There is a lesson in the swift and sudden discontinuation of Keurig Kold that by many accounts was doomed from the beginning.
It is the failure of such early detection that should offer a salient warning to housewares companies that regularly confront the risk/reward proposition of how far to take the pursuit of innovation in what has become an unforgiving marketplace.
From the start Keurig Kold seemed on course to be an overpriced and over-engineered system without the same convenience advantage that Keurig leveraged during its single-serve coffee ascent.
It was the proverbial solution— and a cumbersome one at that— without a problem.
Granted, when Keurig stepped up Kold development, it was flush with an investment from Coca-Cola, which was watching all those SodaStream Super Bowl commercials. What better time to strike with a presumably better mousetrap, the foundation of Keurig’s single-serve coffee distribution and the power of the Coca-Cola brands.
The problem is six years to launch a product might as well be a lifetime in today’s housewares business climate. And Keurig didn’t anticipate SodaStream’s bubble was about to burst.
Maybe Keurig was too far along to turn back. Or maybe it just got everything wrong.
It was an easy, guilt-free call for JAB Holdings, which recently acquired Keurig Green Mountain for $14 billion, to pull the plug on Kold to focus on recharging Keurig’s coffee franchise alongside JAB’s other coffee businesses.
Even if Coca-Cola could absorb the bad bet it made on Keurig, it managed to make out OK on the JAB deal. Most housewares companies can’t expect such a bailout in the aftermath of such a boondoggle.
So what has everyone learned?
The inventive spirit of the housewares business— a common pursuit to make life better— can be a powerful force against commoditization. Credit much of the industry for striving to innovate against the headwinds of shrinking margins and other market pressures.
This also is an industry that thrives on its stability, anchored by practical necessities less prone to steep inclines and declines. That is why so much housewares product progress is measured in manageable steps and not quantum leaps. The latter can be too expensive and too risky for most.
Meat generally outsells sizzle in housewares. The industry isn’t any less special and its incremental innovation any less meaningful because of that.
Revolutionary new products, when they hit, can hit big. But Keurig Kold teaches us you can’t force feed the wrong product to a marketplace far less forgiving than it once might have been.
The price is dangerously steep today when you don’t read the market correctly. Get it right from the start, or you might not get a chance to learn from the lesson.