Whirlpool and AB InBev team up on hot-and-cold drink machine
SAO PAULO May 19 (Reuters) - Whirlpool Corp and Anheuser-Busch InBev on Tuesday started selling a countertop appliance that makes soda, juice and coffee with single-serve capsules, marking the start of a joint venture worth more than $70 million.
The B.blend machine, designed by the world's No. 1 appliance maker and serving non-alcoholic beverages from the world's biggest brewer, is a new entry in the market for capsule-based drink machines, which are expanding from coffee to a range of soft drinks.
Last year, the Coca-Cola Co invested an initial $1.25 billion in Keurig Green Mountain Inc as part of a plan to sell its soft drinks via a new machine. The Keurig Cold is expected to challenge Israeli market leader SodaStream International Ltd this year.
B.blend aims to break into the market as the world's first all-in-one machine offering single servings of hot, cold and carbonated drinks in the home, according to Fernando Yunes, vice president for new business at Whirlpool Latin America.
"There are rivals that make coffee or soft drinks, but nothing like this," Yunes said at an event in Sao Paulo, where sales began on Tuesday.
Executives said there are plans to expand sales to the rest of Brazil and internationally, depending on demand.
The first run of 500 B.blend machines, aimed at early adopters who want a role in designing new drinks, will cost about 3,500 reais ($1,150). Additional capsules go for between 1.50 reais and 4.50 reais.
Whirlpool has spent four years developing the device, which was thought up by a young Brazilian trainee. AB InBev's local unit AmBev SA is investing more than 100 million reais for a 50 percent stake in the B.blend joint venture.
($1 = 3.03 Brazilian reais) (Reporting by Brad Haynes; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)
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