Sodawater without settlements: alternatives to Sodastream

Israel/Palestine
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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.

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