Trading the traditional stoicism of a chief executive for a fiery tongue, SodaStream CEO Daniel Birnbaum bashed the business models of The Coca-Cola Co., Inc. and PepsiCo, Inc. in a Wall Street Journal interview published on Tuesday.
“I think it is criminal that the industry, led by two big companies, will do anything to protect their antiquated business model,” Birnbaum told the Journal. “They are generating 35 million bottles and cans every single day in the U.K. alone. World-wide it is one billion bottles and cans, most of which just go to trash, landfill, the oceans or parks. It’s insane.”
Birnbaum, the former CEO of Nike Inc. in Israel, has run fast-rising SodaStream since 2007. The company sells pressurized carbon dioxide canisters and flavored syrups that allow consumers to convert tap water into soda water at home. The company markets itself as one that provides an environmentally sound, healthier beverage option to companies like Coke and Pepsi.
Birnbaum said that factories, trucks, bottles and cans are unnecessary and noted that these rival companies use 100 million barrels of oil every year — an amount he said was 20 times the BP disaster that hit the Gulf of Mexico..
“[Coke and Pepsi] will have to face the reality that their business model cannot be preserved forever,” Birnbaum said. “The world is changing and we’re going to call it out.”
The article also mentioned the statistics that Coke and Pepsi use to counter dissenters like Birnbaum. It stated that Coke aims to recover about 36 percent of bottles and cans sent to market and hopes to ascend to 50 percent by 2015. Pepsi claims that a fifth of its 2010 output was sold in reusable glass and boasts that the company produced the world’s first 100 percent plant-based PET bottle made from grass, pine bark and corn husks, piloted this year with the potential for “full-scale commercialization.”
SodaStream is nevertheless daring in stressing the disadvantages of a packaged beverage model: earlier this year, the company caged and displayed 10,000 used soft-drink cans and bottles found in Johannesburg, South Africa, to bring attention to the wasteful results of the big two’s process. Coke issued a cease-and-desist order and a spokeswoman said that the products were used “in a manner contrary to [the group’s] clear commitment to recovery and recycling.”
“People don’t talk about it because they don’t realize there is an alternative,” Birnbaum said. “You don’t have to do it. You can take tap water and turn it into soda.”
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