Keurig Green Mountain (GMCR) is spending $100 million this year just on Kold, its new soda-making machine. Given the investment, the company undoubtedly hopes the machine will put the fizz back in its business. Too bad some of the early reviews are brutally harsh.
With the new version rolling out this week, some consumers are already using it -- and posting their initial reactions. Unfortunately for Keurig, these early adopters are complaining about everything from loud noises to pods that malfunction while attempting to make soda. Others are saying that the price tag is simply too high, especially given that a can of soda is an inexpensive purchase at the supermarket.
To be sure, it's early days yet for the Kold, and some reviewers are pleased with their purchase. Yet the fact that so many of the reviews are negative might not bode well for Keurig, which has been betting on the new machine to help lift sales this holiday season. The question is whether some consumers will take a pass on the machine given the harsh feedback and expensive price tag.
"The disappointing part was the fact that the product was not consistent cup to cup," one reviewer wrote on Keurig's site. "I would not recommend this machine to anyone. It was so inconsistent, to the point where a couple cups of made-soda was thrown down the sink. I wish I could say I loved it, but a can of soda is simply way more convenient, and is generally way more consistent in taste."
Other reviews noted that the machine is "too bulky" and that some of the pods simply didn't work. A few consumers complained about the machine's loud humming noise, as well as the pods' cost and lack of ecological friendliness.
"The drinks are so expensive they equate to $1.25 per 8 ounce drink. The CO2 pods are not biodegradable or recyclable," another reviewer noted.
Keurig Green Mountain said roughly two-thirds of the early reviewers gave the Kold at least four stars, based on a five-star rating system. A spokeswoman also said the pods "may be accepted for recycling in select communities that accept items labeled "#7 - OTHER," and recommended that consumers check locally.
The early reviews must be chilling for Keurig executives, given that chief executive Brian Kelley has called the machine its "next growth engine." Even putting aside the machine's apparent shortcomings, Keurig may have been taking a risk with entering the soda market, given that soda consumption has been on the decline for years as Americans grow more cautious about drinking sugar-laden drinks.
Keurig certainly needs to carbonate its stock, which has declined about 60 percent so far this year. The company has struggled with slowing sales following a recall of one coffee brewer and consumer anger over its Keurig 2.0 machine, which uses a scanner to lock out coffee pods made by other brands.
"For the machine and the pods I'd be better off buying a boatload of pop and flavored water. I don't see that it's cost effective if you're trying to save money," yet another review wrote. "This thing is an absolute monster."