There are so many single-serve and disposable cups going to landfills that it’s mind-boggling. While polystyrene products (best known as Styrofoam) are on a steady decline, plastic and paper cups are still widely used. And our unquenchable thirst is not doing the planet any favors. The ladies of Loliware™, a biodegradable—and edible—plant-based cup, hope to change that.
Founded by Chelsea Briganti and Leigh Ann Tucker, who met while attending Parsons The New School for Design in New York, Loliware is an innovative line of biodegradable, edible drinking cups. Yes, edible. They look like gorgeous vintage glassware, but if you’ve ever had that urge to bite into a glass (no, just me?), now you actually can (but probably wait until you’re done with the drink, first).
Briganti and Tucker told Entrepreneur magazine that they had an “Aha” moment after graduating. They entered some design competitions with their glasses (it was a Jell-O mold competition), which they eventually decided to make with agar (a seaweed) instead of gelatin, a by-product of the livestock farming industry.
While gelatin “has beautiful translucency, like glass,” Briganti explains, “it smells bad and tastes terrible.” Agar, meanwhile, holds its shape and has the benefit of being vegan. Perfecting the taste became a priority. “We were designers turned candy-makers,” she says. “We had to learn how to translate our design skills to the kitchen.” That’s where a Kickstarter campaign came in, helping Briganti and Tucker to raise more than $10,000 (along with an angel investment of $60,000), which allowed them to perfect the design and flavors of the cups.
“Loliware was born because, as designers, we wanted to have fun getting super-creative with a material, but we have a bigger vision that Loliware will replace a percentage of the plastic cups destined for the landfill,” Tucker says.
And just how many cups are we sending to landfills? According to Major Waste Disposal, “Americans toss out enough paper and plastic cups, forks and spoons every year to circle the equator 300 times,” it says on the company’s website. “The average American office worker goes through around 500 disposable cups every year.”
With those shocking facts about beverage waste (we’re not even talking about the 60 million water bottles thrown out every day), it didn’t take long for the biodegradable/edible concept that Briganti and Tucker conceived to start to buzz around the beverage industry. The competition idea intended to boost Briganti and Tucker’s design portfolios became an undeniable business opportunity.
And proof positive that companies will do better if given the tools: one of Loliware’s first major orders came for 60,000 cups from Absolut®, the vodka maker.
And the work has paid off. After experimenting, Briganti and Tucker zeroed in on the flavor that works best with the sustainable drinkware. Citrus, they say, works for most any drink, “It is incredibly versatile and goes with so many beverages, from champagne and whiskey sours to sangria,” Briganti says.
Last March, Loliware won the 2015 NEXT Accelerator Natural Products Pitch Slam held at Natural Products Expo West in Anaheim, Calif. It’s the world’s largest natural, organic and healthy products industry event and an excellent opportunity for Loliware to reach other businesses with sustainability on the mind. The Expo is not only a platform for showcasing, but a major sampling event in its own right, with more than 60,000 attendees over the four-day event; and companies pour a whole lot of beverage samples in that time.
Loliware is now ramping up production so the company can produce more of its cups in bulk. “We’ve been bootstrapping for so long, and now is the time for us to get funding to go big and experience the kind of growth we know is possible,” Briganti says.
We’ll drink to that.
Jill Ettinger is a featured writer on Women Of Green. She is also the senior editor and featured columnist on EcoSalon and sister-site Organic Authority. She is the co-director of Eat Drink Better, and editor for NaturallySavvy. Jill has been featured in The Village Voice, MTV, Reality Sandwich and Global Rhythm, as well as the anthologies Towards 2012: Perspectives on the Next Age (Tarcher/Penguin) and What Do You Believe? (Outside the Box). Jill spent more than a decade as a sales and marketing manager in the natural foods industry and regularly consults with emerging brands and organizations in creative communication, social media and marketing strategies. A focus on food, wellness, fashion, music and world cultural expressions, Jill blends the mystical and modern as she explores what our shifting food, fashion, culture and creative landscapes will look, sound and taste like in the future. For more info, visit www.jillettinger.com. And stay in touch with Jill on Twitter and Instagram.