Sunday, July 7, 2013

SodaStream Launch | Brassaii Restaurant & Lounge - Toronto, ON

The Event

Soda Stream Media Launch
A few weeks ago, Nhi and I were fortunate enough to be invited to the Kraft SodaStream launch in Toronto. When we received the invitation, neither of us had any idea what it was, perhaps making SodaStream the perfect candidate for a publicity event. A quick Wikipedia search revealed that 20% of all households in Sweden own SodaStream machines, but for some reason SodaStream has not received nearly the same marketing in Canada.

Brassaii Event Centre
The launch was held on the second floor of Spin, which is reserved for events. It was a great space, wide open with funky decorations perfectly in line with SodaStream's environmental theme. There were pop bottle lamps, candy trays DIY from cups and plates, and a giant inflatable globe in the middle of the room, filled with recycled pop bottles. Various SodaStream models were on display near the back. There was even a candy buffet set up along the bar, consisting of childhood favourites such as candy necklaces, sour soothers, and gummies. Overall a great vibe, playful and sophisticated all at once.

SodaStream Product Line

The Food

The bar was serving up SodaStream cocktails, from grape KoolAid gin to Crystal Light sangria, which was my personal favorite.

SodaStream White and Red Soda Stream Sangria
The event was catered by neighbouring Brassaii, and a number of hors d'oeuvres made their way around the room. Flavourful meatballs were served with tzatziki sauce. There was also a watermelon dish topped with feta, which was absolutely delicious as the feta brought out the sweetness of the watermelon. But my personal favourite had to be the tuna tartare topped with an avocado cream. The tuna was perfectly marinated and the freshness was evident. The only let down were the chicken skewers with pineapple, which had a strangely mushy texture that overwhelmed my taste buds.

Tuna Tartare and Avocado Cream
Although the launch had a great venue and good food, I was disappointed that there wasn't a product demonstration or even a speech from a SodaStream executive/representative. I would have loved to hear about the inspiration, the concept, and the company. I think the SodaStream concept is really interesting, and I was waiting all night for someone to share that enthusiasm with me.

Chicken and Pineapple Skewer
At the end of the night, we were surprised with a gift bag containing our very own SodaStream machine, start-up kit, and a bottle of lemonade syrup which was great as there is a considerable start-up cost for each machine. For avid soft-drink users, a SodaStream machine may be a good investment, but for those who indulge only occasionally, I could imagine cost as a deterrent.

Watermelon and Feta Cheese 

The Product

SodaStream Revolution
It took me several weeks to get around to actually testing out the product. Our starter kits included a SodaStream machine, a carbon dioxide canister, and a box of flavour samples. However, as I was set to fly back to Edmonton, I realized the carbon dioxide canister fell under the category of "dangerous goods" and that I'd have to leave it behind in Toronto. There are several retail outlets that sell SodaStream products (including Walmart, Bed Bath & Beyond, Canadian Tire, and Home Outfitters) but school kept me extremely busy and I kept putting off buying a new canister.

Step 1: Place Carbon Dioxide Cannister in Back
Despite the lack of product demonstration at the event, Nhi and I quickly figured out how to use the SodaStream machine on our own. It is very simple - simply snap the bottle into place, push down the top of the machine, and hold in place until the desired level of carbonation is reached (as indicated by LED lights on the front of the machine). The device does not need to be plugged in nor does it require any batteries. For ease of use, SodaStream gets major points.

Step 2: Pull Lever Forward
Step 3: Push Down Carbon Box to Desired
"Fizz" Level (LED Light)
The flavours included in the starter kit, however, were somewhat disappointing. In the few weeks after we bought the cannister, our team tried the orange-mango, pomegranate, ginger ale, cherry-cola, and Kraft's Country Style Lemonade. The fruit flavours in particular tasted very artificial. The orange-mango had a strangely sour after taste while the pomegranate had a strangely bitter one. I personally didn't mind the ginger ale, although it was noticeably different from canned ginger ale (I happened to have a can of Canada Dry to compare head-to-head). The cherry-cola did a good job of approximating the real thing, though I admit I'm not the biggest fan of cherry-cola. Our collective favourite was actually the Kraft Country Style Lemonade. It tasted exactly what store-bought sparkling lemonade would taste like and was rather refreshing and thirst-quenching on a hot Edmonton day. Looking back to the actual event, actually, it seemed that all the Kraft flavours were very well done compared to other SodaStream flavour brands.
Step 4: Remove SodaStream Flavour Mix
Step 5: Select Desired Flavour Mix
Besides the ease, variety of flavours, and versatility of the Soda Stream machine, I found the actual carbonation of the drinks very well done with the machine. It takes an average of 2-3 seconds to get your drink fully fizzed (i.e. top LED) and approximately 1-2 seconds to get your flavour in. After that, you have a litre of your favourite carbonated drink for the rest of the day. The bottle itself is also designed quite well; somehow it manages to seal in the "fizz" so much better than your average pop bottle (or maybe that's just a by-product of how freshly fizzed your drink really is).

Step 6: Add Flavour and Enjoy!
Overall, we both had a good time at the SodaStream media launch party. The venue was beautiful and everyone there had ample time to sample the variety of Soda Stream flavours and network with other media personnel. The hors d'oeuvres from Brassaii were a little bit of a mixed bag, with a few stand outs (especially the tartare!) and a few disasters (i.e. the chicken pineapple skewer). As aforementioned, we both were looking forward to hearing a SodaStream representative talk about Soda Stream's vision and concept, along with a product demonstration and some hands on drink-making, which didn't exactly pan out.

As for the machine itself, we were both fairly impressed with the product. It is easy to set up and even easier to use. There are numerous flavours to try and all at fairly reasonable prices; a full flavour bottle costs anywhere from $5-10 but can usually make up to 60L of drinks! The only downside is that the start-up cost is quite pricey. In addition, once everything is bought, the CO2 cannister, which you can simply pay the difference in gas to get refilled in Europe or the US (probably around $5-10 max), costs $35 initially and around $25 each time to get replaced as SodaStream Canada does not yet have the refill service in place. As a pop-lover myself, I could see the allure of the SodaStream machine if you don't mind the rather front-loaded costs.

Top Pick of the Night: Tuna Tartare and Avocado Cream Hors D'oeuvre 

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