Coffee pods have become a staple in offices and homes around the world. Their convenience and variety make them crowd-pleasers, as they don’t require a lot of setup or cleaning and users can store multiple types at once without worrying about them going bad quickly. However, as with most single-serve products, coffee pods create a significant amount of waste, with countless little packages of plastic and coffee grounds ending up in landfills every year.
The global coffee pod market continues to grow
The global coffee pod market is a multi-billion dollar industry, with nearly $10 billion in growth expected between 2019 and 2023. Because there are so many different niches for coffee pod companies to fill, the market is highly fragmented and competitive, with numerous businesses of all sizes fighting to stand out from each other. One of the ways vendors are doing this is by offering more sustainable products. An increasing number of coffee pod companies are selling recyclable or biodegradable pods or introducing programs that allow consumers to send their used pods back to be recycled by the manufacturer. Companies are even entering the market with products specifically designed to make existing coffee machines and pods more sustainable.
Helping consumers recycle
One example of a specially designed product is the coffee pod cutter, a device that quickly and easily removes the lid from a coffee pod so that the user can compost the coffee grounds instead of sending the entire package to the landfill. While the cutter doesn’t reduce the amount of plastic being thrown away, it does allow part of the product to be reclaimed. The manufacturer, Creative Green Designs, is currently crowdfunding the product, though the cutter is also already available for sale on the company’s site.
Coffee pod companies embrace compostable materials
Another route to sustainability is to make the entire coffee pod compostable. Earlier this year, Smile Beverage Werks released its line of plant-based, certified biodegradable pods. The business sets itself apart from other coffee pod companies not only by producing compostable products, but also by the fact that the pods are completely carbon-neutral. They are compatible with Nespresso and Keurig machines, contain fair trade, fair wage, or organic coffee, and have a 12-month shelf life.
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Coffee roaster Tayst has also introduced compostable coffee pods. Its single-serve pods made from bio-resins, compressed cornstarch, and other bio-materials and are compatible with Keurig machines. The company differentiates itself partially though the mesh filter it uses in place of a typical punch hole, which it says provides “fuller flavors and smoother mouth feel.” Tayst offers its products through a customizable subscription service.
Corporate-run recycling programs reducing waste
Other coffee pod companies may not have started with sustainability in mind, but have moved to make their products better for the environment. Nespresso has been working to improve the recyclability of its capsules for a few years now, launching its own recycling services and working with local governments to help recycle the pods, which can be difficult for facilities to process. It has also changed the type of aluminum the company uses in its products, and has been encouraging other coffee pod companies to join its recycling program.
Gaviña & Sons has also set up a recycling program in partnership with international recycling company TerraCycle. The company announced last month that it was launching an initiative for customers to send their used coffee pods to be recycled in exchange for points that can be spend on charitable donations and gifts. Users sign up for the program online and are sent a prepaid shipping label with which to return their pods. TerraCycle cleans the products, separates them based on material, and uses them in new recycled products, while the coffee grounds are sent away to be composted.
Municipal recycling and composting facilities also benefit from manufacturer-run programs that repurpose used coffee pods. These pods can present a major strain on facility resources, which are frequently not equipped to handle even products marketed as compostable. While coffee pods made from biodegradable plastics may break down over time, they often have individual components that need to be separated from the rest of the pod before it can be composted, which must be done by hand.
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It’s also important to remember that not all recycling facilities are the same – some are better equipped to handle certain materials or processes than others. Because of this, products marketed as 100% compostable or recyclable may actually create more of a problem for local facilities, as consumers who are trying to be environmentally conscious end up sending trash to a system that can’t handle it. By running or taking part in private recycling programs, coffee pod companies can ensure that the sustainable materials in their products are actually being recycled and reused properly, rather than placing strain on local facilities.
An alternative to single-use coffee pods
Another way to avoid this problem – or a challenge to overcome, depending on one’s perspective – is the reusable coffee pod. Rather than creating single-use pods from biodegradable materials, some vendors are producing multi-use cups that customers can fill with the coffee or other beverage of their choice, resulting in fewer pods thrown into the trash. Of course, there is lower demand for this product since consumers don’t need to use a new one every time they make a cup of coffee, and so doesn’t suit some manufacturers’ business models. From the consumer perspective, it may require an extra step before their drink is ready, but it also gives them greater control over the type and quality of the coffee they get out of their Keurig or Nespresso machine. For those vendors offering single-use coffee pods, the right materials and marketing are needed to convince environmentally conscious customers that their products are the best choice in terms of both quality and sustainability.
Technavio’s market research report offers insights such as:
- CAGR of the market during the forecast period 2019-2023
- Detailed information on factors that will accelerate the growth of the coffee pods market during the next five years
- Precise estimation of the global coffee pods market size and its contribution to the parent market
- Accurate predictions on upcoming trends and changes in consumer behavior
- The growth of the coffee pods industry across the Americas, APAC and EMEA
- A thorough analysis of the market’s competitive landscape and detailed information on several vendors
- Comprehensive details on factors that will challenge the growth of coffee pod companies