SodaStream 04.08.11

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The SodaStream is a product with an oddly emotive pull, at least for people of a certain age. Despite the fact that the basic mechanism was invented in the early 20th century and has been marketed pretty consistently since the 1950s, it occupies a near mythical status in English consumer folklore. SodaStream – and its cheerily cheesy tag line, "Get busy with the fizzy" – is intrinsically linked to the 70s and 80s, a period endlessly picked over by nostalgia-driven TV shows. And now, despite never really having been away, it's back!

For anyone not brought up in the halcyon days of early 80s Britain, the SodaStream is a machine for making fizzy drinks. Basically you fill up a bottle of water, add some concentrated flavouring, and then use the machine to charge it full of carbon dioxide. The relaunched version explicitly attempts to tap into the nostalgic appeal of earlier models, marketing it to children of the 70s and 80s who are now capable of buying one for themselves.

SodaStream is interesting because it channels various consumer desires and fantasies, and not only those motivated by childhood nostalgia. Firstly, it's about bubbles, and bubbles have magical properties. They transform the simplest and most basic of substances – water – into something marketable. Bubbles add nothing except desire, and desire is the engine of capitalism. They fizz on the tongue, their effervescence suggesting instant refreshment. The sharp hiss that emanates from a bottle of Coke when you first open it is the most thrilling part, thoroughly eclipsing the reality of the drink itself.

SodaStream attempts to replicate that fizzy nirvana in DIY form. This creates an oddly paradoxical effect. In attempting to recreate the bubbly excitement of Coke, Fanta, Sprite and so on, it also lays bare the fact that they're really just so much carbonated sugary water.

The relaunched version attempts to hit some early 21st-century buttons to compensate for this. For a start, the drinks themselves are supposed to be healthy – kiwi and pear anyone? – and the old brand names have disappeared. No more flat, syrupy Canada Dry. Inevitably, a vaguely eco message has been tacked on too (no more aluminium cans), proving that capitalism is adept at finding ways to sell us products that claim to reduce the number of products we consume.

The new SodaStream uses design to lure us in too. The basic model – an innocuous-looking object, but sleeker and more rounded than its boxy 80s predecessor – is augmented by various limited-edition versions, including a gold one available from Harvey Nichols and another designed by Karim Rashid. It doesn't look like Rashid has exerted himself overly on this though, choosing simply to decorate the basic model with acidic-coloured lava lamp blobs and placing a cheery Karim X signature on the side.

Which leaves the nostalgia. For some people SodaStream was a super-glamorous product, representing an apogee of suburban consumer aspiration. For others – perhaps those who actually had one – it was emblematic of the kind of poor imitations that parents often tried to pass off as the real thing. But none of this really matters. The quality of the product is less important than the associations that it conjures up. Now that virtually all pop-cultural production is based on the rebranded thrills of previous generations, it makes sense that yesterday's consumer products will be sold back to us again too.

SodaStream's relaunch traces a journey from invention to reinvention. Where we were once sold household gadgets on their techno-futurist credentials, as products that would alleviate domestic drudgery, now they are sold on wistfulness for lost youth. Memories of long hot summers will supposedly induce us to believe that no kitchen is complete without a SodaStream. Pop will drink itself.

www.sodastream.co.uk

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SodaStream

 

Words

Charles Holland

quotes story

For some people SodaStream was a super-glamorous product, representing an apogee of suburban consumer aspiration. For others - perhaps those who actually had one - it was emblematic of the kind of poor imitations that parents often tried to pass off as the real thing

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