Live EventCoffee TV
20 - 23 April 2023 / The Truman Brewery
22 March 2022
Lifting the Lid on the KeepCup Helix Range
KeepCup continues to lead the reuse revolution with the launch of KeepCup Bottle, the first product in its new Helix range.
KeepCup continues to lead the reuse revolution with the launch of KeepCup Bottle, the first product in its new Helix range.

We spoke to Innovation Manager at KeepCup, Lou Dyer, to get an insight into the design and manufacturing process behind the new Helix range, and what led KeepCup to go beyond the coffee cup. 

LCF: How do you balance the development of new products with reducing impact?

LD: That’s a great question! There is growing awareness around the circular economy and that 70% - 90% of any product’s impact is baked in during its design phase. This is not just design intent, and materials used, but the how and where of manufacture, the way a product is assembled, the way it needs to be packed and shipped, how long it lasts, can it be repaired and how often it is used. 

KeepCup started as a business using a product to solve a problem – single-use cup waste. Many roasters visit origin. If you have experienced this you understand the climate challenged geography of the coffee bean, and the interdependency of it all. At the heart of it, single-use cups are an unnecessary bi-product of coffee drinking and a threat to our natural world and the coffee industry itself.

A lot has changed in the past 13 years, but our mission is far from over. 50% of plastic production is now single-use and less than 9% of all plastic is recycled. When we look at how to reverse the reality of our linear/landfill based global economy, it’s not about recycling or composting - which drives inertia around this important culture change – it’s about cutting out the waste through reduction, reuse and repair. This is what led us to innovate beyond the coffee cup, to help more people adopt reuse as a daily habit.

LCF: Talk us through the product design process at KeepCup

LD: It starts with trying to solve a problem; deliver on an unmet need or resolve a pain point for consumers on their reuse journey. So it begins with how the product gets filled, who’s filling it, how it will be enjoyed, and then how it will be cleaned to be reused.

With our new range it began with trying to deliver a more robust modular solution that would allow consumers to travel light and multiply their reuse moments throughout the day. In the process we solved some issues around cleaning and hygiene, which is a key hurdle to the long-term use of a reusable bottle.

We aim to make products with as few components as possible, made of single materials (to make them easier to recycle at end of life), that are made to last and really enjoyable to use. We then work with industrial design partners to resolve the design and engineering, with manufacturers to build tools that are efficient and minimise waste in the production process, and with packaging specialists to minimise packaging all the way through the supply chain. We are always iterating to reduce impact, improve longevity and user experience.  

LCF: Tell us more about how you reduce impact across all stages of production?

LD: One of the things I love about KeepCup is the focus on the impact outcome in everything we do – which has been the ethos from day one. Most companies make and assemble finished product from one factory – not only does this create a hegemony of design, it also drives outsourcing, mega factories and long supply chains.

We have always had our own warehouse assembly and packing tied to our office locations. We engage local suppliers for manufacture where we can, to reduce last mile delivery, and take full advantage of the modularity of product parts by adapting inventory to demand. For example, plastic parts and packaging are sourced in the UK, and product assembly and packing take place at our London warehouse.

Coming from a hospitality background myself, I believe this is something the specialty coffee community appreciate. Local suppliers mean quality of product and that we invest in the communities we live and operate in.

LCF: What are the main features of the new Helix range?

LD: It has all the design cues you would expect – its modular – but next level modular, offering a cup-to-bottle system. It still has our attention to detail around drinking pleasure – a great drinking surface, attention to liquid flow – and able to fit under the group heads to make and enjoy a wide variety of beverages, beyond coffee.

The Helix range has a twist-fit seal, so it’s great for longer commutes, or even for hiking. When we began the design process pre-pandemic, it was all about compactness and modularity for travel, but I think consumers will also love its simple, easy-clean design. This in turn ensures longevity and continued use. Many KeepCup Originals – now more than ten years old – are still being filled with coffee today. This is something we are really proud of – the best reusable is the one you use, over and again!

LCF: Will the Helix range be available to purchase at LCF 2022?

LD: The full launch range for the first release, the KeepCup Bottle, will be available – but if you want to get your hands on one to bring to the festival, order online! For our b2b customers, they can now take advantage of our b2b wholesale site to place orders and access marketing assets, plus impact tips and tricks.

We’ll also have samples of the other products in the Helix range, which will be launched later this year. We can’t wait to see people using KeepCup Bottle to multiply their reuse moments at the festival, whether for a cold brew, or a festival favourite of the KeepCup team – espresso martinis!

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