There seem to be two leading competitors in the single-cup-coffee-maker war that has been raging for the past several years. Keurig, on the one hand, uses a system that has a wide variety and that allows people to make their own K-cups. Tassimo, on the other hand also has a wide variety (see photos below) and employs barcodes to identify how much hot water to run through the system, from espressos to giant-sized cupfuls of coffee.
About two years ago, Ms. Eclectic bought a Tassimo. I don't think the coffee from our Tassimo is quite as good as the coffee we used to make. But it's good (better than adequate) and the ability to decide what kind of coffee we want, each time we make a cup, is great. We have a HUGE inventory of Tassimo disks, and part of the fun of having coffee (or tea) each morning is deciding, "Hmm. What'll I have today?" Here are some of the disks we have:
"But wait! There's more!"
"But wait! There's even more!"
No more photos, but yes, we have tonnes more on other shelves.
Last month when I was in Michigan, I noticed that the Walmarts and JCPennys I visited carried only Keurig-related products. They had no Tassimo machines or disks. They also carried non-Keurig machines that use Keurig K-cups. And I see that this week's advertising for Canadian Tire features only those machines which use K-cups. I have begun to wonder. Is this a duopoly battle in which one rival will emerge victorious? Or is this a market in which the two can survive?
At first I thought of the VHS-Betamax war. In that war, one technology had to emerge as the victor because people rented, borrowed, and exchanged videotapes so often. And there are some similarities: Tassimo, like Sony and Betamax, has been less aggressive (to put it mildly) about licensing their technology for the makers of other coffee machines. I think Sony learned their lesson in the videotape wars and was a bit more open in licensing BluRay technology in the HD video disk wars.
Of course the Coke and Pepsi rivalry came to mind, too. This is a type of competition that can support two or more major rivals, apparently ad infinitum. People have different tastes and different loyalties, and there is no reason there cannot be more than one (or two or three or more) successful firms in this market. But this market is not like the Tassimo-Keurig war because soft drinks do not require consumers to purchase machinery with different technologies.
Maybe the best analogy is the razor war: Gillette vs. Schick. There's a hardware component and a replaceable component, and nothing is interchangeable between the brands. Both survive, however, because there is no requirement of compatibility between different users. People don't rent or borrow or exchange razor blades. Similarly, I expect there is little exchange between customers of the Keurig or Tassimo systems.
Is the battle for shelf space and consumer adoption in the single-cup-coffee-maker business being won by Keurig? It looks that way, judging from what I have seen in the US and judging from the number of people I know who have bought Keurig machines lately. But in our area, Tassimo still seems at least as strong and popular as Keurig.
But over time, Tassimo might well fade unless they do several things:
- license other brandnames to manufacture and distribute Tassimo-compatible machines.
- develop methods for people to fill their own disks with their own coffee blends.
- Aggressively seek even more licensing with additional major coffee brands.
- And this one is minor but a constant annoyance: print the type of coffee on the top of each box. In the second photo above, you can see that I have written the name of what is inside on the top of the box. Doing so is a nuisance that could be readily solved by printing the name there as the boxes are printed and assembled.