Coca-Cola experiments with BYOB (aka bring your own bottle)

purefill water dispenser, ohio state university
Coca-Cola
After a successful pilot on the Georgia Institute of Technology campus in 2017, DASANI PureFill stations can be found at Ohio State University and the University of Central Florida.

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One of the world’s biggest beverage companies is asking consumers to BYOB: bring your own bottle, that is.

Coca-Cola last week announced plans to expand its Dasani PureFill water dispenser line, adding 100 units across the United States this fall. While that isn’t much compared to the company’s reported $2.61 billion global profit this quarter, the project marks a notable shift towards package-free delivery at scale.  

No, this isn’t just a fancy, fee-based water fountain. Consumers with their own reusable bottles at campuses and institutional settings can drink the machine’s chilled, filtered water for free, as well as purchase an effervescent option for a small price. Essentially, Dasani is selling water to consumers in bulk while also avoiding the inefficiency and impact of shipping water, a widely available resource, great distances. In practice, Coca-Cola is able to develop a relationship with consumers who wouldn’t typically opt for the single-use bottle. It’s a win-win. 

As the top-selling bottled U.S. water brand, Dasani is no stranger to competition. The PureFill dispenser joins a suite of un-bottled-water options such as FlowaterCupanion, Bevi and, you know, water fountains.

The project is the latest of Coca-Cola’s initiatives aimed at removing the equivalent of 1 billion virgin PET plastic bottles from its supply chain as a part of its World Without Waste vision, in addition to its commitment to ensuring bottles are 100 percent recyclable and made with 50 percent recycled content by 2030. 

The project’s expansion comes on the heels of the company's recent announcement — along with competitor PepsiCo — that it would be dropping membership in the Plastics Industry Association due to the organization's opposition of local plastic bag bans. As more institutions ban and disincentivize single-use bottles (the latest of which is the San Francisco Airport’s recent ban of single-use bottles), Coca-Cola is going with the flow of consumer sentiments.

"We don’t directionally know where consumers are going," Bruce Karas, vice president of environment and sustainability for Coca-Cola North America, told my colleague, Editorial Director Heather Clancy, this week on the GreenBiz 350 Podcast. "We can put things out in the market that may or may not work…It’s [about] making sure that what we’re pushing out from a brand perspective is aligned with our goal of a world without waste and helping to reduce the amount of virgin plastic that we’re using."

In other words, you can lead a horse to water.