Soon, new Keurig brewers will only take Keurig-approved K-cups.
As early as this fall, Keurig’s next generation of coffee machines will prevent any coffee not licensed by Keurig from brewing in the machine. Locking down coffee seems both trifling and difficult to accomplish—no one has yet described how Keurig can differentiate its own pods enough so that its machines would honor those pods and only those pods.
The coffee pod market is not a small one, and only continues to grow. Green Mountain, the parent company of Keurig, had $3.9 billion in net sales in 2012, $2.7 billion of which was earned from its sale of proprietary coffee pods, or K-cups.
The effort to lock down the business surrounding its K-cup brewers would go a long way toward protecting the company’s profits, and could even increase them by reining in competing third parties.
Security can be as complex or as simple as a user wants, but it does have limitations: size and cost. It’s easy to imagine how, for instance, a credit card with a smart chip works in its own ecosystem. But how can something as small, cheap, and disposable as a coffee pod be protected? And even if it can, how strong could that protection be without raising the cost significantly?