PRINCIPAL DESIGNER, FUSEPROJECT
Béhar and Sodastream chief innovation and design officer Yaron Kopel—who for the past few years have been collaborating together—met with Surface during this year’s Milan Design Week to discuss why fizzy-drink machines hold much more potential than meets the eye.
How did you initially meet and start working together?
Yaron Kopel: A few years ago, we did a designer search. We went to some of the best designers in the world today, including Yves, who we had a short meeting with in Geneva. We really clicked. I liked everything Yves is doing, and I think we see things—the aesthetic and user experience—in the same way. I knew after one meeting that Yves was the right partner for Sodastream. Since then, it’s been amazing. We both really believe that something in your kitchen should be fun, aesthetically beautiful, and easy to use.
Yves Béhar: They’re in Tel Aviv, we’re in San Francisco, and somehow we’re able to get to the right place really quickly. To develop something like this in a year [points to the new Sodastream Mix machine], from a user-interface connectivity standpoint—I mean, that’s not even something that a startup is gonna do. I work with startups all the time. It takes them two and a half to three years to come up with something that new and unconventional. We have a very flat layer of decision-making between us, which I think is good.
So there aren’t a lot of bureaucratic hurdles.
YB: Sodastream is a big company, publicly traded, but the structure inside is really flat. Design decisions like this are made very quickly.
YK: We don’t waste time with big meetings. There aren’t too many decision makers. We think about something, we check it, and we move forward. I like to say our products are designed in California and “innovated” in Tel Aviv. Today, Tel Aviv is one of the most innovative hubs in the world. Every big company, from Apple to Facebook, has a base in Tel Aviv.
YB: When we disagree about something, it will be five, six e-mails, but immediate. It’s not, like, six hours. We argue super-fast via e-mail, and then 5, 6, 10 minutes later, we’re like, “Okay, let’s do this.”
We’re standing around “The Alchemy Lounge,” a Sodastream-commissioned, Fuseproject-designed bar for this year’s Milan Design Week. How have you developed Sodastream from a single unit and into a full experience?
YK: The nature of all beverage companies in the world is essentially the same: They have factories, they take flavor, they take water, they take ingredients, and they carbonate them. That’s the biggest drinking category in the world. But with Sodastream it’s now in your house. You can now have your ultimate small carbonation machine at home. You have a factory—at this size! [Points to the Sodastream Mix]
Sodastream seems much more groundbreaking when you put it in those terms.
YK: It’s wild. The thinking was always: “How can we make the ultimate carbonation experience, in the most compact, easy-to-use, no-brainer way?”
YB: The thing that attracted me in the beginning to work with Sodastream—because I’m somebody who’s fundamentally against plastic bottles, especially for water—was the fact that all my friends are using expensive water from Europe in California, some with bottles, some without. It has always been really upsetting to me. It’s the worst form of consumption. The fact that we could replace that waste with a product was huge for me. What we worked on the first year was to make the experience easy, to convince people to move away from plastic bottle. Since then, we’ve been working on things like this. [Points to the Sodastream Mix]
YK: Do you know how many times you can reuse this bottle? Five thousand. It’s one of the most sustainable products in the world, no matter how you look at it.
What are your hopes as you scale and build the business beyond the machine?
YK: Well, if you look at what Sodastream is doing today, one of the great things—and Yves mentioned it—is that we act as a startup. Where we’re headed is: Natural flavors. Really good user experience. Fun. Always designed.
What are you backgrounds in terms of drinking carbonated beverages? I’m just curious, out of humor.
YB: Well, I personally had stopped drinking soda a long time ago. When I was a kid, I used to drink the local Swiss drink, Rivella. I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of it. It’s actually soda made from milk and derived from the remnants of cheese production. Mostly, I switched to water—always filtered. I couldn’t will myself to buy Perrier. It makes no sense. It’s such a waste. Now I can serve my friends at dinner. With Sodastream, when everybody wants sparkling water, I can serve it in a second, when it’s needed. That’s the other thing about this product: It used to be that you would plan your week, and you’d buy your Perrier at the supermarket. Then you’d carry your bottles to your apartment and consume them over the week. Then you’d go to the supermarket again the next week.
YK: I used to drink cola when I was a child, probably until the age of 25. I was addicted to cola. I drank more cola than water. Probably by the time I was in my 30s, I started to drink sparkling water. I stopped drinking cola. I don’t remember the last time I carried a bottle home. I really don’t.
Where do you see technology going, and how will this effect what you can do with a carbonated-beverage machine?
YB: It’s all about things becoming more personal. It’s all about technology really having the ability to cater to your needs, maybe even sometimes anticipating them. The ability to do many different things is great. You can imagine that in the near future some machines are gonna deliver all your drinking needs. We’re gonna be able to get a lot closer to what it is that you want and need. I think the companies that are gonna be successful are the ones that can deliver just in time the things you desire. Technology is gonna become more and more predictive in that way.
YK: People eat too much, and obesity is a worldwide problem. People stopped cooking at home. They don’t know how to make spaghetti or anything else. If people just learned how to make small dishes at home, everybody would eat healthier, and I think that can be the same thing when it comes to beverages. Think about it: If you wanna add a little bit of cranberry juice to your water, you don’t need to be a good mixologist to do that. If you ask me what technology is going to do to beverages, that’s what I think it’s gonna do: make it easier and more personal.