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Beverage makers let consumers kick the can

– It keeps getting easier to ditch the soda can.

When Coca-Cola said this week that it would let people make its drinks at home using a beverage machine, it became the latest company to take advantage of a growing trend: People turning to flavored drops or at-home carbonation machines that do away with the need to haul home bulky cans and bottles from the supermarket.

While such alternatives still represent a tiny fraction of the beverage market, they’re growing at a far faster rate than the industry’s traditional ready-to-drink business.

“It’s a mega trend we’ve seen,” said Charles Torrey, vice president of marketing for Coca-Cola’s Minute Maid unit, which this week introduced liquid drops that people make juice drinks on the go. “Consumers want things personalized to their own tastes.”

Drinks that come in bottles and cans will still account for the bulk of the beverage industry for years to come, of course. And it’s not clear whether at-home beverage machines will catch on more broadly. Still, companies like Coke and Pepsi are looking for new ways to grow.

Options that do away with cans and bottles are faring far better.

Revenue for the Americas region at SodaStream, which makes at-home carbonation machines, surged 88 percent in 2012 from the previous year, the latest figures available. And Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, which makes single-serve coffee machines and is partnering with Coca-Cola to make a cold beverage machine, saw revenue climb 13 percent.

Flavored drops for water are also becoming popular.

“How consumers buy products is changing these days. A decade ago, few would’ve believed that the record companies and movie studios would’ve allowed their products to be sold online, and Apple changed all that,” noted John Sicher, publisher of Beverage Digest, a trade publication.

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