Sell more stuff: Are You Ready For Bottled Water Without The Bottles?

by Paul Schlossberg
Posted On: 6/24/2019

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Paul Schlossberg

You already know how important bottled water is for your business. And you should know that bottled water has become the #1 beverage choice. An article at reported: " After decades-long streak of strong growth, bottled water surpassed carbonated soft drinks to become the largest beverage category by volume in the United States in 2016, according to research and consulting firm Beverage Marketing Corp ."

It's likely that you're well aware of the increasing pushback against single-use plastic. Too many plastic beverage bottles (and other food packaging as well) never get recycled. We've seen states and cities talk about and act to ban plastic straws and single-use plastic bags in retail stores and restaurants. Who is to say that plastic bottles are not next on the "ban" list?

Do your clients or shoppers at your sites ever ask (or complain) about beverage pricing -- especially about bottled water? The questions probably include wording like: "It's just water."

Allow me to share with you some details about our lunch at Space Center Houston last week. My wife returned to the table with a 20-fl.oz. bottle of water. She asked if I had noticed the price of bottled water while ordering food. "No. I didn't look at the beverage menu or the pricing," was my reply. She continued, "How do they sell a bottle of water for $3?" My response, "Because they can. They have costs to cover and should be able to make a profit, too."

But that lunch purchase was not the reason for this posting. What prompted me to write this was a June 21 Wall Street Journal article. The headline was " Coke and Pepsi Want to Sell You Bottled Water Without the Bottle ."

It was the sub-headline of the article that really caught my attention: "The soda giants are planning for a future where single-use plastic bottles may be banned." Maybe the first line of the article says it best: "The latest front in the soda wars: high-tech water fountains."

Apparently the soda giants have noticed that people are shifting to reusable bottles on their own. The article goes on: "These behaviors are manifesting first in… colleges, universities and workplaces," said PepsiCo chief marketing officer for global foodservice Scott Finlow. "We believe that will continue to increase and grow."

Coke and Pepsi have been proactive. From Coca-Cola, there is the Dasani PureFill station. In the past two years it's been in pilot testing on college campuses. Shoppers can access a smartphone app to interact with the PureFill station.

PepsiCo has been executing a strategy to sell beverages without single-use plastic bottles - "Beyond the Bottle." It was reported here in April: PepsiCo Goes 'Beyond The Bottle' With New Mobile-Enabled Hydration Platform . The beverage giant describes it as "a connected ecosystem that responds to the rise in consumption of low- and-no-sugar drinks as well as heightened focus on plastic's effect on the environment."

The posting also noted "The hydration platform is made up of three components: a water dispenser; a companion, user-friendly smartphone app; and a personalized QR code sticker for reusable bottles that allows consumers to be effortlessly recognized by the dispenser."

PepsiCo acquired SodaStream in 2018. At that time, PepsiCo chief financial officer Hugh Johnston said "…SodaStream provides an entree into 'in-home beverage creation,' a new market for the soda seller." It seems that their plans are also focused on away-from-home consumption. They had a pilot test last year "(and plan to) to expand next month across venues similar to the PureFill's, as well as hotels, workplaces and stadiums."

At this time, PepsiCo has not branded its new device/system. It is available in a water-cooler sized unit and as a counter-top model. "Offering six flavors including peach and lemon mint, the device allows users to personalize the temperature, the intensity of the flavor and the level of carbonation."

As an industry we have deployed ice machines and a wide array of water dispensers. Will hydration stations become a growth opportunity for our industry? That includes our operations at vending, micromarkets, onsite foodservice and OCS locations.

Are you ready for what might be a big change in your bottled water business? Will "bottled water without the bottles" be a new path for us to sell more stuff?

Paul Schlossberg is president of D/FW Consulting, working with clients to merchandise and market products in impulse-intense selling environments, such as vending, onsite foodservice and convenience stores. Based in the Austin, TX, area, he can be reached by emailing to, calling him at (972) 877-2972. The company is online at