The average American household consumes thousands of cans and bottles of beverages each year, each consisting of a lot of water and a little flavoring. The by-product of this model is wasted water, generation of CO2 from bottling, shipping and cooling, and a huge amount of improperly recycled containers. Cana, a Silicon Valley startup, has launched a new home appliance that aims to move beverage production from the bottler to the kitchen counter and make what you drink reasonable for the first time since the start of the mass traffic jam.
Printing isn’t a verb we associate with drinks, but the Cana One “drink printer” is a cross between an inkjet printer, the JPEG file format and a SodaStream machine. Unlike other home drink makers, it makes virtually any type of drink, the range of which, according to Cana, differs by as little as 1% in their substance. “Every house in the industrialized world has water,” says Dave Friedberg, founder and CEO of The Production Board from which Cana originates. “We only take the 1% that differentiates water into coffee, tea, juice, beer, wine and spirits and ship that 1%, making it a beverage printer.”
A patent-pending cartridge contains small amounts of 84 essential flavoring ingredients that are precisely mixed with tap water, sugar, alcohol and carbonation inside the machine to create the drink you you select from a Roku-like touchscreen interface.
These ingredients may sound like an incredibly short shopping list for a machine that makes everything from coffee to cocktails, but Cana says our perception of taste relies on a small subset of compounds, much like how a video stream high res removes most of the original video information, but it doesn’t appear to be. Cana also relies on the fact that, to some extent, we taste what we’re told we’re about to taste: the device’s color screen brings every drink to life with a vivid description and a thematic music video during its making.
Clear drinks will be offered as a priority; Some characteristics such as viscosity, opacity and pulp will be more difficult to achieve until future versions of the device arrive.
How does it taste?
I visited Cana’s research and development office in Redwood City, California, and tasted a cold brew coffee, two blueberry coolers, a grapefruit fizz, and a mimosa that each came out of the machine about 30 seconds after a few taps on the screen. Production versions of this should make drinks in around 15 seconds. Every drink was good – good enough that the staff offered to direct me to the toilet when I drank every drop of five – but not quite like the conventional versions. This raises an important question. What makes a drink “ok”? What tastes good or what you’re used to?
If you scroll through the Cana One interface looking for Dr. Pepper or Fanta, you won’t find them or any major national brands. Instead, the machine is the front-end of a platform that recruits what you might call “drinkinfluencers” to concoct the hit drinks of tomorrow and much more than today since Cana n drinks never have to compete for shelf space. “Everyone will find a brand of drink they like (on Cana),” says Friedberg. “A better fit for them individually instead of being participants in the lowest common denominator solution the big brands have created for all of us.”
Beverage creators will earn a reduction in the price of each drink made from their formula, much like stars on social and video platforms. Taking such a page from the influencer’s playbook requires little explanation, but it will take some deft management of the on-screen experience to make the sheer amount of choice delightful rather than overwhelming. Streaming TV technology is better for its amount of choice, but it’s also a lot more work than cable TV.
That said, I have to believe that the big traditional drink brands will be watching Cana One with interest. Primarily shipping water in bottles and cans that occupy refrigerated trucks and gas-guzzling cold crates before being consumed and turned into a mountain of used containers may not be a model they relish. The modern bottle cap or Crown cap that enabled this design only dates back to 1892, ushering in a new era of six-packs and coke machines and the end of jerk soda. In some ways, Cana One takes us back to the future, but with a lot more choice and a robotic jolt.
Every drink is green
In the hours I spent with Cana’s management team, the company did not mention its market share expectations. Instead, everything was framed in terms of reducing environmental damage. There are 540 million tons of CO2 released into the air every year by the global packaged beverage industry and 400 trillion gallons of water used every year throughout the industry’s product life cycle. This is the opportunity that Cana highlighted.
“The technology that allowed us to create the bottled beverage industry 150 years ago has gotten smaller, faster, better and cheaper and now we’ve put it in your kitchen,” says Dave Friedberg. Cana is like Tesla or impossible foods, both of which have strong business goals, but also lead an environmental story. This reflects the shift in consumer and investor priorities that we have seen in recent years.
Price and availability
The Cana One is available for pre-order with a reservation fee of $99 against a purchase price of $499 for the first 10,000 units, after which the price will drop to $799. Drinks are estimated to cost between 25 cents and $2 each, shown on screen before you make them. Notably, this will give Cana something that Tesla and Impossible don’t like: an immediate cost advantage. Ingredient cartridges are “free”: the cost is built into the price of the drinks you make.
Cana’s vision of drinks is radical. It asks us to migrate from simplistic to rich experience and promises to do something with a few drops of liquid that was previously impossible, a claim that may inspire skepticism in Silicon Valley these days. But in addition to making drinks, it also dispenses several drugs that most of us can’t get enough of: discovery, choice, identity, instant gratification, and tangible proof that we do what it does. need at this time. I think I will have a double.