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NextGen: Companies Ready to Scale Sustainable Cup Solutions

Closed Loop Partners Twitter NextGen: Companies Ready to Scale Sustainable Cup Solutions
The six teams participating in the NextGen Circular Business Accelerator are Colombier, CupClub, Footprint, Muuse, RECUP and SoluBlue.

The NextGen Consortium, a pre-competitive collaboration managed by Closed Loop Partners in partnership with Starbucks and McDonald’s, accelerates toward a more circular cup system.

NextGen Consortium Partners, investors and other stakeholders convened during Climate Week in New York City for a Demo Day in which six participants in the NextGen Circular Business Accelerator showcased their manufacture-ready prototypes and pitch-ready business plans for growing their sustainable cup solutions.

The accelerator follows Closed Loop Partners’ announcement of 12 NextGen Cup Challenge winners in February 2019. Six winning teams entered the NextGen Circular Business Accelerator, launched in partnership with global design firm IDEO to help companies further refine their cup solutions through rapid learning and iteration. The diverse solutions include plant-based materials, new innovative liners for cups and reusable cup systems that redesign the fiber to-go cup, so it is more widely recoverable or remains in circulation for multiple uses. The six teams participating in the accelerator are Colombier, CupClub, Footprint, Muuse, RECUP and SoluBlue.


During the six-month accelerator program, companies accelerated their learnings through live in-context prototyping across four distinct Google campus locations, each housing multiple cafes. Progress for each cup solution was measured across four key categories: customer experience, server experience, performance and disposal. Companies were able to see firsthand how customers and servers interact with their cups in a restaurant-like environment, capturing real-time feedback in a low-risk setting and identifying areas for refinement.

Companies also visited materials recovery facilities and explored the recovery side of the cup value chain, learning about the systems and infrastructure in place to ensure that their solutions are in alignment. Additionally, companies studied the value of materials recovered post-processing of their cups in order to make the economic case for more circular approaches.

Throughout the accelerator, companies gained feedback through direct engagement with NextGen Consortium Partners, including founding partners Starbucks and McDonald’s, supporting partners The Coca-Cola Company, Yum! Brands, Nestlé and Wendy’s, advisory partner World Wildlife Fund and innovation partner IDEO. Feedback included insight into what it would take to roll out their solutions at a large scale.

“We are proud of the NextGen collaboration underway with so many companies championing greener cup technologies,” said John Kelly, senior vice president of global public affairs and social impact at Starbucks, in a statement. “We applaud Closed Loop Partners’ continued, on-track progress to determine what’s most viable, and we are excited for our own customers to try greener cups in our stores in the near future.”

“Seeing how far participants in the NextGen Circular Business Accelerator have come is truly rewarding,” said Kate Daly, managing director of the Center for the Circular Economy at Closed Loop Partners, in a statement. “The NextGen Consortium will continue to work with winning teams to ensure that when their solutions do enter market at scale they’re set up for success and recoverability. “

The other six winners of the NextGen Cup Challenge, which are later-stage in their development, are working with the NextGen Consortium to identify in-market piloting opportunities in regions across the globe. Some participants in the NextGen Circular Business Accelerator are also expected to announce in-store pilots as early as 2020.

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