Changing consumer behaviour is a significant challenge - we are creatures of habit and any brand wanting to achieve behavioural change is expecting a lot. A good example of this is in the drive to reduce/eliminate use of the disposable coffee cup - an item that has rightly been highlighted as a significant issue for sustainability given how hard they are to recycle. Incentive schemes that offer consumers a discount for using their own reusable cup have had limited impact, and when independent coffee chain Boston Tea Party forced consumers’ hand by stopping serving coffee in disposable cups they saw a 25% drop in sales - not something any company wants!

But what if there was a simple way to resolve two of the key issues that drives consumers to continue to demand disposable cups? We've conceived a concept where you always have access to a reusable cup when you need it and don't need to worry about cleaning it.

Coffee cups as a service

Without wanting to jump on the bandwagon of turning everything into a service, this concept kind of does!

It builds on the ordering and payment apps that many chains already have and adds the ability to associate a reusable cup with a unique ID to your account. You could “program” the cup with your order (or keep it as your regular choice) so that when in store you simply hand the cup over and the transaction is made – order and payment all in one scan of the cup. This returned cup then goes off to be washed. Meanwhile, a new cup is associated with your account and is filled with your choice of coffee and handed back over to you. So, as well as solving the problem of not having a clean cup, the ordering, payment, filling and serving of your coffee is streamlined becoming a much faster and convenient experience.

But what if you don’t have a cup to hand – you can select that as an option in your app, request a new one (are charged a refundable deposit against your account) and get your coffee as normal. Next time you have both cups to hand you hand over both and get the deposit back in your account.

Some brands are almost there with this type of thinking – Costa  for example with their  ‘Clever Cup’, introduced in partnership with Barclaycard. But that simply acts like a cup with a pre-payment card stuck to it and while giving some benefit doesn’t provide what our concept does – and yet it’s only a small step away in terms of having many of the physical elements needed in place.

This innovative use of simple technology (perhaps using an NFC chip embedded in the cup, integrated into exciting ordering systems) creates enhanced consumer experiences that can differentiate and make brands much more sticky. There is a really low barrier to entry for consumers (they wouldn’t be committing a lot to buy into the system and wouldn’t be stuck in it).

And I can see this concept of reusable packaging being integrated into ordering and payment systems expanding to other categories like fast food or drive through – perhaps a dedicated lane for loyalty cup holders for ultra-fast ordering perhaps?

And while it may mean that the dish/cup washing demands in-store are increased, we’ve already created a solution to that!

We are seeing increasing demand from our clients for creating differentiated experiences that are enabled by novel technologies. Much of what we do is new technology creation, but equally we look at how we can use existing technologies in novel ways to provide a solution that can get to market much faster. Our awareness of these latest technologies and how best to implement them is key to doing this successfully.

Author
Edd Brunner
Head of Food & Beverage Systems

Edd is responsible for all our work in the food and beverage market. This includes understanding our clients' needs, reviewing projects and ensuring that we constantly meets our clients' commercial and technical requirements.