Innovation Spotlight: Bevi is Saving the Planet, One Bottle at a Time
This is the the first of a new Innovation Spotlight series for the DCD Blog, where we interview some of the newest and most creative companies popping up in the Boston area. If you would like to be featured in our series, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Many of us were taught in elementary school about the three Rs of green living: Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle. As we grew up, recycling became the primary focus, while reuse became limited to a few instances, like saving margarine tubs to be used in place of tupperware, or the ubiquitous plastic bag stuffed full of other plastic bags with the intent of being used again someday. Maybe you try to reduce the amount of plastic you go through, but when so many things come prepackaged, and often packaged up to the gills, it can be a tough resolution to stick to.
Enter Bevi, a Boston startup who’s made it their mission to build a much more environmentally friendly supply chain for beverages by reducing the amount of plastic bottles the average office worker goes through on a daily basis. It’s their goal to enable people to have high quality beverages with minimal environmental impact, and they’re doing it by reinventing the watercooler.
Much like the Coca-Cola Freestyle machines that are starting to pop up everywhere a soda fountain can be found, the founders of Bevi – Sean Grundy, Eliza Becton, and Frank Lee – have created a water fountain that can dispense a glass of plain water, as well as a variety of flavored still or sparkling waters at the touch of a button. But unlike Coca-Cola, they’re forgoing the use of highly sweetened syrups and are sticking to natural and healthy ingredients.
Healthier Alternatives for Flavor Fanatics
“We work with a few suppliers that have food scientists on their teams and it’s very much a dialogue,” says Grundy, the CEO of Bevi. “We tell them what trends we’re seeing and work on good products. We actively seek out vendors that are strong in that capacity.”
They have several flavors available on their website, which they rotate out from time to time based on popularity. But how do they know which flavors are doing well and which ones need to be swapped out? With data collected from the machines, of course! Not only do they monitor which flavors are the most popular based on daily usage, but they also keep tabs on how strong or weak a building’s flavor preference is. This way, they can remotely calibrate the default flavor strength to match the preference of the average user.
Using the IoT to Test Water Quality
The data from the beverage fountains is also used to track how frequently the filters need to be replaced. Because Bevi uses tap water as the base, it doesn’t need to be refilled; however, according to Grundy, they’ve found that sedimentation and pollution rates can vary from building to building, much like people’s flavor preferences. Some buildings may need to have their filters changed more often, but thanks to all the feedback Bevi gets from their fountains, no one at the office ever needs to worry about when that needs to happen.
Grundy considers this one of the most important projects the company is working on right now. “We’re working on making sure that we’re improving quality through keeping an eye on inventory and making sure outages and replacements are easy and quick,” he says. “Then we realized we were just scratching the surface on what we can do in terms of offering users the right drink at the right place, in terms of ensuring consistency across the product everywhere, and in longer terms, do data analysis on trends like what people are drinking.”
The Supply Chain of the Future
The reason Grundy considers this such an important project for the company is because he’s hoping to use the company to create a new and better supply chain for beverages. He uses the example of the standard bottling system, AKA Supply Chain #1, with bottling plants that filter water and mix them with other ingredients and put them in millions of tiny bottles and ship them out. He wants Bevi to be a completely different supply chain where plastic bottles aren’t included.
He doesn’t plan to limit this to offices, either. He wants to see Bevi move this into homes, retail areas, and hotels. Home models, much to the disappointment of several of us here at DCD, are still a few years out, but Grundy is confident that in the long-term, they can replace today’s supply chain. He feels that other companies don’t have a fundamentally smart process right now, and they have some plans for improvements that they’ll be working on over the next year.
“It’s knowing that what we’re doing is actually good work: we’re cutting out fuel, we’re cutting out plastic bottles, we’re helping people stay healthy.”
The Environmental Case for Bevi
For Sean Grundy, expanding his business is largely environmentally motivated. Before he and his co-founders started Bevi, he was interested in pursuing a career related to environmentalism. It was around that time that he met co-founder Eliza Becton, who had completed a master’s degree where she explored plastic water bottles, found out why they were so popular, and analyzed why existing water and soda fountains hadn’t been able to succeed in displacing them.
What he and Becton found when they dug a little deeper into the details of the problem was that many fountains did experience huge quality problems, and that they broke down frequently enough that bottled drinks were simply more convenient. So they set out to design a system that would be better and more fun than the standard drinking fountain. That system is Bevi, which, as Grundy puts it, means so much more than just bringing a new watercooler experience to the workplace. “It’s knowing that what we’re doing is actually good work: we’re cutting out fuel, we’re cutting out plastic bottles, we’re helping people stay healthy.”
Here at Deep Core Data, we think they’ve hit upon something big, and if you need any more convincing, Grundy let us know of a juicy little secret regarding the future of Bevi: they plan to release a coconut flavor very soon, which promises to be one of the best flavors yet. In fact, he thinks it’s so good, it’s going to be the first one he drinks more than regular water.
But regardless of your flavor preferences, the benefits of Bevi are multi-faceted. Office managers have noted a significant decrease in how often they need to replace and restock their company fridge, and because the machine plugs right into the tap and uses wifi to monitor supply levels, you never need to worry about waiting for the delivery truck.