Sipping caramel macchiatos, reading from the recycled-paper newspaper, and grabbing an eco-friendly water on your way to yoga class while you click the unlock button on your Prius’ key is what I imagine when I hear Starbucks. And Birkenstocks (which I have to admit I love!). And premium, high-quality soda mixed right in front of you. What? You don’t think expensive soda when you hear the name Starbucks?
We highly suggest you check out the Starbucks secret menu too. You will fall in love!
Kidding aside, they’re venturing slightly away from their fresh and ethically-sourced mojo and into the “healthy” (no artificial flavors, no preservatives, no high-fructose corn syrup, and measures less than 100 calories for a Grande) soda market with the new Starbucks Fizzio Soda Machines. No, no, you can’t buy it on Overstock or Amazon yet; it’ll only be available in a few select states. Lucky bubblers include Virginia, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Louisiana, Georgia, Florida, Mississippi, South Carolina, Oklahoma, Nevada, Utah, Alabama, Hawaii, North Carolina, and parts of California (Los Angeles, San Diego, Stockton, Modesto).
You can check their website for locations that offer the Starbucks Fizzio sodas. Just add your zip code and click the “Show stores with…” plus sign and then check the “Fizzio Handcrafted Sodas” check box to ensure the location has the drinks. Or if you’re super obsessed with the Starbucks menu prices and have the app, it’ll show you locations with Starbucks Fizzio Soda Machines.
“Handcrafted Sodas” makes it sound like an art form…more up Starbucks alley and away from the traditional “chain” soda brands. They also offer flavors that seem more sophisticated: Spiced Root Beer, Golden Ginger Ale, and Lemon Ale. Starbucks Fizzio Soda Machines also can take your iced tea to the next level by adding carbonation. Teavana flavors include Blackberry Mojito Tea Lemonade, Black Tea Lemonade, and Peach Green Tea Lemonade that will cool you off while giving you a bright pop of bubbles.
If you check out their website, they even suggest lunch parings for their drinks. Among them are the New Turkey Pesto Panini, Bistro Boxes, Cold Sandwiches, New Old-Fashioned Grilled Cheese (so…grilled…cheese?), and salad bowls. The website goes out of its way to prove all the different kinds of combinations you can enjoy with Fizzio soda drinks and why it’s so important that this is a “breakthrough in carbonation technology.”
While the “breakthrough” may still be up for debate, the Fizzio Machine does one-up its Sodastream competitor. Sodastream technology just carbonates the water and you add the flavoring. There’s no swirling of juice and soda water or anything special other than the machine makes soda water for you and provides a multitude of delicious flavors to inject into the carbonated water. Fizzio Soda Machines however, carbonate the entire beverage. That means every nook and cranny gets some buzz. It fizzes all the flavors of the drink, unlike Sodastream, and allows you to carbonate more than just the water. Not sure if that’s groundbreaking or not but it does push the Fizzio Soda Machine ahead of the Sodastream.
Environmentally, Sodastream still has the edge. Starbucks will still have to serve their Teavana teas and Fizzio sodas in their classic plastic cups and although those are environmentally-friendly, sometimes reusable, and recyclable, they still produce a lot of waste.
How many people actually go inside the store to get their coffee from Starbucks? Compare that to the number of people that go through the drive-thru and having excessive amounts of recycling stations at your store doesn’t seem that helpful. People are driving around with coffee in their hands going to work. They have to seek out recycling bins at their office or Starbucks has to hope that their customers recycle at home. With Sodastream, there is much less waste with reusable bottles and every time you want to make a drink, you don’t use a brand new cup.
Starbucks is always about reducing waste and exclaims, “Our goal is to ensure 100% of our cups are reusable or recyclable by 2015.” But when you operate a business where people want to get in and get out on their way to work, you can’t really ensure that they’ll be recycling your cups. Having the stations available is nice, but there’s a large majority of on-the-go people who never step foot in the store yet always have a piping hot cup of Arabica coffee.
As far as cost is concerned, you can carbonate your Starbucks menu beverage for just $0.50, but if you order a Fizzio soda, a Tall will run you $2.45 (for comparison a Tall coffee runs $1.80). That means Spiced Root Beer, Golden Ginger Ale, or Lemon Ale will run you $2.45 but when you purchase any of the teas and add “fizz,” it’s only two quarters. Sodastream machines will run you anywhere from $79.99 to $199.99, with carbonators topping out at $100, accessories like the mixes can run anywhere from $6 to $10, and carbonating bottles run from $15 to $17 and can be used up to three years. For Sodastream, you have to pay a lot more upfront for the entire set up but you can use the bottles for quite a while and you don’t have the waste. They also have “Earth Friendly” materials to help the environment.
Over a longer period of time, paying $2.45 for one drink vs. the upfront costs of the Sodastream will wear on your wallet. So until Starbucks starts selling their Fizzio Soda Machines on store shelves, Sodastream does have the environmental and price advantage.
While I have some issue with the drink’s title as a “handcrafted” soda (clearly the machine is doing all the work here and it’s not like they’re making fresh bread dough by hand), I don’t see Sodastream going away quietly. They still have the edge on the market and they promote the convenience of allowing you to enjoy your custom soda experience in your underwear at all hours of the day without leaving your home.
I assume that Starbucks, pending the success of the Fizzio Soda Machine, will try to sell the machine to consumers in Targets and Bed, Bath, and Beyonds around the world. I think only then will there truly be a battle of the bubble for the best soda machine. Until then, cram yourself in your steaming, leather-sticking-to-leg car to get your Starbucks Fizzio Soda or tea (and only if you live in the states mentioned above) or enjoy the air conditioning at your home with the Sodastream where custom additive combos come to life.