Following the success of their completely redesigned and reengineered Source carbonated drink-maker, the brand has introduced a colorful, customizable, less expensive product called Play—launched in London at the
designjunction fair during the London Design Festival. Considered the “world’s first mass-customizable kitchen appliance,” the Play features six colors; customers can buy the machine in any of the colorways, and then mix and match the various components to create one to suit.
Both Yves Behar and Sodastream’s Chief Innovation and Design Officer, Yaron Kopel walked us through Play and other new products, including a new bottle design, a version of the Source featuring real wood veneers, new lower calorie natural flavorings and a sneak peek at their new vending machine, which dispenses filtered and sparking water into your own cup or container. We asked Kopel to share his vision for the ever-changing market.
The last time we spoke was a year ago, when you launched Source. A lot has happened in a year.
Source, I think, was the beginning of a new revolution. It’s a completely different level of machine than anything we had before. Source really positions SodaStream in the design community. It’s very sleek, it’s very fine. It took, also, the whole appliance category to a different place. So we were very happy with that, and together with that we kept building upon the line to build Source Wood and Source Electric. At the same time, we wanted to make something younger, fresher and cheaper to target a younger audience in a cool way. So we started to stretch our boundaries.
Did it start with that—wanting a product that was slightly less expensive?
Yes. Less expensive, but we said we don’t want to make it a cheaper version of Source. That was the key element for us. We wanted to keep the style identity, but we wanted to have something with its own identity from beginning to end. So first of all we looked at colors. Source is very classic white, black, maroon red, very fine finishes. We wanted something with much more color. And then we also looked to other appliances and said, “This is boring.” Other appliances are grey, black, whatever, but why can’t anyone customize? Look at colors today—the Fiat 500, the Mini; you can customize almost any of those. We decided we want that, we want this ability. So we built a big range of colors and we also designed it in a way that can be customized.
Second, we said it should be cheap in price, but never cheap in look. We took the plastic and we made it as beautiful as we could. We played with the finishes so that the lower part is matte and the upper part is glossy. We played with the pattern. We played with the shape. We really wanted to create these two different roles and give the Play its own place within the Sodastream family. So anybody can come and identify what they want, when they want—that’s what we’re about.
From a manufacturing point of view, it’s a really big evolution. You’ve gone from standard product to custom product. How did you tackle that?
We designed the machine so it has fewer screws in it. We had to design in a way that the pieces click in place so that you can change the different parts very easily. The whole system was designed like this by definition. It was a part of the brief.
Interesting, considering you can customize the less expensive model.
Right, but the custom version is going to be more expensive than the single color Play by around $10, but it’s still cheaper than Source.
You’re also introducing Source Wood?
Right, with two different real wood veneers. It’s made from a single piece of veneer, 2mm thick.
How are you thinking about different kinds of materials than you typically see in the kitchen for an appliance?
I think it’s not only different materials, it’s like when we look at the kind of metal they’re using for appliances today. I don’t remember any appliance that uses anodized aluminum. It’s a more expensive process, it’s more difficult. I think it looks way better and for sure it’s more environmental because we don’t use any chemicals to color it. There’s no painting of our parts. Color is injected in the process. We never paint our products. It’s the same thing we’re looking at with the wood. It’s natural wood. We’re really excited about materials, but they have to be environmental.
When does Source Wood come out?
Wood is going to be launched by the end of next month [October 2013] around the world.
Earlier this year you introduced a refrigerator with Samsung that featured a SodaStream in its door. Are there other places we can start imagining Sodastreams being built in?
Well, we’re just launching the SodaStream Fountain, designed by Todd Bracher. This machine basically is going to replace vending machines as we know them. The vision was that there’s no reason for people to go to an airport, university, public space and go to a vending machine that is half-filled with bottles of water, pay this crazy amount for a bottle and throw it away.
In order to do that we knew that we needed to create a machine that not only supplies already chilled, filtered, UV water, both still and sparkling—which is very innovative. So we did the first vending machine in the world that is all out of stainless steel, with curved molding which is really unique to stainless steel. And these are huge molds! So these machines, if you’d stepped in a hotel looking at this machine, you would be wowed. And this is the experience; getting free water or cheap water shouldn’t be ugly—I mean, just like anything else shouldn’t be.
How does it physically work? Do you bring your own container?
Yes, bottle or cup. We’re also very much about—I’m crazy about user experience. So I want to simplify as much as possible. We’ve made two big buttons; one for still, one for sparkling. You put your glass, push, you keep pushing until you want to stop. That’s all it does. You can’t go wrong.
Tell me about what it’s like to work with Yves.
I like to work with people who know what they’re doing. And I think Yves and I were—from the first day, we both spoke the same language. When I work with Yves or any other designer, I make sure that I’m completely clear about my brief.
Like with Play. We knew from the beginning this should be customizable, so Yves knew what needed to be designed because most of the products are not built to be customized. This was written in the brief. Both projects were done in less than nine months.
Yes, other companies, other designers, can take two to three years easily, big corporations three to four. I know what I want. It was a very good experience.
A lot of people hire Yves and fuseproject because they don’t really know anything about design. They just have an idea and need help bringing it to life. You start from a place of…
Knowing what I want!
Knowing what you want. It’s a very different type of collaboration. It’s more a collaboration of peers.
Right, very right. I was actually less aware of Yves before we met. I didn’t even think of him until we met, when I wanted the names of some of the best designers around the world. I made myself a list of seven and I just met with each one of them for a couple of hours. And we just clicked, so we started a process and it’s been amazing. One of the great things about Yves is he said, “You know what, we redid Source, let’s also redesign the bottle.” And this is something that came from Yves. It wasn’t in my initial plan. Let’s do it all together and I jumped on that because it was very exciting. To design a new carbonated bottle that can hold pressure is a huge thing.
Soda has not redesigned the bottle in 30 years. 30 years! So this is a new one coming and hopefully it will come in three months. All the finishes, the use of materials is completely different than the old bottles we had. For me it’s part of the experience. It’s the Source with a new bottle, with capsules of syrup, with the natural flavors, a complete new world for a beverage for the 21st century.
Do you want to talk a little bit about some of the new flavor mixes?
There’s no artificial sweetener here. What you’re tasting right now is the new line. Everything is new. We’re gonna launch it next year. It’s going to be called SodaStream Free. It’s all natural and lightly sweetened and also light in calories. This one has 14 calories. Usually, natural has more calories than regular, but we’re ready to make the taste less sweet, and also light in flavor, but not heavy in calories. I think this is a great achievement. We’re going to launch five flavors. All our syrups are already without high fructose corn syrup—the consumer can be healthy by choice.
Portrait by Evan Orensten, all other images courtesy of Sodastream