Sodawater without settlements: alternatives to Sodastream

Almost a year ago, this site ran a brief post titled “We need to find Americans an alternative to West-Bank-based Sodastream.” As it happened, I’d been doing research on that very problem, as part of the Economic Activism for Palestine project at Global Exchange in San Francisco, under the leadership of Dalit Baum of WhoProfits.org. So I responded to that post with a comment listing a slew of settlement-free home soda makers.

Since then there’s been a fair bit of news – some good, some bad – in what’s known as the “sparkling beverage market,” and we’ve recently posted an updated Sodastream Alternatives page on the Global Exchange website. Consider bookmarking it so you can share it in case you discover friends or family in danger of buying a settlement-made Sodastream machine.

Two developments are worth highlighting here, though. On the negative side, a product I and several other commenters recommended last September, iSi’s Twist’n’Sparkle, has been recalled. It turned out that the plastic bottle included in the kit had a tendency to explode. If you have one, stop using it and call the recall hotline at (800) 645-3595 to arrange a refund. (When I called, the rep told me she knew of no plans for a new, safer version of the product.)

On the upside, there’s now a better alternative – if you don’t mind an indirect connection to Israel: Primo Water Corp. of Winston-Salem, NC, has entered the market with not one but two Sodastream-like countertop machines, the Flavorstation 100 ($69.99) and the Flavorstation 120 ($79.99, in either black or white). I bought a 100 months ago, and a few weeks ago I ordered a 120, too (just for research purposes – I’m planning to give one of them away). Both are stylish, relatively inexpensive, and easier to find than most other alternatives. Both make great soda water – I’d never been a soda drinker before, but now I’m addicted. And best of all, they’re not made in a settlement.

The main functional difference between the two Flavorstation models is that the 100 is designed for “single-serve” half-liter bottles, while the Flavorstation 120 uses one-liter bottles – much more convenient if you’re serving a family or company. The newer 120 model also adds a few enhancements: easier mechanisms for installing the CO2 cartridge and for attaching the bottle to be carbonated (though neither task is difficult on the original Flavorstation 100) and a dial that lets you choose what size bubbles you want in your beverage (!).

The Flavorstation 100 is sold at Lowe’s home stores – there are 1,745 in North America, so there’s probably one not far from you (store locator here). Online, both the 100 and the 120 (in either black or white) are available at Primo’s online store and at Amazon.com. All of these outlets also sell Flavorstation accessories – extra water bottles (BPA-free), spare CO2 cartridges (though the cartridge included with each appliances is refillable), and flavor syrups (16 flavors, including four “zero-calorie” and four “low-calorie” versions).

For the future Primo apparently intends to match Sodastream in offering soda makers in a bewildering array of sizes and shapes.

Primo is an eight-year-old, publicly traded company whose main business is selling bottled water and water dispensers for homes and offices. The Flavorstation appliances are made in China, their CO2 canisters in Taiwan, and the syrups in the U.S.

And that Israel connection? In 2011 Primo announced a “strategic alliance” with SDS-IC (“Sparkling Drink Systems – Innovation Center”), a small Israeli company that’s also taking on Sodastream. It was founded in 2009 by a couple of former Sodastream executives. Under the agreement, Primo and SDS-IC will distribute some of each other’s products and collaborate in R&D, marketing, and manufacturing. SDS-IC’s factory, however, is in China, not the West Bank. According to researchers at WhoProfits.org, its only facilities in Israel are business offices in Ramat Gan, near Tel Aviv.

If you can’t stomach any connection to Israel, or if you don’t expect to drink soda water often, the “soda siphons” or other products listed on the Global Exchange page will probably meet your needs.

Or you could just drink plain water.

As for Sodastream, the unfortunate truth is that it’s on a roll: It announced on Wednesday that total revenue for the quarter ended June 30 jumped 49.1% to $103 million, while net income increased 43.9% to $9.5 million, compared to the same quarter in 2011. Sales in the Americas were up a stunning 109 percent over last year and now constitute almost 30 percent of total revenues; sales in Western Europe rose 25 percent and still represent more than half of revenue.

One more tidbit: under a deal with Kraft Foods announced last month, Sodastream plans to add Kool-Aid-branded flavors to its flavorings lineup.

In other words, folks already drinking the settlers’ Kool-Aid metaphorically will soon be able to do so literally, too.

