Spoontainable showcases upcycled edible spoons
17 December 2020
“The entire packaging industry needs to change,” Julia Piechotta, co-founder of Germany-based edible cutlery start-up Spoontainable, tells PackagingInsights.
Her start-up provides one piece to the jigsaw puzzle of systemic change: Spoonies. The edible spoons provide a circular and environment-neutral alternative to single-use cutlery, upcycling unused cocoa shells and oat husks in the process.
The spoons not only rethink how the food industry can pair convenience with environmentalism but also provide a crunchy, flavorful bite.
Concluding the start-up’s Fi Europe Connect exhibition, Piechotta details the flavor palettes and environmental benefits of her edible spoon portfolio, as well as how the pandemic has disrupted her company’s sales and R&D.
Eat your ice cream – and the spoon
Spoontainable’s two current edible spoons are Spoonie choc and Spoonie classic, made from cocoa fibers and oat husks, respectively. Spoonie classic also arrives in a larger variant, Spoonie classic L, for bigger bites.
The upcycled food ingredients remain stable for 60 minutes, providing a crunchy cookie snack for post-dessert consumption. All Spoontainable products are vegan and Spoonie choc is also gluten-free. Spoonie classic has a muted, oat-based flavor, not to distract from the flavors of main dishes like ice cream.
Eliminating dairy from the spoons “wasn’t that difficult,” says Piechotta. “The spoons don’t have to be soft. It has to be hard, so we don’t use eggs.” Made from oat husks, going gluten-free wasn’t an option for Spoonie classic, but remains a key selling point for Spoonie choc.
The environmental impact
Should consumers choose not to eat the spoons along with their main dish, they will not harm the environment like conventional single-use plastic cutlery does as the Spoonies are biodegradable.
“Seventy percent of all our users [eat the spoons.] Since they are made out of leftovers like cocoa shells and oat husks, it’s not food waste you are creating. It has usage in between and becomes food waste again.”
When asked how environmentally sustainable the transportation of Spoontainable’s raw materials are, Piechotta responds: “The cocoa beans come to Europe anyway; it’s waste which occurs here in Europe.”
Therefore, the transportation route from German chocolate manufacturers to Spoontainable’s headquarters in Heidelberg is a fraction compared to the initial journeys from overseas. Spoonie choc is made from upcycled cocoa shells used for European chocolate production.
Despite having an eco-friendly business model, Spoontainable stays mindful of its CO2 emissions. The start-up compensates for its CO2 emissions generated from the sourcing, production and distribution of its edible spoons through projects with its climate partner. Spoontainable is also conducting a life cycle assessment to create more transparency around this topic.
“It’s really difficult because when we are trying to solve the problem of food waste. Of course, we are creating CO2 emissions, but if we would try to decrease our CO2 emissions, then we would create food waste, so it’s a never-ending story.”
Getting your name out there
Presenting at Fi Europe Connect 2020, Spoontainable saw the virtual event more as a networking than a sales opportunity. “We have more contacts for our corporation, but it didn’t boost our sales. It was a good thing to network during COVID-19, but it did not substitute a real exhibition where you meet hundreds of people,” Piechotta explains. As of last month, Spoontainable is available at German retailers Aldi Nord and Aldi Süd.
Critically, the pandemic put a dent into Spoontainable’s sales this summer with the closure and cancelation of social and entertainment events – often where foodservice stands require eco-friendly cutlery solutions like Spoonies.
Crowdfunding for coffee stirrers
To make ends meet, Spoontainable launched a second crowdfunding campaign. It raised €5,000 (US$6,000) for Spoontainable’s R&D team to create new plastic- and wood-free coffee stirrers.
“For the events and gastronomical sector, it’s difficult to survive,” says Piechotta. Nevertheless, Fi Europe Connect showed her start-up that despite lacking disposable funds to invest in Spoontainable at the moment, there is commercial interest galore.
“If there were events [taking place], then people would need [our products] and buy them. We can still see people are interested and many told us they will contact us again in the spring and when the sun comes out again.”
In the pipeline, Spoontainable is seeking to expand beyond Spoonie choc and classic. Piechotta and her team are currently developing forks, knives and straws to add to their cutlery portfolio.
Published by foodingredientsfirst.com on December 8, 2020