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Keurig Dr. Pepper launches K-Rounds plant-based compostable coffee pods to replace plastic and metal

#Keurig Dr. Pepper launches K-Rounds plant-based compostable coffee pods to replace plastic and metal


K-Rounds by Keurig Dr Pepper
(All image credits: Keurig Dr Pepper).

15 Mar 2024 — Keurig coffee pods are seeing another turn of novelty as plastic and aluminum are eliminated from the single-serve system in a new Keurig Dr Pepper launch, branded K-Rounds. The “completely reimagined” pods are fully compostable and join a portfolio of new products and technologies.

With a “multi-year innovation agenda” brewing for the manufacturer, Keurig introduces its pods that encase ground coffee beans in a proprietary, protective plant-based coating (primarily composed of alginate) that preserves the coffee’s flavor and aroma.

The pods will work in the new Keurig Alta brewer as part of a “reimagined” Keurig system that allows consumers to make a variety of hot and cold barista-style beverages — from an espresso with velvety crema, to a cup of hot coffee or a chilled cold coffee — without having to master complex brewing techniques.

“Thirty years ago, Keurig changed the way consumers brewed coffee, with the introduction of the K-Cup pod single serve coffee system. Today, we are applying all our expertise to create a revolutionary new system that will redefine how consumers will brew coffee for decades to come,” says Bob Gamgort, chairman and CEO.

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Proprietary pod tech
The development of the Keurig Alta brewer and K-Rounds plastic-free pods is the result of a multi-year innovation project that incorporates intellectual property in beverage, pod, appliance and manufacturing design and processes.

As part of this intellectual property portfolio, Keurig Dr Pepper acquired a perpetual license to know-how and technology invented by Delica Switzerland for its CoffeeB system in Europe, including a proprietary plant-based coating and application processes.

Keurig Dr Pepper’s partnership with Delica grants Keurig exclusive rights to use and build upon these technologies for consumers across the US, Canada and Mexico.

The plastic- and aluminum- free design of K-Rounds allows for brewing at both high pressure for espresso-based drinks and low pressure for cold or hot drip coffee. During a time of cost sensitivity, the manufacturer markets its creation as enabling “coffeehouse drinks without coffee house prices.”

K-Rounds plastic-free pods will come in different sizes for specific types of coffee beverages and will be marked with a code that the Keurig Alta brewer automatically reads to determine the pressure and extraction profile needed to get the full flavor, aroma and richness of each coffee variety.

After brewing, K-Rounds plastic free pods can be disposed of like coffee grounds and are expected to be certified compostable, as the company is currently working through the certification process.

The new Keurig Alta brewer will also provide the option to brew existing K-Cup pods so that users can brew with more than 500 varieties offered through the Keurig family of brands.

K-Rounds by Keurig Dr PepperK-Rounds by Keurig Dr Pepper.Beta testing comprises consumer feedback
Consumers will be able to provide feedback in the ongoing development of the Keurig Alta system in various beta testing phases. The first stage is scheduled for this coming fall.

Keurig will leverage learnings from these trials, including insights from its retailer and coffee brand partners, to “refine and optimize” the system before making it available for broader sale to consumers.

“Our ambitious agenda reflects our commitment to providing variety, quality, value and sustainability to the 45 million North American coffee consumers who currently use Keurig brewers and the millions of potential new households who will discover the benefits of a perfect cup of coffee prepared effortlessly in their home,” says Gamgort.

In January, Keurig Dr Pepper posted a net sales increase of 6.6% to US$3.79 billion for the second quarter of 2023, compared to US$3.55 billion in the year-ago period.

Creative compostable
Coffee capsules are becoming increasingly popular among coffee drinkers as consumers trend toward convenience. Boosting the shift toward compostable pods, Innova Market Insights identified “Bioplastic Boosters” as one of the main packaging trends in 2022.

Global consumers appear ready to embrace bioplastics, with 41% viewing biodegradability as the most environmentally sustainable end-of-life disposal method for packaging, followed by compostability (20%), identifies the market researcher.

In recent years, efficiency gains for compostable pod manufacturing have been achieved with technologies such as 3D printing, saving time and cutting back on waste.

Migros has introduced a system that does away with capsules entirely — Coffee Balls. The fully compostable balls of pressed coffee are covered by Delica’s protective layer, patented worldwide that offers stability while forming an oxygen barrier that protects against loss of aroma, as is the case with aluminum casing.

Coffee Balls notably offer the same amenities of conventional capsule systems but do not add to the 100,000 metric tons of coffee capsule waste produced yearly, claims Migros.

By Benjamin Ferrer

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