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Are Sports Nutrition Products Ready for Customisation?

Picture of Freestyle Vending Machines

Coca-Cola recently unveiled the latest in their line of Freestyle vending machines. The new Freestyle 9100 offers several technological advances over its predecessor, advances built around the idea of customisation. Reading about it made us wonder whether sports nutrition products are ready for the same level of customisation. In a word, no.

The Freestyle line of vending machines was first introduced back in 2009. The original concept was to offer Coca-Cola fans the ability to customise drinks on the spot. Not only can they mix and match ingredients to create their own concoctions, the Freestyle platform allows them access to beverages they cannot get anywhere else. We mean that literally. You cannot get Sprite Peach anywhere other than the Freestyle machine, according to The Sun.

That brings us to the Freestyle 9100. This newest machine offers more than 200 drink options, including 100 exclusive choices available only through the vending platform. The new machine features a high-def touchscreen and a mobile app that lets you order drinks in advance. Future iterations will include audio capabilities, optical sensors, and other features that are not being rolled out with the first release later this year.

Knowing all of that, let's apply the thinking behind the Freestyle line to sports nutrition. Keep in mind that the entire purpose of the Freestyle platform is to offer customisation.

It Works for Fizzy Drinks

The first thing we notice is that Coca-Cola's ingenious customisation scheme works well for beverages that don't have to be packaged. Fizzy drinks fit the bill as the main ingredient is carbonated water. You can load several tanks into a vending machine and be good to go for a while. As for the flavours, they are concentrates that are mixed with the carbonated water at serving time. It is a simple formula perfect for customisation.

Here's the problem for sports nutrition beverages: they are more than mere carbonated water and flavour. They are complex beverages that contain water, flavouring, vitamins, minerals, electrolytes, and more. There wouldn't be a practical way to customise unless all the basic elements were put into the water so that flavouring could be added later. Yet even that is not foolproof.

Sport nutrition consumers are very picky. Some may not be happy with the predetermined formula a vending operator came up with. Others wouldn't trust that customisation is giving the best possible product. And that's just for beverages. Customisation would never work for snacks.

All sorts of snacks, including sport nutrition snacks, come packaged for a reason. Their formulas are created very carefully and accompanied by meticulous amounts of product testing. Packaged snacks also have to be cooked ahead of time. To try to introduce customisation would be akin to David's slaying of Goliath with a slingshot and a stone.

Congrats to Coca-Cola for the success of the Freestyle platform. As for us, we'll stick with traditional vending for sport nutrition products. It's still the best way to serve our customers.

Sources:

The Sun – https://www.thesun.co.uk/tech/6350502/coca-cola-freestyle-new-2018-app-screen-where/