketing partnerships into the messaging for the Interactive Vender, Gleser told VT.

The company also took the wraps off a new design for the solid-front Royal Vendors model 804 at the NAMA OneShow. It was created jointly by the Coca-Cola North America design team and Los Angeles-based strategic design consultancy BMW DesignWorks as part of a "3D Visual Identity System" intended to unify Coca-Cola's brands and look across all of its equipment. Carrying out this strategy, the striking red three-dimensional thermoformed front conveys the three core equities of the Coca-Cola brand: the classic contour bottle, its signature white ribbon, and its "uplifting and positive" values. It will come standard on all new Royal Vendors 804 Coke machines, and also is available as a retrofit for older equipment.

The industry also got its first look at Coca-Cola's Freestyle fountain beverage dispenser, which launched in 2010 and now is in beta test in more than 400 foodservice sites across 25 U.S. markets.

The touchscreen-operated fountain, which has the same footprint as most traditional six- or eight-valve syrup dispensers, enables consumers to select from more than 100 still and carbonated beverages. It creates branded drinks and unique variations by blending flavor concentrates with water and sweetener on demand inside each cup as it's dispensed. The flavor cartridges are stored in the dispenser's cabinet.

Early results from the Freestyle pilot test show an increase in beverage servings, total transactions and total sales in sites that traded their traditional syrup fountains for the Freestyle machine, according to officials. Based on that success, the company is expanding the test to additional sites throughout 2011.

The Freestyle fountain dispenser is also currently in test with select Coca-Cola full-line vending operator customers. Coca-Cola said their feedback will help the company evaluate how that industry segment can take advantage of the new machine. It is currently not equipped with a payment system.

Cola-Cola's online vending resource is at; a section specifically devoted to full-line vending operators is available by clicking on the FLO tab.

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photo | NEW AND IMPROVED: Coca-Cola's Ira Gleser (l.), vice-president of industry communications, and Tom Barlow, vice-president of vending/wholesale North America, team up to showcase beverage giant's equipment innovations at OneShow. In the spotlight is Royal Vendors Model 804 closed-front drink machine with striking new three-dimensional thermoformed panel, which will come standard on all new equipment. Glassfronts, shown here also, will feature new left-side panel contours.