People can do their shopping with reusable “smart cups” that communicate with the capsules in the stores. When shoppers buy a product, they can use the MIWA app to receive all the information about the product, and even information about the cup itself — including how many times it has been used.
People can reuse the cup or return it for a new one when they come back to the store. In between uses, MIWA cleans and prepares the capsules and cups. If a capsule or a smart cup wears out or is broken, it’s returned to MIWA to be recycled.
MIWA was a finalist in the 2018 Social Innovation Tournament, sponsored by the EIB Institute to promote creative projects that help the environment and society. The company has won several other awards, including a New Plastics Economy Innovation Prize from the Ellen MacArthur Foundation.
Advances in tracking inventory
The company, founded in 2015, has grown to 20 people and is operating in the Czech Republic, with pilot programs in Switzerland and Austria. MIWA plans to expand to other European countries. Nestlé stores in Switzerland are using MIWA capsules and cups for two products — Purina pet food and Nescafé.
Ivana Sobolikova, an executive with MIWA in charge of investor relations and impact, says the digitized system is quite different from other bulk dispensers commonly used in grocery stores. The MIWA system has distinct advantages, especially for large brands that have high standards of hygiene and quality control.
“First of all, it helps tracking and managing the pool of capsules,” she says. “That’s quite important for any reusable packing system” — ensuring that just the right number of capsules and cups are in circulation and that individual units aren’t lost.
The products can be traced easily, she says. “If for instance there is a contamination of a product batch, we can very easily find out where all the capsules that were filled with this batch are located, and we can quite easily make the recall, or even lock capsules already on a shelf.”