Spärkel takes on SodaStream & RTD carbonated water with promise of streamlined technology for ‘healthier, cheaper’ beverages
“The inspiration for Spärkel came in 2017, right after I purchased a SodaStream. I thought that my family and I would have a lot of fun experimenting with the machine and creating delicious drinks. We were particularly excited to try out new and healthier recipes as an alternative to sugary drinks, like soda,” Spärkel President Darreen Hatherell told FoodNavigator-USA.
“However,” he added, “I quickly became disappointed when I discovered that SodaStream could only create carbonated water and used synthesized chemicals to add flavor after carbonating. To make matters worse, SodaStream required an annoying C02 tank that must be returned to the store to refill and declines in carbonation quality as it empties.”
Disheartened by the experience, Hatherell spent two years researching and refining Spärkel, which is a counter-top carbonation system “that won’t limit people’s creative choices [to only water] with pre-packaged flavors or require the use of a bulky and inconvenient tank.”
Spärkel uses specially designed carbonator sachets made of sodium bicarbonate and citric acid that, when placed in a sealed chamber inside the appliance, generates CO2 that can carbonate “whatever ingredient or drink that they would like,” including juice, infused water and even wine, Hatherell said.
Spärkel is able to carbonate a wide range of beverages that existing systems cannot because the technology “is literally the opposite of the existing systems,” he said.
He explained: “Traditional CO2 tank-based carbonation systems jet very high-pressure CO2 gas into a low-pressure bottle. The pressure rapidly spikes and then drops – high pressure to low. When the pressure goes from high to low, bubbles ‘nucleate’ or are formed. You can see them each time you jet the gas into the bottle. If you offer the bubbles something other than water to grab on to, they build on each other (like soap bubbles), and they fizz out all over your shirt & floor. You’ve experienced this if you’ve shaken a can of Cola and then opened it – high pressure inside, low pressure outside. Bubbles shoot right out of the can.”
Spärkel, on the other hand, adds carbonation slowly – bringing up the pressure from low to high, he said.
“We increase the pressure in the bottle by introducing CO2 from the carbonator in the sealed chamber in the appliance. As the pressure increases in the bottle, the ingredients are pressure infused into the liquid, and the liquid absorbs the CO2. You never see little bubbles being created or ‘nucleating’ until you open the bottle – that’s when the pressure drops. Low pressure to high pressure in a controlled process is how we are able to carbonate any beverage and pressure infuse flavor from real ingredients into your bubbly beverage. We innovated, backwards!” he said.
Learning from the consumer backlash against plastic pods used in single-serve coffee machines, Hatherell said the sachets used in Spärkel are “minimally packaged” with less than one ounce of material. In addition, he noted, “we are working on a single-source plastic sachet wrapper that is fully recyclable,” which he said he hopes will be ready at launch.
The system is slated to launch in August 2019, but it is available for pre-order on Indiegogo.com for an early bird price of $49 with shipping. Spärkel also will offer an auto-ship option for the carbonation sachets.
A direct competitor to RTD carbonated water
Spärkel will compete directly with many of the RTD flavored carbonated waters on the market, which currently are enjoying an “explosion of popularity,” Hatherell said.
“People everywhere are seeking healthier hydration and yet still want taste. The challenge is that [many] flavored carbonated water uses synthesized chemicals to flavor the drink. People that are looking for healthier alternatives are the same people that value natural, real ingredients,” he said.
However, he explained, that using “real ingredients with RTD beverages” has been “impossible until now,” because the addition of whole fruits, vegetables or other ingredients to a carbonated can or bottle “would be a pulpy, rotten mess” by the time it was opened.
“Spärkel is a perfect fit for consumers that are seeking healthier hydration because it brings real ingredients to beverages,” he said, adding, “Now, with Spärkel, you will make that orange-infused sparkling water with a real orange.”
The system also gives consumers the convenience of not having to carry or ship heavy cans or bottles of carbonated water, he added.