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可口可乐大笔投资Keurig为哪般?

可口可乐大笔投资Keurig为哪般?

Beth Kowitt 2014年02月08日
绿山传统的拳头产品是胶囊咖啡机,但随着可口可乐斥资12亿美元收购绿山股份、同时宣布将在单杯冷饮领域与绿山进行合作之后,绿山挺进冷饮机制造业务的前景一下子变得光明了许多。或许不久的将来,大家在家就能喝到现场制作的可乐冷饮了。

 

    绿山咖啡公司(Green Mountain Coffee Roasters)以生产单杯的Keurig胶囊咖啡机而闻名。但去年9月份,当它在投资者日宣布已开始制造冷饮机时,着实让人大跌眼镜。

    这家位于佛蒙特州的公司到底在做什么?它真觉得自己能拓展到碳酸饮料、果汁、多味汽水和类似产品的市场中去吗?它有这个实力吗?

    本周三,当绿山公司获得了来自可口可乐公司(Coca-Cola)的大手笔支持后,持怀疑态度的人一下子安静多了。绿山与可口可乐宣布,双方将在“Keurig冷饮”平台上提供可口可乐旗下的子品牌冷饮——比如雪碧(Sprite)、芬达(Fanta)和美汁源(Minute Maid),不过两家公司并未明确表明会是哪个品牌。它们还宣布,可口可乐公司斥资12.5亿美元收购绿山10%的股份。

    绿山的首席执行官、同时也是可口可乐公司的前高管布莱恩•凯利对《财富》杂志(Fortune)表示,这项交易已经谈了好几个月了。他说:“他们需要确信我们确实也能生产可乐,而且能始终如一保持绝佳的口味才行。”这台Keurig冷饮机计划于明年正式上市。

    从表面上看,这种合作显得有点不同寻常,但对两家公司来说,它完全有可能成为一个巨大的双赢。绿山刚刚开始自己的国际化征程。对它来说,这项交易意味着它能进入一个强大的全球分销网络,同时还能获得多个强势品牌。对可口可乐来说,单杯胶囊冷饮机是接触消费者的全新渠道,毕竟这些消费者在咖啡领域早已彻底接受了Keurig。

    对咖啡业来说,单杯模式一直让它受益匪浅。近期由美国银行(Bank of America)发布的一份分析师报告指出,单杯咖啡目前已占据美国30%的市场份额,比三年前上升了8%。对可口可乐公司来说这是不可错过的一个机会,因为碳酸饮料的消费量在美国已连续八年下降,它亟需为泡沫饮料寻找新的增长点。

    绿山通过为消费者提供多种选择,已成功将其Keurig热饮平台打入1500万个家庭。如果你不喜欢绿山咖啡,也就是该公司的同名品牌怎么办?没问题——这台机器还能提供21种合作品牌的饮料,包括星巴克(Starbucks)、诗尚草本(Celestial Seasonings)和驯鹿(Caribou)。

    分析师表示,绿山必须打造出类似的生态系统才能在冷饮领域赢得消费者,而与可口可乐的合作是其迈出的第一大步。它将推出的各种饮料不仅有碳酸饮料,还有Fuze(一种健康果汁饮料——译注)和诚实茶(Honest Tea)这种广受认可的果汁和茶饮。

    尽管这项合作确实给了可口可乐先人一步的优势,但凯利表示这并不排除其他品牌也可进入Keurig冷饮体系。他并不认为可口可乐所购的股份会让其他公司对加盟这个体系望而却步。就算在热饮领域,这也不是什么问题。他说:“乐维萨(Lavazza)也有我们公司的股份,但这并不妨碍它的对手向我们寻求合作。”

    Keurig冷饮机将是和Keurig热咖啡机不同的单独机器。不过去年秋天当我造访这家公司位于马萨诸塞州柏林顿的办公室时,凯利向我表示,公司今后会造一台既能提供热饮、也能提供冷饮的机器。他还表示,今后可口可乐可能也会与Keurig的热咖啡机业务开展合作。

    如果绿山制造饮料的方法不是和可口可乐公司对品质一致性的要求如此吻合的话,这两家公司的合作可能根本无从谈起。比如Sodastream这种碳酸饮料机,用户可以通过二氧化碳储罐决定往水中加入多少碳化作用,此外他们还可以随心所欲地加各种调味剂。对于想要多一点或少一点泡沫的消费者来说,这台机器很称心,但这也使可口可乐公司不太可能和Sodastream合作,因为它希望自己的产品无论何时喝起来都该是可口可乐那个味儿。

    正如我们在2014年1月16日的《财富》杂志中所写的,据绿山的一份专利申请书称,它的冷饮可能可被含有二氧化碳这类吸附气的胶囊内的颗粒剂加以碳化,这种胶囊一接触水就能释放出气体。这也就意味着,Keurig冷饮机不需要什么二氧化碳储罐,它能精确释放出健怡可乐(Diet Coke)或雪碧所需的那种水平的碳化作用和口味。

    去年年末当我造访绿山的办公室时,我得以对员工正在着手制造的Keurig冷饮机先睹为快,当时它的代号是Geyser。尽管这个项目当时还蒙着保密的面纱,但公司高管知道,我对自己看到的东西其实一无所知,因为我不是工科专业出身的。