Posted in Israel/Palestine

{ 19 comments... read them below or add one }

  1. YoungMassJew says:

    Henry, Thank you for providing this helpful information . I work at Staples and I wrote an anonymous letter about Sodastream’s human rights violations in Palestine that I told a supervisor/manager to forward to HR. I haven’t heard anything in about the 3-4 weeks or so since I told them about it. The situation is probably complicated by the fact that a certain percentage of my co-workers aren’t big fans of Jews based on comments I’ve heard. Just saying. Anyway, I’m probably going to quit once the summer ends but I’ll keep you guys posted if I hear that anything has been done about the Sodastream display that I am just so tempted to chuck into the trash at this point.

  2. YoungMassJew says:

    God I love it when I’m writing something important and it just magically disappears when I hit post comment. I guess we’re starting those games again…

    Henry, Thanks for providing this information. I work at Staples (sales associate) and I sent an anonymous letter that was forwarded to HR after I told a manager and supervisor about Sodastream’s human rights violations in the Occupied West Bank. They listened to my concerns and seemed to take it seriously. The letter was supposedly forwarded 3-4 weeks ago and I haven’t heard anything back. I’m probably only going to be working to the the end of the summer, but I’ll let you know if I hear any updates floating around the store. Also, fyi, the situation is probably tricky by the fact that my co-workers aren’t big fans of Jews based on comments I’ve heard. Just saying.

    • Mooser says:

      “God I love it when I’m writing something important and it just magically disappears when I hit post comment. I guess we’re starting those games again…”

      YMJ, if “dropped” comments are a problem, copy and paste your comment to another program (notepad, word, clipboard, whatever) before submitting. If it gets dropped (and it does happen) you have another copy to submit.
      Or, you could write your comment in a program open in another window, (giving you the advantage of that program’s editing functions, auto complete, running spel-chek), and when done, copy it into the comment box and submit.
      I write all mine out longhand on a yellow legal pad (with a glass of “2 cents, plain” at my elbow) before submitting, just like Bugliosi!

    • Merk says:

      What type of human rights violations did you inform them about? Soda Stream employs thousands of Palestinians at wages which would be unheard of by other Palestinian companies. I would much rather support Palestinian workers than Chinese child/slave labor which is being used by these ‘Sodastream’ alternative companies.

      On a side note, Soda Stream had an released their Q2 earnings a couple days ago. Profits rose something like 50%

      • ColinWright says:

        “…What type of human rights violations did you inform them about? Soda Stream employs thousands of Palestinians at wages which would be unheard of by other Palestinian companies…”

        This is unoriginal. The same argument was employed by apologists for Apartheid South Africa.

        If you’re so sure the settlers are benefitting the Palestinians, how about holding a referendum in the West Bank? Should the settlements stay or should they go?

        See what the Palestinians feel is in their own best interest.

        • tonyfleming says:

          I think a more substantive response could have been offered. The concern about favoring Flavorstation, being made in China with horrible labor conditions, is legitimate and the product shouldn’t be recommended as a viable and moral alternative to Sodastream. The location of the Sodastream factory is terrible as well, but I wonder if buying stock in Sodastream and working from within to correct our concerns is more progressive. I’d rather buy that project and pump money into Palestinian pockets (however little it may be) to spur greater democratization, close The Gap a bit in that part of the world, and influence by the workers than use my money in ways that have no benefit to the workers.

  3. Kathleen says:

    Thanks for this update and info. Sodastream being on a roll needs to be trumped. More information out there about where and who is involved in making. Great that Global exchsnge is so involved. An incredible organization. Too bad there is not a Palestinian made product. Great project for Global exchange or some other organization that could help open up such a manufacturing facility in the Gaza or West Bank controlled by Palestinians. Jobs too

  4. RE: “Almost a year ago, this site ran a brief post titled ‘We need to find Americans an alternative to West-Bank-based Sodastream’.” ~ Henry Norr

