Swiss Bühler Group is supporting Bulgarian start-up Cupffee to boost the production volume of its edible, crispy wafer cups, to increase its impact for a sustainable future.
Since 2016 the two companies have been working together to address the urgent problem of plastic waste with innovation. Now, supported by Bühler solutions, Cupffee plans to double or triple its volume over the next two years and to install two more edible cup production lines in its factory in Plovdiv. Current volumes are at 3 million cups per month, with the ultimate target 10 million.
Cupffee is exclusively distributed in ANZ by Nina Milanova, co-owner of the Jazzy Cafe Bar in Surry Hills, Sydney, who has just received her first container of stock.
“Several coffee roasters have shown interest in Cupffee, including Colombian Connection Coffee – the roaster we use,” said Milanova, who has been distributing the edible coffee cups since October 2021. She says that enquiries have also been coming in from a number of potential distributors around the country.
The 110 ml and 220 ml Cupffee cups, which remain crunchy for up to 40 minutes, are made from natural oat bran and wheat flour, uncoated with chocolate or sugar, are just 56 or 105 kcal respectively and have a neutral taste. They were launched in 2014 when Bulgarian entrepreneur Miroslav Zapryanov aspired to see edible biodegradable cups replace the plastic waste created by the numerous cafes and restaurants in his hometown Plovdiv, Bulgaria.
According to Zapryanov, it didn’t take long for the Cupffee edible cups to become quickly recognised as a pioneer by other like-minded people and companies, shortly after they were launched in 2014. They helped with its rapid growth and expansion, he says.
“While searching for the perfect recipe for the cups, Cupffee made many trials adjusting the ingredients and modifying the mix, the proportions, and the temperature. It took us a few years to reach the final version of the recipe.
“It was extremely important to us that the cup did not leak for hours as well as stay crunchy for at least 40 minutes. Another essential factor that we considered when creating Cupffee cups was the neutrality of their taste that should not alter the taste of the beverage inside.”
Since their launch in 2014 the cups quickly gained momentum and became popular with big customers worldwide who strive to be at the forefront with their green practices and sustainable initiatives, the companies said. The Bühler team in Sofia, Bulgaria, contacted Zapryanov six years ago to let him know about the benefits of testing products in its Wafer Innovation Center in Leobendorf, Austria. Bühler has a specially modified moulded cones and cups solution that would enable Cupffee to produce on an industrial scale to meet its growing customer demand. Zapryanov knew it was exactly what he was looking for when he heard about it.
“Our first contact with Bühler was in 2016 and that was really at the right moment,” said Miroslav. “At this time, the market required large volumes which we did not have the capacity to produce. Thanks to Bühler solutions, and thanks to Bühler being a world-leading manufacturer of production machines for food industries, we managed to increase our capacity multiple times and satisfy customers’ demands.”
With Bühler’s oven Franz Haas MTA-V for solid dough and the production line for edible cups, Cupffee managed to quickly grow and introduce its product to the mass market. Cupffee’s current capacity is approximately 3 million cups per month, and it now plans to increase its volume over the next two years and to install two more edible cup production lines.
Zapryanov says Bühler is the natural choice for Cupffee due to its quality, technological drive, and market leadership. Bühler and its Wafer Innovation Center are constantly trying to develop new solutions, especially when it comes to sustainable products.
“Cupffee uses oat bran in its formulation of the edible cups. Since oat bran is a byproduct of the milling process, it is a great way to make the cups even more sustainable and to upcycle this side stream from the milling process. It also makes the cups even healthier," said Andreas Clemenz, head of Bühler Wafer Innovation Center in Leobendorf, Austria,.
"Similar side streams arise from other food production processes such as nut shells from nut processing or apricot kernels from the jam and juice production. Some of them have already been tested for use in cups and Bühler is exploring many more."
Today, around 400 million tons of plastic waste are produced every year, according to a 2021 report from the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). About 36 per cent of all plastics produced are used in packaging, including single-use plastic products for food and beverage containers, according to UNEP.
Cupffee plans to increase its production to 10 million cups per month and ultimately wants to replace at least one per cent of the global supply of disposable plastic/carton coffee cups. With Bühler at its side, they are ready to take on the challenge.
Nina Milanova says that the edible cups have also been used to serve soups and antipasto at Jazzy Cafe Bar, and points out that the sleeves on the cups, which can be printed on demand by Cupffee, provide a canvas to promote any brand or message required. They also fold out to reveal a small handle on the 110 ml cups.
Bulgarian born, Milanova said she was pleased to discover that Cupffee cups are manufactured in her country of origin.