The grocery store beverage aisle is filled with a seemingly endless variety of energy drinks, sodas, and sodas. You might think these drinks have little in common. But aside from a small fraction of compounds that give each its unique taste, smell, color and texture, about 95% of every drink is just… water.
Taking this idea, Silicon Valley startup Cana has built a beverage machine called Cana One that can create and customize almost any cold drink just by playing with that small percentage of compounds. Using the machine’s built-in touchscreen, you can choose from a variety of energy drinks, seltzers, sodas, and even cocktails. You can also adjust flavors and sugar, caffeine and alcohol levels and add nutrients. Press a button and the machine will pour your drink.
This isn’t just another beverage machine in a fairly saturated market, Cana says. The company calls its device a molecular drink printer because it essentially recreates drinks from scratch.
“It takes individual compounds — functional compounds, flavor compounds, base mixtures — and then recreates things on the fly,” said Cana CEO Bharat Vasan. “This is something that I think is meant to be much more personal, and it’s meant to be like an infinite aisle of drinks at your counter. And that’s very, very different than anything else he can do on the planet today.”
Third party brands can feature their drinks on Cana One. And while the company is in talks with some big brands as well as smaller ones, the focus is primarily on allowing content creators to make and promote their own drinks. Along with influencers and artists, fitness instructors could make a post-workout drink, for example.
“Think of it as the democratization of brands, so it’s not just big brands on the platform,” Vasan said.
The idea is not only to make the consumption and customization of beverages more convenient for customers, but also to reduce the negative impact of the beverage industry on the planet. About 543 million tons of CO2 are produced by the industry each year, according to Cana. In addition, about 78 million tons of plastic are produced annually to make packaging, according to the World Economic Forum, and much of it ends up in landfills or oceans. Beyond that, it takes hundreds of years for plastic to decompose.
Instead of relying on factories to produce and distribute drinks around the world, the idea behind Cana One is to take the water you already have in your home and introduce those unique flavors and ingredients that make up your favorite drink . A cartridge inside the machine dispenses these ingredients in the right amounts to create thousands of drink variations.
The Cana One costs $900. Cartridges last about a month and new ones will be automatically sent to you for free. Customers pay by drink, ranging from about 10 cents to $5 per drink. The exact price is up to the brands to decide.
Cana debuted its soda machine last March and is preparing to ship the device later this year. The company also partnered with Patrick Stewart, of Star Trek fame, who now serves as a brand ambassador.
“We think this product is the closest thing to a Star Trek replica,” Vasan said. “I felt like he was the right ambassador and the right person on a mission for the company to work with to tell the story.”
Check out the video above to learn more about how the Cana team recreates popular drinks at the molecular level and to see me create and taste my own custom drinks.