Conventional plastic cups are highly convenient but not eco-friendly at all. They contribute to plastic waste in landfills, as most are not recyclable. It is estimated that 2.5 billion disposable cups are thrown away each year. Industrial designers Chelsea Briganti and Leigh Ann Tucker who met while attending Parsons New School for Design in New York believed there had to be a better way to consume cold beverages on the go. They developed edible cups in a variety of flavors as an eco-friendly alternative to disposable plastic cups.
Their invention was spurred by their love for Jell-O, a gelatin-based dessert. The designers entered a competition for Jell-O in 2010 and were inspired by the decorative history of Jell-O as a molded dessert. As industrial designers, the two women wanted to make something more functional, however, and set their minds on developing colorful, translucent cups that can either be eaten after use or composted. They finally chose the seaweed-based gelatin-substitute agar for it’s structural nature, taste and vegan-friendliness. Agar is tasteless and odorless and can be flavored in a variety of ways.
The first taste they made for their cups was citrus because it goes with many summer drinks but currently, one of their best-selling cups in New York and Los Angeles is flavored with matcha green tea. Other flavors include tart cherry and Madagascar vanilla. The designers Briganti and Tucker use natural sweeteners, organic ingredients and flavored color derived from fruits and vegetables. The cups have been reported to taste like fruit-rolls albeit less sweet.
When vodka-maker Absolut inquired about ordering 60,000 agar cups for use at an outdoor concert, the designers realized that this project could turn into a business. Briganti and Tucker formed a partnership to move forward and raised more than 10,000 USD through a 2011 Kickstarter campaign. Because of the taste and fun colors, the two designers named their 100 percent biodegradable product Loliware. After raising more money, the two designers are now selling their edible cups and are contemplating expanding their product line: One potential is making a bottle out of agar.
Their efforts have won them a lot of recognition. In March, they won the 2015 NEXT Accelerator Natural Products Pitch Slam at Natural Products Expo West, which came with products and services valued at 27,500 USD.
While the designer-duo focuses on cups for cold beverages, the fast-food chain KFC had introduced edible coffee cups in collaboration with Seattle’s Best Coffee earlier this year. The cups were made of a cookie shell and lined with a layer of white chocolate. The outside of the cup is wrapped in sugar paper. The cups were developed by scientists at the experimental UK food development company, the Robin Collective.