Israeli Soda Company Starts a Sizzle with Coca-Cola

Coca-Cola is suing Israel-based SodaStream for using its bottles in their environmental ads highlighting plastic bottles as waste.

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Chana Ya'ar,

Recycling center in Costa Rica
Recycling center in Costa Rica

Coca-Cola is suing Israel-based SodaStream International for using its containers in environmental advertising projects that highlight plastic bottles as waste.

The company is trying to make the point that it is better for the environment to use its product because no waste is involved. SodaStream produces a device that forces carbon dioxide gas (stored under pressure in a cylinder) into water, making it fizzy. The product includes a machine, a carbon dioxide cylinder, and one or more reusable beverage bottles (suitable for pressurizing). The bottle, filled with water, is threaded onto the machine, and with a button push or two, compressed CO2 from the cylinder is injected, creating carbonated water. 

With typical Israeli chutzpah, the company -- 228 time smaller than Coke -- is fighting back against the lawsuit and the larger company's pressure by planting its displays squarely in the face of its competition. SodaStream deliberately set up a huge recycling cage packed with cans and bottles collected from landfills directly across from Coca-Cola's Atlanta headquarters, in fact.

That came in response to a lawyer's letter dated June 22 from the massive soft drink's attorney threatening it would take legal action and seek an injunction against the exponentially smaller company. It was not the first. A previous warning, dated June 8, demanded the company remove its display at O.R. Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg and all others as well, alleging trademark infringement and a breach of local advertising standards.

The sign on SodaStream's display in New York reads “1 family, 5 years, 10,657 bottles and cans” with a sign next to the cage, reading, “one bottle can replace this.”

The concept itself, of course, is not new.

Any Baby Boomer can remember when the first capsules came out that could be inserted into the squirt mechanism screwed into the metal “seltzer bottle” into which one poured tap water. They looked a little like the bombs that attached to the B-52 bombers flown by the U.S. Air Force, right?

SodaStream, however, has upgraded the concept a little for the 21st century, made it pretty, and taken it to 30 countries around the world, where it is now displaying its cages in such places as South Africa, Belgium, France, the UK, and the U.S.

And while Coca-Cola fights, SodaStream CEO Daniel Birnbaum watches as the price of his company's shares on the Nasdaq stock exchange climbs higher and higher.

Birnbaum argues that Coca-Cola sold the product, and the sale terminates the company's rights. “Besides, we collected the bottles from the garbage,” he said. “If the cans in the garbage are yours, go and collect them from all over the world..."That's a billion bottles a day being thrown out. Coca-Cola is the main global contributor of cans and bottles in the garbage. We find it incredulous that Coke is claiming ownership of its garbage. As for the claim that the display is slanderous, we're merely telling the truth, and we're not specifically targeting them. It's a shame, but the truth hurts."