Campus - 25.05.2022 - 00:00 

kooky: Innovative reusable cup system for take-away drinks

In mid April, oblong boxes with green accents from the company “kooky” appeared on the HSG campus. These stations are facilitating the waste-free consumption of take-away drinks. From student reporter Adria Pop.
Source: HSG Newsroom

25 May 2022. By scanning your reusable cup with the app and then placing it in one of the “kooky boxes”, your app wallet is automatically credited with the deposit. Payout to your bank account is possible at any time. With the help of partners such as Brezelkönig and SBB, the system for returning reusable cups has already been established throughout Switzerland in cities such as Basel and Zurich. To date, more than 1,750 kg CO₂ and more than 100,000 disposable cups have been saved.

Sustainability and waste-free consumption

The central focus of this project, which was initiated by the student initiative ChangeHub, was tackling the wasteful use of resources associated with the production and consumption of single-use cups. Co-founder Torge Barkholtz explains that, while there were sustainable alternatives prior to kooky, these saw limited success among consumers. Until now, the demand from our mobile society for take-away products while on the go has not been met by analogue systems, Barkholtz continues. “Not everyone brings a cup with them from home”, he explains.

Reusable cup system for take-away drinks

Kooky has taken on the supply, collection and cleaning of the cups. All this is made possible by a service charge, in addition to a charge of ten per cent for every deposit payout. The company is operating within the “micro-margin” and “high-volume” sector. In order to stay profitable, kooky is relying on digitalisation to optimise personnel-intensive processes, such as emptying the kooky boxes. Owing to the lack of experience in this little-explored market, talented employees and learning opportunities are all the more important to the company. While the market for these types of service is still young, it is not free from competition. However, as a company, kooky does not shy away from its competitors. For the co-founders, models that avoid single-use systems are worth supporting. “Our strength lies in our offering a return infrastructure. We would also like to integrate the return of competitor products using inclusive technology”, Barkholtz explains. With this is mind, kooky sees its competitors both as potential customers and strategic partners.

Kooky is in the development phase

Currently, the company is in the development phase. In the near future, the app will offer additional functions alongside scanning the cups. Users will be able to use the balance of their deposits inside the app for a wide range of purposes. In future, for example, users will have the option of using their balance to pay for their next drink. Kooky’s most recent web app makes it easier for consumers to use the reusable cups. Currently, all the user has to do is scan the QR code on the cup and provide their phone number on the first use. Users need only download the app if they want to withdraw their balance or use additional app features.

The NOAH conference also featured a demonstration of the concept at the Circle in Zurich, which has impressed investors once again. Unlike acquiring partners such as coop and ViCAFE, gaining end customers is a little more complicated. Barkholtz explains that, alongside the public sector, kooky is also focused on higher education institutions and B2B partners. Since explaining the concept to individual customers inside a café would be too time-consuming, raising awareness for the concept among potential users is a challenge. To ensure that the company can compete with conventional single-use cups, it continues to expand its network of kooky boxes and work on attractive designs for its products. Kooky is also planning to release reusable bowls alongside the cups in the near future. Barkholtz explains that the grey cups will soon be available in a variety of designs. Kooky is convinced that variety is an important part of today’s society. This variety is expressed both through design and through out-of-home marketing carried out by its partners: “Our partners and key consumers want their brands on our cups so that they can advertise their products in a personalized way.”

Going forward, the company is focusing on city centres within the DACH region. However, expansion outside of Europe has not been ruled out. The goal is to win large cities as partners in order to establish kooky as a sustainable return infrastructure, so that, in future, it is easier for consumers to increase their contribution to protecting the environment.

Adria Pop is in the fourth semester of a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration.