Soda Club

January 6th, 2009 by Potato

I talked earlier about useful holidays gifts… in addition I got myself an Xbox with the monetary gifts. At $240 on a boxing day sale it seemed like a steal even if I only use it as a media centre… however, with another $100 needed for a wireless adapter (or $50 and a headache to set up an access point near the TV) and $60/year for Xbox Live, I’m not sure anymore that it was the best use of my money. Ah, well, the PS3 might be a better media centre (with blu-ray) out of the box, but all my friends have Xboxes so I hope to actually game with it. I also planned to pick up Rock Band for it, but holy crap, that’s another $200! Add in two more games at $80 each and that’s my entertainment budget for the whole year blown! On top of that I got a return or refurb unit, as it already had an Xbox Live ID set up as well as a connection to “Aaron’s HP Media Center” set up, which kind of bums me out (but not enough to actually get my butt down to the store to return it).

From Wayfare I got a Soda Stream/Soda Club home carbonated drink maker. It’s basically a CO2 tank that you can use to make carbonated water at home, to which you can mix in concentrated syrup to make your own sodas. I haven’t tried their cola flavour yet — as a die-hard Coke (or recently, Coke Zero) fan, I doubt I would like it — but the lemon-lime and root beer has been pretty good. It’s a bit of a novelty to mix up your own drinks at home, and they also claim that it’s cheaper and more environmentally friendly to do so. On the surface, that makes a lot of sense: why ship fully prepared/diluted pop around the country along with the extra packaging that entails? You’re basically paying to ship water, when it makes much more sense to just send the syrup and dilute it with carbonated water at home/on site (like movie theatres and restaurants do with fountain pop).

Unfortunately, while it might be slightly better for the environment, at the prices they’re charging it’s not cheaper. A big part of the problem is just with their implementation: they don’t have the kind of volume or distribution network that Coke or Pepsi have. I think this scheme would work really well if Coke or Pepsi decided to start offering in-home fountain pop units and sold syrup boxes at the grocery stores instead of cans and bottles. For Soda Club though, you don’t just walk down to your local grocery store (at least, not in Canada) and pick up a bottle of syrup and a carbonation tank. There are only two places that seem to sell the carbonation tanks, one in Paris, Ontario, the other in Mississauga; and nowhere local that sells syrup.

To order online, you can get 2 carbonation tanks at $25, which is rated to carbonate 120 L of water. In testing, we found that the sodas were fairly flat at the recommended carbonation level, so realistically this would probably carbonate 90 L. A syrup bottle is $5, which can be diluted into 12 L of pop, but again in testing we found the sodas “weak” at the recommended dilution, so 9 L would be more realistic per bottle. So to make 90 L of pop would cost $25 + (10x$5) = $75 plus $5 shipping, or $80. And that’s US dollars. To be generous, let’s peg the exchange rate at 1 USD = $1.10 Canadian, so $88 for 90 L (or to be very optimistic, 120 L), and we’ll also ignore the cost of the machine and CO2 tanks in the first place. To put that into 355 mL can servings, that would be $0.347 per “can” (or $0.26 per “can” if we want to be very generous with how far the supplies will stretch and what the exchange rate will be).

That does compare favourably to full-priced pop at $5 per 12-pack ($0.416 per can). However, I never buy pop at that price. Deals of 3 cases for $10 come up quite regularly ($0.278 per can), and I often stock up on pop at prices as cheap as $2.50 per case ($0.208/can)!

There is some benefit to avoiding the environmental impact of having to recycle all those pop cans, but I’m not sure I’m willing to pay 60% more for my pop to get it. Plus, the carbonator is loud, which makes sneaking a pop while Wayfare sleeps harder, and all this is assuming that I’m ordering enough syrup to make 90 L (equivalent to 253 cans, 21 cases of 12) at one time. I would drink that well within the ~6 month shelf life of the syrup if that was all the pop I was drinking… but while the lemon-lime and root beer flavours were passable, I haven’t tried the cola yet. If that is “off-brand” and I still drink Coke the majority of the time I reach for a soda, then those secondary flavours might sit around longer, and I might need to spread the syrup orders out, increasing the shipping costs.

2 Responses to “Soda Club”

  1. John Says:

    Hope you can help, I purchased a club soda unit from the dealer in Mississauga. I need a refill and can’t remember the name or address of the shop and nothing on the net, would appreciate an address if you have it.

    Ps nice blog found it on google, searching for club soda mississauga

  2. Potato Says:

    Hi John, thanks for stopping by. If you click on the link for Soda Club USA then click on “online store” on the left, you can enter a Canadian postal code into the zip code box and it will let you make an order from the online store. Or, you can click on “where to buy” and enter your location information (if it doesn’t properly guess at it from your IP) and it will show you the closest dealers.