It's a battle of Philistine proportions.
SodaStream, purveyor of DIY soft-drink machines that turn water into soda with carbonation and flavoring, has found itself in fisticuffs with Coca-Cola. In a classic David and Goliath confrontation, the world’s largest beverage maker — reigning Best Global Brand, market value about $170 billion, 228 times larger than SodaStream — is threatening to sue to shut down the smaller brand's sustainability campaign — one that is based on attacking at Coca-Cola.
"Every day, approximately 1 billion bottles and cans are added to our parks, rivers, oceans and landfills worldwide — almost 400 million in America alone. We must not allow Coke, or anyone, to silence this unfortunate truth,” said SodaStream CEO, Daniel Birnbaum, in a press release about the brand's launch of a Facebook Cage Challenge after the beverage giant tried to shut down its anti-Coca-Cola environmental cage exhibits.
The visually dramatic wire “cages” are filled with plastic bottles and cans representing the amount of plastic waste an average family uses over the course of three years — waste that can be replaced by using — naturally — SodaStream's carbonating bottles that lasts up to three years. SodaStream raised Coca-Cola's ire by erecting a cage in front of the World of Coca-Cola museum in Coke's hometown of Atlanta. The Facebook virtual cage invites the public to share photos of used bottles and cans.
SodaStream’s mission — make your soda at home, reduce waste and help save the planet — is evident in the Twitter hashtags it adopted for its war on Coca-Cola: #greencolawar, #colawars and #teamsodastream. Their devices, available at more than 50,000 retail stores in 43 countries worldwide, use reusable bottles, rechargeable CO2 canisters and tap water.
The admmittedly self-serving green campaign and use of Coke bottles in their 30 cages worldwide, including London's Piccadilly Circus, has raised Coca-Cola’s legal hackles, and the Israeli company has refused to comply with two letters from Coca-Cola South Africa demanding the removal of all displays and citing trademark infringement and breach of local advertising standards. “No one’s going to shut us up with a lawyer’s letter,” said Birnbaum to Bloomberg, “Not in South Africa or anywhere.”
A spokesperson for Coca-Cola commented to Marketing magazine in the UK: "We are aware of SodaStream's campaign. The fact is that Coca-Cola is committed to increasing the recovery and recycling of our packaging around the globe. "In the UK, we are transforming the recycling of plastic bottles through a joint venture between Coca-Cola Enterprises and ECO Plastics in Continuum Recycling. As an example of how this facility will help us recycle and reuse our plastic material, we have committed to recycling all the plastic bottles at the London 2012 Olympic Games to make them into new bottles within six weeks of the Closing Ceremony".
Birnbaum’s reaction to Coca-Cola: "This legal action is laughable and we plan to fight it every step of the way. If Coca-Cola wants to claim ownership over their rubbish, then they should be forced to clean it up, everywhere. If this is their rubbish, then it's their responsibility."
SodaStream this month launched a carbon dioxide-exchange program at 2,900 US Walmart stores, enjoying brisk sales according to Bloomberg. It's also working on getting CO2 canisters and flavor syrups into major grocery and drugstore chains next year.
And on the slaying-the-giant front, it continues undeterred. In the UK, SodaStream just launched the ‘SodaStream Summer Taste Tour’ in six major UK shopping centers, offering a money-back guarantee to consumers who buy one of its devices. Slingshot not included.
Thoughts on SodaStream's anti-Coca-Cola campaign? Is all fair in love and the Cola Wars? Weigh in below.