For many business owners, coffee serves as fuel for their entrepreneurial engine. Praveen Varshney, an EO Vancouver member and co-founder of G-KUP, is capitalizing on the caffeine craze and helping the environment through the introduction of eco-friendly coffee pods.
1. What inspired you to create the world’s first wholly biodegradable coffee pod?
PV: “I’m always looking for new ways to innovate. With the success of Keurig, I saw an opportunity to create 100%-compostable coffee pods that taste great and help the planet.”
2. How did you get your foot in the door of this competitive industry?
PV: “When Keurig’s K-Cup patent expired in 2012, the floodgates opened for companies to get in on the action. Suddenly, roasters who may not have had single-serve options began to put their beans in coffee pods without having to go through Keurig. We saw an opportunity in packaging the product in a smarter way.”
3. Why do you think the coffee pod market is so lucrative?
PV: “It’s all about convenience. People went from spending 15 minutes making coffee to pushing a button that brewed their favorite café’s roast in 30 seconds, at home no less. We all have busy schedules, so that’s a sizeable amount of time and money saved each week by this product.”
4. Can traditional coffee pods be recycled?
PV: “Parts of them can be, but it’s notoriously difficult. It would involve peeling off the tinfoil lid to recycle, ripping out the filter, emptying the coffee to compost and then throwing the plastic shell into the garbage. By the time people have done that, they’re not saving any time or enjoying the convenience.”
5. Don’t partially biodegradable coffee pods already solve the problem?
PV: “Virtually no composters will take anything less than a 100%-compostable product into their organics waste stream and risk contamination. So, these end up in the trash, too.”
6. Are these plastic coffee pods really damaging the environment?
PV: “Absolutely. In 2014, it was estimated that almost one billion pounds of K-Cups ended up in landfills, and 60 billion pods have gone to landfills to date. That’s enough to circle the world eleven times!”
7. How does your product solve this problem without adding any extra hassle?
PV: “G-KUP can be thrown into a green bin organics recycling program or backyard compost pile after use, and it will turn into soil in less than 90 days. No dismantling or additional steps are required!”
8. What motivated you to introduce such an innovative product into market?
PV: “My co-founder, Darren Footz, and I wanted to do something amazing for the planet and our kids’ futures, while also building an exciting new packaging company.”
9. How do you plan to make a dent in an already popular industry?
PV: “With the help of the Composites Research Network at the University of British Columbia, we’re commercializing the G-KUP and hoping to break into the massive single-serve coffee industry with a solid, well-researched product.”
10. Can this technology be applied to other types of packaging?
PV: “Definitely! We’ve already begun applying this same technology to develop eco-friendly packaging for other products like ketchup, peanut butter, jam and margarine.”