Advances in technology have improved all aspects of the soft drink industry. For example, advances in additives such as sugarless sweeteners, caffeine free products, and new flavorings have enabled the industry to provide products that meet changing customer tastes and preferences. Computerized manufacturing technologies have contributed to higher efficiency and quality in bottling operations. Computerized systems can now be used to measure key aspects of beverage production such as syrup usage, Brix count (per cent sugar), and beverage carbonation (Sawinski, 1995:552-553). Advances in logistics and information technology are helping companies enjoy better inventory control, faster truck check-in and check-out, better stock rotation at the warehouse, and eliminate truckload errors (Sawinski, 1995:552-553).
Technological advances have also helped the sales end of the business. The so-called "smart" vending machines use electronic components to track sales patterns, stocks, and equipment breakdowns. When equipped with wireless communications software, these machines can also automatically reorder stock, eliminating the need for manual stock checks. Faster fountain dispensers are also being developed to better serve customers on the go. Another innovation that could revolutionize the business is the self-chilling can developed by The Joseph Company (Dawson, 97:74-78). The technology for this product involves mounting a small aerosol can filled with pressurized liquid refrigerant upside down in a 500-ml beverage can, leaving room for 330 ml of beverage. The aerosol valve head and the activator button is located at the bottom of the can. When the activator button is pushed, the liquid refrigerant draws heat from the warm beverage and escapes out as gas through the valve in the can's base. In the process, the temperature of the beverage drops by 30°F in 120 seconds. This product would eliminate the need for refrigeration and is slated for commercial introduction in the last quarter of 1997. Initially targeted to the high-convenience sector of the U.S. market, the self-chilling can could eventually help soft drink companies overcome refrigeration problems faced in emerging country markets.
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