Market leadership is a funny thing.  Whereas it would seem logical that, having ascended to such lofty heights, a little enjoyment was in order--a certain letting down of the guard, so to speak, as one takes in that hard-earned view--the opposite is true, actually.  As a shark is drawn to blood, competition is drawn to complacency.  Everyone wants to bring down the big guy; all they need is an opening. And so a leader must innovate, must roll up those proverbial sleeves to erect barriers to competition.

No one knows this better than the Coca-Cola Company, who, for 129 years now, has blazed trails in the beverage category, but never more dramatically than in 2010, when it began rolling out to large-volume restaurants its revolutionary Freestyle 9000, a touchscreen-operated beverage dispenser offering consumers unprecedented choice--more than 100 beverages--from a single unit.

The result?  A five-percent increase in total beverage incidence, a three-percent increase in traffic and a 15-percent gain in perception of restaurants with the dispensers, all without an operator needing to allocate inordinate amounts of backroom space to 100+ beverage choices.

Summer 2015 Coca-Cola will introduce its newest iteration of the Freestyle, the 7000, an ice-cooled countertop beverage dispenser geared towards mid-volume restaurants who want all the benefits of the 9000--consumer engagement, flavor variety and choice, unparalleled access to consumption data and marketing programs--but with a smaller footprint.

Already the Freestyle 7000 concept and design has garnered raves, including a highly coveted 2015 National Restaurant Association Food and Beverage (FABI) Award, which recognizes progressive food and beverage products posed to make a significant impact in the restaurant industry.

“We talk about the Freestyle around four key tenets,” says Jennifer Mann, Vice President & General Manager, Coca-Cola Freestyle.  “Number one is high quality, which means mixing micro-dose ingredients [via the same highly concentrated ingredient cartridges that, like the 9000, fit inside the machine] just right at the point of consumption so that it’s like taking a drink off the bottling line.  The second tenet is choice.  The Freestyle 7000 has 60-80 beverage choices, 30 of which are low/no calorie, 40 caffeine-free.  That’s far and away more than anything else in the market.  Number three is engagement.  The 7000 boasts a new user interface, which helps educate our consumer on our products by explaining which, for example, are low/no calorie or caffeine-free.  And, finally, there’s connectivity.  All of our Freestyle devices are connected to Coca-Cola like a smart phone. So we’re not only able to see the service logs, history and health of the dispensers, which enables us to push out software updates, but also the consumption data, what’s being poured and how often. We’re then able to use that data to decide what do we want to do for product launches on the retail side.  Recently we took a look at data that revealed what our consumers liked about Fanta, information that led to the launch of Fanta Cherry in bottles and cans.”