Coffee aficionados and those involved in the business are well aware that single serve K-Cups, and the Keurig® machine, have made a huge impact on the coffee market.
K-Cups are the fastest growing segment of the coffee market — reportedly now in 6 million households — but Whole Foods has refused to sell the single-serve products because they don't meet the company's environmental standards.
Last year, West Hartford residents Ted Fisher and Brian Whitney launched Brioni's Healthy Morning Blend, a fiber-infused high-end coffee that is already in more than 700 stores. The coffee was recognized as an "Editor's Pick" for best new product launch by Progressive Grocer.
However, the business owners realized that for continued success, the Glastonbury-based Brioni's needed to offer a K-Cup version of the coffee. But they hated the impact that most K-Cups were having on the environment.
"We calculated that discarded K-Cups would fill at least five Empire State Buildings per year. They would more than fill the entire University of Michigan stadium — the biggest football stadium. They're hugely impactful on the environment," Fisher said.
"I thought, there's got to be a better mousetrap," said Fisher, who possesses a unique combination of engineering talent and marketing aptitude.
Now, the pair has developed the Green Cup, a product that not only meets Whole Foods' high standards, but also qualifies as eco-friendly under the Federal Trade Commission's brand new standards outlined in the "Green Guides" just released on Oct. 1.
Nationally, Whole Foods chose the Green Cup from among numerous other submitted products as the "single-serve product of choice," Fisher said.
The Green Cup coffee pod adapter, which is BPA-free, can be used for at least 2,000 cups of coffee after which it will begin to lose its shape. It's then completely recyclable. The coffee pods made by Brioni's for use in the adapter are compostable and completely biodegradable. In addition, Green Cups are manufactured in Connecticut, keeping jobs in the state.
"It's innovation in a hyper-competitive market," said Whitney. It sounds like a win-win for all.
Brioni's and Whole Foods hope that customers will soon agree that "Tear it. Roll it. Load it. Brew it," will be the method of choice for single serve coffee consumers.
Traditional K-Cups epitomize simplicity: Insert in the machine, press down the top, push a button, and voila — a fresh cup of coffee.
But in addition to create vast amounts of environmentally unfriendly trash, they're also expensive. "When you break it down, you're paying about $55/pound for coffee by using a K-Cup machine. Even with the highest quality beans, you'd maybe pay $30/pound," Fisher said.
It takes slightly more effort to use the Green Cup adapter (see YouTube video), but Fisher's unique design is "engineered so all of the moisture is absorbed by the pod" and keeps the device dry after a cup is brewed so it doesn't even need to be washed. It also distributes the coffee through the entire pod. "It creates the environment to extract the perfect cup of coffee," Fisher said.
Whitney said the coffee is also so good because of the quality of Brioni's beans. "We use ultra-premium beans, striving for the top three percent of all coffee beans," he said.
They will also be sold, on average, for about two-thirds the price of a K-Cup.
And Whole Foods, which Fisher estimated was losing out on $50 million of business because they didn't sell K-Cups, now has a product that meets the company's standards.
“Caring for our environment is a core value for Whole Foods Market,” said Drew McLachlan, Local Forager at the West Hartford location. “Compostable coffee pods are a smart environmental choice for our customers, while the Green Cup adapter is reusable for hundreds of cups of coffee and is then recyclable.”
The Green Cup starter kit will be sold at local Whole Foods stores for $12.99. The package includes two adapters and 12 pods. Replenishment packs have 18 pods, and are initially available in Brioni’s Healthy Morning Blend, Breakfast Blend, all-natural Hazelnut, and Brioni’s Decaf varieties.
Brioni's will hold a ribbon-cutting ceremony at Whole Foods on Raymond Rd. in West Hartford at 4 p.m. on Nov. 1. A second launch will take place at the Glastonbury Whole Foods at 55 Welles St. at 4 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 2. Live product demonstrations will be available for four days following the launch at both stores.