Innovations That Matter

7 Purpose-Driven Innovations Involving Coffee

Innovation Snapshot

With #internationalcoffeeday in mind, here's a curated list of coffee-based solutions aimed at creating a better future for coffee makers and coffee drinkers alike.

This #internationalcoffeeday, held annually on the 1st October, will be centred around the issues posed to the industry by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The day marks the launch of a campaign to help those at every step of the supply chain, from the coffee farmers themselves to young baristas in big cities. Issues such as insecure coffee prices, a lack of youth investment in coffee farming and sexism all, according to the website, “pose a serious threat to the livelihoods of coffee farmers today, but also a dramatic risk to the future of coffee tomorrow”.

The “Coffee’s Next Generation” programme will fund and support a selected number of young entrepreneurs in the coffee industry, in the aim of securing a future that is sustainable, innovative and healthy. In honour of this, we have curated seven coffee innovations aiming at securing a similar purpose and outcome.

Photo source: TÔMTEX

1. LEATHER ALTERNATIVE MADE FROM WASTE SEAFOOD SHELLS AND COFFEE GROUNDS

The New York-based Vietnamese designer Uyen Tran developed a leather alternative made from food waste. The flexible bio-material, named Tômtex, is durable while remaining soft enough to be hand-stitched or machine-sewn. It can also be embossed with a variety of patterns to replicate animal leathers.

The designer works with a supplier in Vietnam, who gathers waste shrimp, crab and lobster shells as well as fish scales, to extract a biopolymer called chitin from them. This is then combined with coffee waste from Tran’s own kitchen and from local cafes. Natural pigments such as charcoal, coffee and ochre to create a variety of colour options. After mixing all the ingredients, the bio-material can be poured into the mould where it is air-dried at room temperature for two days. Unlike most textile practices, no heat is required during the process.

Read more about Tômtex.

Photo source: Priestmangoode

2. ECO-FRIENDLY AEROPLANE TRAYS MADE FROM COFFEE GROUNDS

UK-based PriestmanGoode design studio created eco-friendly replacements for the trays and food containers used on commercial flights. The designers used food waste and other biodegradable material to replace plastic. For instance, the reusable tray is a mixture of coffee grounds and husks.

Jo Rowan, Associate Strategy Director at PriestmanGoode says design offers a way to “look at how we can make things better.” That can develop ways to “minimise resources and waste” and “encourage change in consumer behaviour”.

Read more about the aeroplane trays.

Photo source: Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

3. AN APP FOR TRACING COFFEE BEANS AND THANKING FARMERS

The Thank My Farmer app connects coffee drinkers with the farmers who grow and pick the beans for their beverage. The app was created by the Swiss company Farmer Connect to increase the transparency of bean origins and link coffee lovers with farmers.  

The Thank My Farmer app aims to improve the livelihoods of small farmers and bolster transparency and quality for consumers. A lot of data is already collected along the supply chain from farmer to coffee drinker. But each player in the chain usually only collects data on a small portion of the journey. That data is stored separately and is difficult to access.

Farmer Connect is working on technology that will allow coffee drinkers to support the communities where their favourite beans are grown. 

Read more about Thank My Farmer.

Photo source: parkinscents.com

4. CAMPAIGN USES COFFEE TO HIGHLIGHT WARNING SIGNS OF PARKINSON’S DISEASE

Using cartoon characters called Parkinscents, a campaign to improve early detection of Parkinson’s disease launched nationwide in the United States last year. The public health ad campaign drew attention to one of the first potential indicators of Parkinson’s disease — loss of smell. Coffee’s aroma is a common scent that a sufferer of Parkinson’s may lose the ability to smell. 

Created by the McCann Health New York agency, the Parkinscents featured on coffee cup sleeves, lids, coasters and posters in coffee shops across the United States. The printed materials directed people to the campaign’s website for more detailed information about the disease. 

Read more about the campaign.

Photo source: Air New Zealand

5. AIRLINE EXPERIMENTS WITH USING EDIBLE COFFEE CUPS

Air New Zealand trialled edible biscotti coffee cups made by Twiice, a New Zealand based, family-run business. According to the airline, it serves more than eight million cups of coffee a year and wants to reduce the amount of waste sent to landfills.

The vanilla-flavoured cups were made from wheat flour, sugar, egg, vanilla essence and a natural vanilla flavour, and can be eaten like a normal biscuit once the passenger has finished their coffee. They were leakproof and stayed crisp for as long as it takes to drink the coffee or longer.

Read more about the edible biscotti coffee cups.

Photo source: Unsplash by Nathan Dumlao

6. A BARISTA TRAINING COURSE FOR LONDON’S HOMELESS

Change Please, the social enterprise that works to provide an income for homeless people, ran an initiative last year that trained and employed some homeless people in London as baristas. Change Please estimated that the average Londoner purchased two cups of coffee per day. To meet that demand, the social enterprise trained the homeless as baristas. The programme was taught by professional baristas.

Additionally, the Change Please coffee blend gained popularity amongst big supermarkets after winning a 2017 taste award. The coffee is available for purchase at Sainsbury’s stores.

Read more about Change Please.

Photo source: PulPac

7. PRODUCTION METHOD REPLACES SINGLE-USE PLASTIC COFFEE PODS

PulPac claims to have developed the world’s first production method for replacing all types of single-use plastic containers. Not only are the products cheaper than their single-use plastic counterparts, but they are also both biodegradable and compostable. The technology can be used to make everything from coffee pods to salad bowls and hangars

The system dry-moulds cellulose pulp into almost any shape in less than a second. Packages intended to hold dry goods can be made of cellulose-only, which will dissolve in water in minutes. For containers that hold liquids, the cellulose can be modified to break down more slowly.

Read more about PulPac’s production method.

Written and Curated By: Holly Hamilton