File picture: Tim Wimborne

Jerusalem - From app downloads to album streams, it’s an understatement to say that access to real-time data has been useful to the businesses producing those digital services. But what if your product is much more analog, such as beer or soda?

WeissBeerger, an Israeli startup founded in 2009, has provided top global breweries with the equipment, software and data analysis to monitor in real-time the quantity, quality and brand of beer being served in bars. Through a partnership announced Thursday with Hoshizaki Electric’s beverage dispenser company Lancer, WeissBeerger is now expanding with a new product that monitors the valves on beverage dispensers to include soft drinks and other non-alcoholic drinks in addition to beer.

Coca-Cola Bottling began testing the soft drink system at Hardee’s and Carl’s stores across the US in May. A small box with a wireless transmitter fits on the back of dispenser fountains to collect and relay data about how many cups of each brand are consumed, where and when. The information shows up on a dashboard at beverage manufacturer and retailer headquarters, where executives can view data on their computers or mobile phones as it comes in.

A team of in-house data analysts at WeissBeerger also stand by to solve more complex business challenges such as understanding the impact of a major international soccer game on drinking habits in European bars. For example, during the Euro 2016 soccer championships, WeissBeerger noted a significant consumption peak five minutes before a tournament, with clear implications for advertising.

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The non-alcoholic beverage product gives WeissBeerger, already a player in the $688 billion global beer market, entrance into the even larger soft drink industry that global research and consulting firm Frost & Sullivan forecast will reach nearly $945 billion by 2020.

Companies like Coca-Cola, the world’s largest non-alcoholic beverage company, face increasing competition amid constantly changing consumer preferences, a February 16 Frost & Sullivan report said. A technology that can capture consumer attitudes and behaviours would be like “the holy grail,” for the industry, said Christopher Shanahan, the firm’s global program manager for agriculture and nutrition.

Such a product would not only help optimise production for manufacturers, it would decrease “the probability of adverse effects from product failure,” as companies and retailers would be able to see quickly that a certain flavour or drink wasn’t catching on, he said. The main challenge will be proving financial benefit, Shanahan added.

Since its founding, WeissBeerger has raised $8.5 million from investors including Alphabet chairman Eric Schmidt’s Innovation Endeavours and plans to retrofit thousands of the 500 000 Lancer machines currently in the US market with its equipment. “We are already seeing significant demand from major retailers and beverage manufacturers in the US, Europe and Australia,” Sobel said.

Getting veteran breweries to embrace new technology wasn’t easy at first, said WeissBeerger’s CEO Omer Agiv. A large brewery “told me this worked for them for 600 years,” he said. Now, Sobel said, “companies are embracing our technology as they realise the power of big data and Internet of Things to grow their business.”