The most novel option for single-serve, single-use beverage packaging may be Smart Cups, from a “sustainability-driven technology company whose mission is to provide a mindful path forward for the beverage industry and beyond.”
Smart Cups are supplied dry printed with ingredients on the cup interior, all consumers do is add water prior to use.
Smart Cups’ proprietary technology earned Special Mention in TIME Magazine's 2021 Best Inventions. The publication recognized the ingenious utility of single-serve, ingredient-printed plastic cups.
Going waterless eliminates shipping a readily available resource throughout the US and greatly reduces the environment footprint. A Smart Cup weighs only a fraction that of a bottled drink — and 70% of PET beverage bottles are not recycled after use. Canned sodas are no match for the cups, either — The Time article notes that a truck carrying 96,000 cans of soda could hold 1.2 million Smart Cups printed with the same product — potentially cutting carbon emissions 40-fold.
This month the visionary startup announced a deal with ingredient innovator International Flavors & Fragrances (IFF) that opens new options. The Smart Cups Technology platform, which is based on the printing platform developed through IFF's acquisition of The Additive Advantage in 2019, can be further expanded.
Chris Kanik, Smart Cups’ CEO/Founder, is thrilled with the arrangement. “We don’t want to spoil anything, but with this exciting new collaboration, we’re looking forward to creating different products that appeal to the masses, especially those with eco-forward goals, while helping them reduce their carbon footprint.”
The first of those will be in the health and wellness space.
“This collaboration will also help us enhance our existing products, Energy Drinks and Refreshers, to bring more enhanced and tastier beverages to our customers,” Kanik points out.
IFF sees advantages as well.
"IFF has always been at the forefront of innovative technology,” says Gregory Yep, executive vice president, chief global scientific & sustainability officer, IFF. “By gaining exclusive access to Smart Cups' manufacturing technology and this collaboration, we will focus on the development of new innovative print products that will help lead the future of sustainability, manufacturing, and enable new product formats for consumer packaged goods (CPG) companies. This collaboration highlights our continuing R&D tech expansion as well as our commitment to sustainability."
New packaging, machinery, and markets that include pharmaceuticals.
As reported last March, the cups supplied by Fabri-Kal are made of polylactic acid (PLA), a bioplastic, but those will soon be joined by other sustainable options, according to Kanik. “We will also be rolling out ingredient-printed cups made of paper, recycled paper, bagasse, edible and biodegradable materials.”
There will also be improvements in the production operations.
“This fall, we will introduce an upgraded printing machine that allows Smart Cups to print on the sidewalls of containers, increasing production tenfold by printing on 16 cups per second,” Kanik discloses. “The new machine is also allowing the expanded use of Smart Cups Technology, with broad implications for a myriad of industries, including pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, cleaning supplies, and more.”
It will also increase the company’s appeal to larger CPG brands.
“This new printing manufacturing technology, which has taken more than three years to engineer, will allow us to commercialize at an enterprise scale, as well as print more complex formulas and taste profiles,” Kanik tells us. “We are currently working on projects for several Fortune 500 CPG companies — taking existing brands/products and converting to Smart Cups Technology. We have exciting things in the pipeline, with a goal to gain global adoption within three to five years.”
See also 7 Things to Know About the Remarkable Smart Cups, published January 2020.