The 'Capsul-ization' of the World

The global market for coffee pods and capsules expanded 16 percent in 2015, the significance of which is dwarfed by the 30 percent sector increase for the category in the U.K. alone, where projections estimate £137.5 million in supermarket sales. Soon to overtake standard roast, ground and instant coffee, according a study from Kantar Worldpanel, coffee pods and capsules continue their rise to the standard in hot beverage consumption, "The Clooney Effect" playing no small part in this continuing market trend.

And it doesn't stop at coffee and tea. The capsule and pod technologies that so successfully disrupted the hot beverage industry for the greater part of a decade have been since applied to a burgeoning number of food and drink categories, turning food and drink into the most profitable business since software.

Beer-drinkers who want something beyond a home brewing kit can turn to a modulated beer machine that uses prepackaged pods to brew a cold batch. Pod technology for Jell-O shots have been marketed for the B2B (bars and catering) and B2C markets, cutting down on the time it takes to make the novelty items, and the space taken up in your fridge.

Though the proliferation of this kind of trending technology is easily dismissed as being "trendy," these kinds of innovations address a need in the market that is only confirmed by consumer behavior. Pods and capsules do not exist in a vacuum; where there are problems in need of solutions, pods and capsules are in a position to provide. And consumers are buying them.

Convenience is currency, as is time and ease of use, but what of innovation? Consumers are becoming more interested in health food trends, food science, and access to quality food experiences in the home, and the disruptive nature of pods and capsules create a new space in the food and drink market.

But even more so now that it has been clearly demonstrated that people will not abstain from capsule and pod technologies, despite their environmental implications, what the compact contraptions mean for sustainability is a considerable issue. The pods are not recyclable in the current infrastructure due to their component parts. Comprised of plastics, aluminum and sometimes paper, a person would need to separate and take the pods apart in order to effectively recycle the elements in their respective bins; in this fast-paced culture of convenience, it is safe to say that few pod-users would not consider this step. Further, contact with food and beverage would mean that most municipal recycling facilities would require this waste to undergo additional processing so as to not contaminate recycled batches.

However, consumers do have recycling options for their beverage capsule and pod waste. My company TerraCycle solves for nearly every type of waste through our premium Zero Waste Box solution, including coffee capsules. Simply fill with coffee and beverage pods and send back to TerraCycle using the pre-paid shipping label. Consumers can enjoy the convenience and innovation of this turn-key recycling solution as they do pod and capsule technology.

While these disruptive innovators in the food and additional beverage markets remain start-ups in the beginning stages of growth, end-of-life solutions can be developed early to prevent unnecessary waste from negatively impacting the planet. Innovative, sustainable solutions for waste can be worked into the product function from the start, inventing the most efficient, environmentally sound ways to accommodate the world's changing lifestyles.