* Coca-Cola developing new "Freestyle" soda fountain
* Aims to grow sales by offering wider choice to consumers
By Matthew Bigg
ATLANTA, Sept 29 Coca-Cola Co CCE.N is to
expand testing of a new "Freestyle" soft drink fountain it
hopes will boost sales by allowing consumers to choose among
more than 100 of its drinks, company officials said on
The fountain uses touch-screen technology and smaller
quantities of concentrate in cartridges rather than in 5-gallon
boxes to expand the range of drinks on sale. Traditional soda
fountains allow customers to choose from about eight drinks.
"It (the new fountain) broadens the exposure for our brands
and gives us a chance to drive significant growth to our
customers," said Chandra Stephens-Albright, group director for
marketing and business development.
The company will expand testing of the beta-phase product
in Atlanta, where there are currently 37 fountains including at
some AMC cinemas and Burger King BKC.N restaurants, as well
as in San Diego and Orange Counties in southern California.
Coca-Cola began design of the Freestyle in part in response
to a perceived problem: 30 percent of people at restaurants do
not buy a beverage at all, in part because they cannot get the
drink that they want.
"We were capturing a smaller share of consumption because
we did not offer choices and at the same time the portfolio was
growing dramatically as we created new beverages," said Gene
Farrell, vice president of the Jet Innovation Program at
Coca-Cola North America.
Soda fountains account for about 30 percent of total Coke
product sales in North America, officials said. They declined
to put a dollar figure on the sales.
Some 45 percent of the outlets that have soda fountain
agreements with the company could support the Freestyle but
those outlets represent about 85 percent of sales in that area,
Sales have risen as much as 20 percent in some outlets
where the new fountain is being tested, though officials said
it was too early to draw firm conclusions on how the fountain
could affect sales in the long term.
(Editing by Jane Sutton, Gary Hill)