NEW YORK (Reuters) - PepsiCo Inc is introducing a "social vending" machine that lets users buy each other drinks remotely, further proof that its decades-old rivalry with Coca-Cola Co is going ever-more high tech.
A prototype of the new technology will debut at a trade show this week in Chicago. Coke started testing its Freestyle vending machine, which has a digital touchscreen and can dispense more than 100 flavor combinations, in 2009.
Pepsi's new system lets users give their friends a beverage gift by entering the recipient's name, mobile phone number and a personalized text message or video. The gift is delivered with a system code and instructions to redeem it at any similar machine.
"Social Vending extends our consumers' social networks beyond the confines of their own devices and transforms a static, transaction-oriented experience into something fun and exciting," said Mikel Durham, an innovation officer at PepsiCo Foodservice.
The system also allows "random acts of refreshment," or the ability to buy a drink for a stranger, in situations such as sending "a symbol of encouragement to a city that's experienced some challenging weather or a congratulatory beverage to a university that just won a championship," PepsiCo said.
Another technological front in the companies' ongoing battle is recyclable packaging. Pepsi was second to say it could make a recyclable plastic bottle from plant matter, but its bottle will be made from waste products -- such as orange peels and oat husks -- whereas Coke's bottle is derived from sugar cane.
Reporting by Martinne Geller, editing by Maureen Bavdek