Combining social purpose with business sense: the students tackling waste with the support of NEWTON’s accelerator programme
07. May 2021
NEWTON is introducing an accelerator in order to help ambitious students to set up their own businesses. One of the first ventures supported by the programme is a food technology start-up, producing edible cups designed to combat plastic waste.
For a long time, disposable cups have been a prominent target of environmental campaigns at both a political and an individual level. Efforts have typically focussed on the ‘reduce, reuse, recycle’ model: reducing use all together, encouraging the use of reusable alternatives, or switching to recyclable paper or plastic cups.
But now, two NEWTON students have pioneered a new and innovative way to tackle the disposable cup problem: edible cups.
Zuzana Zvěřová and Miroslav Myrončuk, both second year Business and Management students, came up with the idea while on campus: “At NEWTON [our] friends went for coffee with us on breaks. And after class, we saw how many plastic and paper cups were collected in one day. That's why we thought about how to get rid of this unnecessary waste. How to motivate people to be more considerate of our planet.”
And so, the idea of the edible cup was born. The fact that the cup doubles up as a tasty biscuit both incentivises its use – “most people like biscuits with their coffee. What could be a better motivation than food?”, says co-founder Zvěřová – and eliminates waste.
From there, NEWTON provided the ideal environment for taking their idea and turning it into a solid business reality. The college’s newly-created accelerator programme provided mentoring and networking opportunities, as well as a thorough practical and theoretical understanding of how to build and manage a business.
According to Zvěřová, NEWTON provided the perfect soil from which to grow their business: “There are so many inspirational people at NEWTON College, and their support made it much easier to start a business. NEWTON College also helped us with marketing, including telling Czech television stations about our project, which is the reason we've been seen almost everywhere. Now we have a mentor from NEWTON College who is helping us with the business side of our project.”
Their prototyping phase began in their domestic kitchens. "We had a lot of trial and error as we made all sorts of dough combinations at home. We tried candy dough, muffin dough, pancake dough, everything possible,” says Zvěřová But, despite making progress, they encountered difficulties they couldn’t overcome alone. At this stage they approached the Czech Technical University, and the Food Research Institute, both based in Prague. Working together, they identified a recipe and production technique that met their needs.
The cups that they’re currently producing are vegan, slightly sweet, and hold 110ml of a hot or cold beverage. The cups are leak-proof for up to 12 hours, although they recommend that you eat them sooner if you want to enjoy them at their best!
Future plans include creating a wider range of sizes, as well as different flavour options: salty for with beer, and sweeter for with coffee or hot chocolate. They hope to collaborate with other NEWTON students on these new prototypes as well as on routes to mass production.
Although the cups are currently only on sale nationally, they hope that, with the continued support of the NEWTON accelerator programme, in the future they will be able to sell their product globally.