    MY COMMENT: I’m a bit embarrassed to admit this, but I drink a lot of Crystal Lite because it is sometimes a “2 for 1″ sale item at my Publix and so I can stock up on it at half price.
    The “Natural Cranberry Apple” uses natural flavorings and is quite tasty. I often mix other 100% fruit juices (like cranberry/blueberry or cranberry/raspberry) with it that I have also bought on “2 for 1″. The V8 Fusion Vegetable & Fruit (100%) Juices also work quite well.
    I also drink the Crystal Light “Sunrise Ruby Red Grapefruit” which is quite good despite being artificially flavored.
    As a general rule, I prefer to avoid aspartame, but at least it doesn’t seem to bother me like it does some people who say that aspartame causes them to have severe migraine headaches. (Using too much aspirin, acetaminophen, etc. is also said to cause hearing loss in men, but not in women).
    I never use ice in drinks, and I don’t at all miss carbonation. I just like to have a flavor to mask the slight chlorine taste of tap water*, and I’m certainly not going to join the inane “bottled water” craze. Whats next, “designer” air/oxygen?

    *P.S. Hell hath no fury like an obsessive-compulsive denied his or her obsession/compulsion!
    As Good as it Gets; OCD handwashing, locks, and lights [VIDEO, 01:05] – link to youtube.com
    Letterman Howie Mandel’s OCD [VIDEO, 02:17] – link to youtube.com

    • P.P.S.
      • Phil Hartman SNL signature sketch: Cooking with the Anal Retentive Chef [VIDEO, 04:24] – link to hulu.com
      The Odd Couple: Anal retentive and expulsive.wmv [VIDEO, 02:54] – link to youtube.com

    • Henry Norr says:

      I’m not suggesting that you have to boycott all Kraft products, Dickerson, but since you mention that you drink a lot Crystal Light, you might be interested in this bit from the Sodastream press release announcing their deal with Kraft to license several Kool-Aid flavors: “These complement the existing co-branded portfolio, which includes several varieties of Crystal Light, the leading powdered drink mix, and Country Time, the number-one U.S. lemonade brand.”

      • Thanks. I was aware of (and disappointed by) that, and I’m always looking for an alternative to Crystal Light (with all of its obnoxious, wasteful packaging and its aspartame). But at this point, I don’t really feel like I am significantly benefiting SodaStream by buying Kraft’s Crystal Light when Publix has it as a two-for-one item.
        Publix does have its own brand in competition with Crystal Light, and I would use it if the Crystal Light was not periodically on sale for half of its regular price (making it considerably cheaper than the Publix brand).
        Of course, I should learn to make do with with plain, old tap water.

  5. HarryLaw says:

    In the UK and throughout the European community we have regulations in place which make it a criminal offence to sell a product which omits material information like geographical or commercial origin of a product etc the omission of which could influence or distort the economic behaviour of the average consumer here is the relevant regulation 6(4) Where a commercial practice is an invitation to purchase, the following information will be material if not already apparent from the context in addition to any other information which is material information under paragraph (3)—
    (a)the main characteristics of the product, to the extent appropriate to the medium by which the invitation to purchase is communicated and the product;
    (b)the identity of the trader, such as his trading name, and the identity of any other trader on whose behalf the trader is acting;
    (c)the geographical address of the trader and the geographical address of any other trader on whose behalf the trader is acting; And here is part of a letter I have just received from West Yorkshire Trading standards team in response to a complaint made by me in relation to Sodastream devices on sale at Asda Stores Nationally which omitted this crucial information. ” If it could be stretched to the point that Asda might bear some potential responsibility under the Consumer Protection for Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 in this instance there would be the need to consider if: [1] the omission of the actual place of manufacture was misleading: and [2] such an omission was likely to materially distort the economic behaviour of the average consumer. It was the view of this service that the omission of a place of manufacture was unlikely to be misleading and that whether a product is made in Israel or an area under Israeli control is unlikely to effect the economic behaviour of the average consumer. We compared Israel’s involvement on the west bank with South Africa at the height of Apartheid. In the latter case there was widespread and well known campaign to boycott products from South Africa which only had a limited effect, many people happily [or indifferently] continuing to buy South African produce. South Africa would not have effected the average consumer’s transactional decision. In the case of Israel and the West Bank there is no widespread call to such a boycott so we are of the view that even if they did know where the product was made the average consumers transactional decision would be unlikely to be affected. As such we would not be looking to take enforcement action against Asda nor offer them advice on this matter.” Tony Downham Divisional Manager [Business compliance]. This highly subjective view of the Regulations is in my opinion and in the opinion of many lawyers completely wrong, Aiding and abetting war crimes or contributing to their commercial viability is of no consequence to the trading standards team, fortunately the Trading Standards are not the only ones who can challenge Asda through the Magistrates courts, watch this space.

