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Water Wars: SodaStream's Offensive into the American Beverage Market

Zach Brooke

Numbers from the Beverage Marketing Corporation show that domestic consumption of sparkling water has more than doubled in the past five years. Whereas Americans drank a scant 232 million gallons of fizzy aqua in 2011, by year end 2016 the country had guzzled 574 million gallons. A recent report from Technavio predicts the global sparkling water market will post an average annual growth rate of 3% from 2016 to 2020.

In a bit of chicken-and-egg symbiosis, the demand for carbonated water is being matched by widespread availability of new channels and delivery systems. Whether up for grabs in the office fridge, extended eagerly to shoppers by a high-end clothier or invading supermarket endcaps and checkout lines, sparkling water is everywhere. Committed drinkers can actually forgo bottles altogether by purchasing a home carbonation system, more likely than not a SodaStream. Yet, even though this product seems tailor-made for the sparkling water zeitgeist and appears to have materialized on American retail shelves overnight, it’s actually a freshly reinvigorated brand with a 100-year history.

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SodaStream’s lineage can be traced back to Edwardian Era England, when London distiller Guy Hugh Gilbey invented a device for aerating liquids that his upper-class customers used to carbonate their gin cocktails. The original 1914 patent describes a bulky contraption, replete with valves, pistons and plungers. Two decades later, the earliest flavored concentrates were introduced, which could be mixed with carbonated water to create instant soda. It wasn’t until 1955 that the home version of the SodaStream became available for the masses. Twenty years later, the brand reached its first golden age when it become a familiar fixture in European kitchens with a catchy tagline to match: Get Busy With the Fizzy.

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Zach Brooke is a former AMA staff writer turned freelance journalist. His work has been featured in Chicago magazine, Milwaukee Magazine, A.V. Club and VICE, among others. Follow him on Twitter @Zach_Brooke.