Coffee Pods and Machines
There was a moment when I, and most of my colleagues, were captivated by the Keurig coffee pods. It was a coffee brewer that made each cup. Even though we could be considered lazy, our minds were still captivated by the possibility of having multiple hot beverages instantly, one after another, with just a push of a button.
Keurig’s “K-Cup” pods were a well-known brand. They are loved by consumers for their “quality, convenience, and choice.” According to the Seattle Times in 2013, these pods were purchased by $132 million and $3.1 billion respectively. These pods didn’t just contain coffee; they also included teas and soups! These pods were easy to use. Simply insert the pod in the opening. The brewer will then punch a hole in the lid to hold the coffee grounds. At the push of a button, hot water will fill the pod and the brewed coffee will spout into the cup. The pod would then be thrown away by the user.
It was so simple and intuitive that it was obvious why the hype was so high.
With so many single-use pods being thrown in the trash, there was a mountain of packaging and other waste.
Let’s face it. In a 40-hour work week, no one has the time or the patience to sort through all these cups and separate them into their individual parts. Separate bins would be needed for aluminum, coffee grounds, coffee filters, and plastic containers.
People loved single-use pod coffee, but they couldn’t stand the thought of having to separate each component. The old saying, “Outside sight, out mind”? Critics quickly complained that these biodegradable and non-recyclable pods would create large amounts of plastic waste. It wasn’t impossible when you look at the pace that K-Cups were sold. Some critics claimed that K-Cups had been sold enough to circle the globe 12x if placed from one end to another. KillTheKCup.org started a petition asking for Keurig’s improvement and for customers to switch to refillable pods or to give up on the non-stainable K-Cup.
So, how did Keurig address the needs of its customers? Green Mountain, Keurig’s parent, decided in 2014 to make all coffee pods recyclable by 2020. This was in response both to consumers’ expectations and the demand for a more sustainable product. Keurig has also introduced reusable K cup filter pods which allow users to spoon coffee grounds of choice. This created questions about why the Keurig is better than the traditional brewer.
In 2012, after the K-Cup design patent expired in the US, third-party competitors developed their own pods to grab a piece of K-Cup’s lucrative industry.
What then did Keurig do to solve this problem? Keurig designed the Keurig2.0 coffee machines that accepted only Keurig brand pods. Keurig believed the K-Cups, the company’s main source of income was the Keurig 2.0. Customers would have to purchase the branded pods along with the Keurig 2.0. The problem became the useability of old K-Cups as well as third-party pods and reusable K-Cups.
Many customers were so fed up with Keurig’s responses and their inability to use the familiar K-Cups, that they started hacking the machine technology. This involved removing the lids from official K-Cups and putting the tops into third-party pods or old K-Cups.
Keurig has seen its sales drop to $60M between 2015 and 2016. In addition, the demand for Keurig machines have dropped dramatically due to increased interest in nitro, cold brew and traditional drip coffees.
I will admit that I am one of those people who let Keurig go. To this day, my Keurig machine sits in the corner, covered in dust. The machine no longer fits into my everyday life, which has changed over the past three years. When I could have a Keurig that could brew up to five cups of tea per hour, it was impossible to go to the Keurig every other day. I discovered that I was still a lazy person who prefers convenience to work.
Keurig shouldn’t make it difficult for customers to purchase their pods. They can also separate any waste from each pod and walk over to the Keurig machine every day. The brand should realize that their users are looking for a product that suits their lifestyle and aligns with their goals and values. Yes, pods were initially a quick way to make coffee and other beverages with just a push of a button. Keurig’s mistakes should be a lesson for companies. Environmental waste became a concern as the pods rose in popularity.
Did Keurig Responded ?
Keurig responded to criticisms well by offering a solution for improving packaging materials. However, consumers were more upset at Keurig’s decision to place financial gain above user experience regarding inability to reuse old and reusable pods in newer models. Keurig could incentivize recycling by offering a program that rewards customers for reusable pods.
Keurig could offer money back (in the form of a gift card) for any unused pods. This will give customers the satisfaction of great customer service, and allow them to purchase newer pods. Keurig will regain its reputation as a brand of quality, convenience, and choice when it rebuilds customer trust.