Keurig Green Mountain made $US4.7 billion in revenue last year.
Much of that money came thanks to K-Cups, the coffee-in-a-pod system invented by cofounder John Sylvan.
He knew he had a hit on his hands when he was figuring out the pod mechanism back in the ’90s.
“It’s like a cigarette for coffee, a single-serve delivery mechanism for an addictive substance,” he tells the Atlantic.
But Syvlan, who sold his stake in the company for $US50,000 back in 1997, doesn’t own the machine.
“I don’t have one,” he says. “They’re kind of expensive to use … plus it’s not like drip coffee is tough to make.”
Yet the mix of ease and addictiveness has made Keurig and its peers massively — and quickly — successful:
• A 2013 poll found that 1 in 3 Americans have a single-serve coffeemaker either at home or at work.
• If all the K-cups that were sold in 2014 were laid end-to-end, the Atlantic reports, it would be enough to circle the Earth more than 10 times.
“[Coffee pods are] the poster-child dilemma of the American economy,” beverage consultant James Ewell said in an interview. “People want convenience, even if it’s not sustainable.”
So Sylvan’s creation is both a blessing and a curse.
The product is everywhere.
And its waste is, too, thanks to the fact that the cups are almost impossible to recycle.
“I feel bad sometimes that I ever [invented the K-Cup],” Sylvan said.
Today, Sylvan’s work is very much environmental — he runs ZonBak, a solar company that claims to make the most cost-efficient solar panel in the world.
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