  6. YoungMassJew says:

    Great. Thanks HarryLaw. Much appreciated and timely. Does the U.S. have similar laws that you’re familar with?

    • Hostage says:

      Does the U.S. have similar laws that you’re familar with?

      Yes. US Treasury Department directives prohibit labeling products from the West Bank and Gaza as “Made in Israel”:

      [B]y letter dated October 24, 1994, the Department of State advised the Department of the Treasury that, in view of certain developments, principally the Israeli-PLO Declaration of Principles on Interim Self-Government Arrangements (signed on September 13, 1993), the primary purpose of 19 U.S.C. 1304 would be best served if goods produced in the West Bank and Gaza Strip were permitted to be marked ‘‘West Bank’’ or ‘‘Gaza Strip.’’
      Accordingly, as Customs has previously relied upon advice received from the Department of State in making determinations regarding the ‘‘country of origin’’ of a good for marking purposes, Customs notified the public in T.D. 95–25 that, unless excepted from marking, goods produced in the West Bank or Gaza Strip shall be marked as ‘‘West Bank,’’ ‘‘Gaza,’’ or ‘‘Gaza Strip.’’ The T.D. further stated that the country of origin markings of such goods shall not contain the words ‘‘Israel,’’ ‘‘Made in Israel,’’ ‘‘Occupied Territories-Israel,’’ or words of similar meaning.

      By letter dated January 13, 1997, the Department of State advised the Department of the Treasury that the Palestinian Authority has asked that the U.S. accept the country of origin marking ‘‘West Bank/Gaza’’ so as to reaffirm the territorial unity of the two areas. The Department of State further advised that it considers the West Bank and Gaza Strip to be one area for political, economic, legal and other purposes.

      62 FR 12269 – Country of Origin Marking of Products From the West Bank and Gaza link to gpo.gov

      Prof James Crawford of Cambridge just wrote a 60 page opinion which explains that it would not violate any international law or the World Trade Agreement to ban imports of settlement products into the EU regardless of how they are labelled. So it looks like the UK may be poised to step-up the pressure another notch on settlement products. They led the charge on mislabeling: link to tuc.org.uk

  7. as far as my information goes. soda-stream has removed its plant from the illegal settlement barkan industrial zone’ to the joint rahat(a beduin town ship , and benei shimo’on regional council” situated in the negev ,southern israel unside the green-line. yehoshua rosin . rehovot israel.

  8. Henry Norr says:

    What’s your evidence that Sodastream “has removed its plant from the illegal settlement,” Yehoshua? We know they’ve had a plant in the Negev for several years, and their spokespeople, when pressed, sometimes claim that’s where they manufacture the soda machines. But at least as of last fall it was a lie. The (Israeli) Coalition of Women for Peace sent people to both sites to see for themselves. Here’s their report:

    Update: SodaStream maintains production in an Israeli settlement in the oPt

    During September 2011, “Who Profits from the Occupation”, a research project of the Coalition of Women for Peace, conducted two research tours to SodaStrean sites: The Alon Tavor site, near Afula (inside Israel) and the Mishor Edomim site, located in an industrial zone in the West Bank.

    According to our findings, SodaStream home beverage carbonating devices and the filling of the gas cylinders is still being executed in the Mishor Edomim site. To the best of our knowledge, the new site in Alon Tavor only handles painting and assembly of the carbonating devices.

    For more information regarding SodaStream’s involvement in the occupation, please see our report in the attached link:
    link to whoprofits.org

  9. HarryLaw says:

    The Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008 replaced most of the old 1968 Trades Descriptions Act but not all of that act was repealed section 16 is still in place here….Prohibition of importation of certain Goods. …Prohibition of importation of goods bearing false indication of origin…. Where a false trade description is applied to any goods outside the United Kingdom and the false indication, or one of the false indicators, given, or likely to be given, thereby is an indication of the place of manufacture, production, processing or reconditioning of the goods or any part thereof, the goods shall not be imported into the United Kingdom. This would seem to indicate a ban on Ahava products should be in order since they [Ahava] have a Made in Israel label on their products, when even they do not dispute they are manufactured in Mitzpe Shalem in the West Bank, here again the local Government Trading Standards Departments have a duty to enforce these regulations, will they? If they don’t, others will.