Homemade Soda Isn't as Cheap as You Might Think

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Scarlett Johansson SodaStream Partnership
Mike Coppola/Getty Images for SodaStream
We have become a country of soda-jerk hobbyists, but we're not fizzing up our own soft drinks to save money. That became obvious last week when PepsiCo (PEP) announced that it is expanding its test of Pepsi-branded flavors that are available for SodaStream (SODA) machines in select Florida markets.

SodaStream owners everywhere can now buy the Pepsi HomeMade, Sierra Mist HomeMade and Pepsi Wild Cherry HomeMade syrup caps (plastic capsules that contain enough flavoring to transform a liter of sparkling water into soda) through SodaStream's website or dozens of Bed Bath & Beyond (BBBY) stores. Making fresh Pepsi products from the convenience of your home sounds cool, but don't make the false assumption that it's cheaper than buying the traditional bottled and canned pop.

A four-pack of the PepsiCo caps will set you back $3.49. Each cap is enough to make a half-liter serving, so you're basically paying $3.49 for 2 liters of Pepsi or Sierra Mist. That's a lot more than what the 2-liter bottles sell for at stores and it's not the final cost of the beverage. Don't forget that you have to pay for the carbonators and the math there starts at 50 cents for transforming two liters of still water into sparkling water. It all adds up to nearly $4 for 2 liters of Pepsi. If you were planning on buying a SodaStream beverage maker to save money on soda, you're going to be in for a rude (yet caffeinated) awakening.

More Than Just Value

SodaStream is a cost-effective purchase for folks who crave fresh sparkling water, coming in at just a quarter a liter. However, the math starts to get cruel when you're going for flavored soda. SodaStream's own bottled syrup flavors are available for a lot less than PepsiCo's caps, but it's never as cheap as generic store brands.

That has never been the point for SodaStream, however. Its marketing message has emphasized convenience, freshness, and environmental benefits.

Promoting convenience is easy. Lugging 12-packs of cans and 2-liter bottles from the supermarket every week can grow tiresome. The ability to make soda with a reusable bottle replaces the traditional round trip with a simple rinse. Yes, there is the cumbersome carbonator to exchange, but that's only necessary after every 60 or 130 liters.

Freshness is debatable. The ability to brew carbonated soda on demand is nifty, but it's not as if unopened cans or bottles of soda taste stale. Some folks swear by the fresh taste of SodaStream, but others don't notice or care.

The environmental message has been a big part of SodaStream's guerrilla marketing campaign, in which it has paraded around the world an exhibit featuring a cage full of disposed soda cans and bottles. It has also pointed to landfills and water pollution caused by consumption of retail soda. This isn't a message that's going to resonate with everyone, but it could strike a chord with eco-minded consumers.

So, yes, making soda at home has its benefits -- just don't go thinking that it's the secret to saving money.

Motley Fool contributor Rick Munarriz owns shares of SodaStream. The Motley Fool owns and recommends PepsiCo. The Motley Fool owns shares of SodaStream and recommends Bed Bath & Beyond. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. Want a sweet deal? Check out our free report on one great stock to buy for 2015 and beyond.
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