Editorial cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Friday, March 6, 2015
K-Cup creator John Sylvan regrets inventing Keurig coffee pod system
K-Cup creator John Sylvan regrets inventing Keurig coffee pod systemThe man who invented the K-Cup coffee pod almost 20 years ago says he regrets doing so, and he can’t understand the popularity of the products that critics decry as an environmental catastrophe.
John Sylvan worked at Keurig in the 1990s when he devised a simple product that could create a small mug of coffee out of a plastic pod. Originally aiming it at office workers, Sylvan said he thought the product might have some limited appeal to people who would normally go Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts or other coffee chains in the morning, because now they could get a cup of coffee at work that was cheaper, faster, and no fuss.
“That would make it environmentally neutral, because you wouldn’t have those Starbucks cups [everywhere],” Sylvan told the CBC’s As It Happens in an interview. “The first market was the office coffee service market,” he said, adding he is “absolutely mystified” by his product’s popularity in homes.
Popularity doesn’t begin to describe it, as the K-Cup’s status is closer to ubiquity. Keurig Green Mountain’s annual revenues have climbed to almost $5 billion, up more than five-fold in five years, largely on the back of selling billions of K-Cups every year.
Keurig dominates what’s come to be a large and growing market. Research firm NPD Group recently estimated that about 40 per cent of Canadian homes have a single-serving coffee machine, and Canadians spent $95 million on them last year.
According to a wildly popular ad campaign against the product earlier this year, there are so many discarded K-Cups that if you lined them up it would be enough to circle the earth more than 10 times — and that’s just from one year’s worth of coffee pods.
As the man who invented them, Sylvan might have been pleased with their popularity. But he left the company in 1997, selling his ownership of the product for $50,000.
To this day, he still doesn’t understand why people like them. “I find them rather expensive,” he said. (Source: CBC News)