Photo courtesy Post Crescent

I’ve been spending a lot of time on the road this year, and although it is sometimes difficult to be away from home, it allows me to learn more about different cultures and different approaches to everyday life. Beyond the major things like language, food and people, sometimes it’s the little things that make an impression also, and even get me thinking about innovation.

I’m currently in Europe — Lyon, France to be precise — and one of the little things here that I get quickly reminded of is the European passion for carbonated water. Inevitably, every time I am back in Europe, I order water and upon drinking get the unexpected feeling on my palate of bubbly tingly water. Oh yeah, I’m in Europe now, I have to be explicit — order water, of the non-sparkling variety. They call it “without gas” here.

Personally I prefer my carbonation in my soft drinks, or in the occasional celebratory glass of champagne, but here it seems to be making its way into other drinks too. My husband ordered his beverage of choice, iced tea, and guess what? It too was carbonated.

He said it wasn’t bad, just something that took him by surprise, and wasn’t what he was used to. Maybe if you have a preference for sparkling water, it will be something you enjoy and could catch on.

Finding something good that becomes popular takes experimental efforts like these. That is how carbonated soft drinks and champagne got their start.

Mineral waters from natural springs were popular for a long time, as they made a beverage that was considered healthy. Once it was learned that the bubbles in the water were due to carbonation and could be created artificially, drug stores began selling carbonated water with flavorings, including medicinal. This gave rise to the drug store soda fountains of old. These were so popular that eventually consumer demand led to the formation of the soft drink bottling industry.

Multitudes of innovations and patents soon followed for bottling and sealing. Methods for preventing the gas from escaping before the drink was opened were of paramount importance, and were soon solved. There were also numerous advances in manufacturing and delivery. Automated vending machines were developed, along with aluminum cans, plastic bottles, and the pop-top opening tab.

Today it seems that a lot of the innovation in soft drinks is in new flavors and packaging. However there is still room for new ways of delivery. One example is the futuristic fountain dispenser created by our local company Plexus that can dispense multitudes of different carbonated and noncarbonated drinks. If you have been to a Five Guys or to Noodles & Co. restaurant recently you have probably already seen this impressive technology in action.

For the past couple of hundred years, the carbonated drink industry has been on an impressive run. It continues to grow even today, with lots of new ideas and directions. Just imagine what could be carbonated next.

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