    不过,当时我至少能看得出,这个项目已经进行了很长时间了——事实上已经开发了五年之久。那么为什么在这个节骨眼上还要把股份卖给可口可乐公司呢?凯利向我表示,这笔交易意味着,可口可乐不仅对自己的产品在Keurig冷饮机上表现良好有兴趣,还意味着整个系统运作良好与可口可乐公司利益攸关。

    去年11月我见到凯利时他正在喝一罐健怡可乐(早上10点以后他就改喝苏打水以减少咖啡因摄入了,因为他说苏打水所含咖啡因比咖啡少)。在一月采写的报道里我们曾指出,如果一切顺利,他很快就能从自己公司制造的机器中、而不是铝罐里喝到苏打水了。现在看来,这一时刻已经近在眼前。

    译者:清远

    Eyes rolled when Green Mountain Coffee Roasters (GMCR), best known for its single-serve pod Keurig brewing machine, first announced at its September investor day that it was building a system for cold beverages.

    What was the Vermont-based company doing, thinking it could expand into sodas, juices, flavored waters and the like? Did it even have the know-how to do it?

    Skeptics got a little bit quieter Wednesday when Green Mountain received a major endorsement from Coca-Cola (KO). The two companies announced an agreement to make Coca-Cola's brands -- such as Sprite, Fanta, and Minute Maid, though the companies didn't specify which -- available on the "Keurig Cold" platform. They also announced the beverage giant's $1.25 billion purchase of a 10% minority stake in Green Mountain.

    Green Mountain CEO Brian Kelley, a former Coca-Cola executive, told Fortune that the deal had been in development for a number of months. "They needed to have the confidence that we could make Coke and it would taste perfectly every time," he says. The Keurig Cold platform is scheduled to launch next year.

    The partnership seems unusual on the surface, but it has the potential to be a big win-win for both companies. The deal means access to a strong global distribution network and a portfolio of powerful brands for Green Mountain, which is only just starting its international expansion. For Coca-Cola, single-serve pods give the company a new channel to consumers, who have already embraced Keurig in the coffee space.

    Single-serve has been a boon for the coffee industry. A recent Bank of America analyst note reported that single-cup coffee has now captured 30% of the dollar share of the market, up from 8% three years ago. That's a point likely not lost on Coca-Cola, which is looking for a boost with fizzy beverages as soda consumption has seen eight straight years of decline in the U.S.

    Green Mountain managed to get its Keurig platform for hot beverages into 15 million households by offering consumers choice. Don't like Green Mountain coffee, the company's namesake brand? No problem -- there are 21 other partner brands in the system, including Starbucks, Celestial Seasonings, and Caribou.

    Analysts have said Green Mountain would have to create a similar ecosystem to win over consumers in cold beverages, and Coca-Cola is a huge first step. Its portfolio includes not only sodas, but also names in tea and juice like Fuze and Honest Tea that have wide recognition.

    While the partnership does give Coca-Cola a first-mover's advantage, Kelley says it won't preclude other brands from having access to Keurig Cold. He doesn't believe that Coca-Cola's equity stake will keep others from wanting to be part of the system. That certainly hasn't been the case in hot. "Lavazza has an equity stake," he says, "and that didn't prevent their competitors from coming to us."

    Keurig Cold will be a separate machine from the hot Keurig brewer, although CEO Brian Kelley told me this fall when I visited the company's offices in Burlington, Mass., that the company could one day build a machine that handles both hot and cold. Kelley says that Coca-Cola's involvement with the hot Keurig brewer is something the two companies may pursue over time.

    Conversations between the two likely would never have taken place if Green Mountain's approach to making beverages wasn't so in line with Coca-Cola's demand for consistency. With Sodastream, for example, users decide how much carbonation to add to their water through a carbon dioxide tank. They can also pour in as much flavoring as they'd like. That's great for consumers who may like more or less fizz, but makes it unlikely Coca-Cola would ever partner with Sodastream because it wants its product to taste exactly as Coke should every time.

    As we wrote in the January 16, 2014 issue of Fortune magazine, according to a patent application from Green Mountain, its cold beverages may be carbonated by granules inside the pod that contain absorbed gas, such as carbon dioxide, which would be released upon contact with water. That means the Keurig Cold, which won't have a carbon dioxide tank, will dose for the exact level of carbonation and flavoring necessary for, say, a Diet Coke or a Sprite.

    When I visited Green Mountain's offices late last year, I got a sneak peak at employees working on Keurig Cold, which at the time went by the code name Geyser. Despite the secrecy surrounding the project, executives knew I would have no idea what I was looking at since I don't have an engineering degree.

    What I could tell, however, was that the project was far along -- it had been in development for five years. So why give Coca-Cola an equity stake at this point in the game? Kelley told me that the deal means that not only does Coca-Cola have an interest in its products doing well on the Keurig Cold, but it means Coca-Cola has in interest in the entire system doing well.

    Kelley was drinking a Diet Coke when I met with him in November. (He switches to soda after 10 a.m. to reduce his caffeine consumption because he says soda has less caffeine than coffee.) In our January magazine story we noted that if he had it his way, he'd soon be able to get his soda out of a machine made by his own company than out of a can. That moment is no longer that far off.

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