Growth

KeepCup’s co-founder on the “crazy” 400% increase in sales fuelled by ABC’s “War on Waste” program

Dominic Powell /

A local surge in demand for sustainable and reusable coffee cups has led to an “unbelievable” 690% spike in sales enquiries for Australian reusable cup manufacturer KeepCup, creating plenty of action for the business as it tries to deal with a massive influx of orders.

The unprecedented amount of attention has come in the wake of the conclusion of the ABC’s War on Waste series, which highlighted the environmental effects of the 52 megatonnes of waste produced in Australia each year.

The final episode of the three-part documentary aired on June 3 last week. The episode looked specifically at the life cycle of a disposable coffee cup and disputed the misconception that the 1 billion cups sent to landfill each year were recyclable.

KeepCup co-founder and managing director Abigail Forsyth is thrilled to see a spotlight shone on the issue, and tells SmartCompany her business has “gone crazy” since the conclusion of the documentary.

The company’s Australian operation turns over $6 million annually, and though Forsyth says while the team is used to spikes around Christmas, the 400% sales increase it has recently seen has kicked things into overdrive.

“We knew [War on Waste] would be talking about coffee cups so we were expecting a bit of a spike, but not to this extent. It crashed our website, and we’ve had all our cafes screaming for stock,” she says.

“Anecdotally, the cafes are also telling us more people are bringing in the KeepCups they already had that they’d lapsed in using. It’s gone crazy.”

KeepCup was founded by brother-sister duo Jamie and Abigail Forsyth, and launched in 2009, operating out of a warehouse in Melbourne. Today, the business is still headquartered in Fitzroy, but has warehouses in the UK and US, and sells its products in more than 32 countries.

“We’re having a warehouse meeting right now about how on earth we’re going to do this. We’ve hired temps, got new staff, and we’re working weekend shifts, but it’s still really busy,” Forsyth says of the spike in interest.

“Cafes only kept 30 or so cups in stock at any one time, so we have a lot of them to restock. It’s challenging but we’re doing our best.”

The company has also been fielding a number of requests from corporate clients, with offices banding together to make sure staff aren’t using harmful disposable cups.

Forsyth believes the main revelation driving the demand for KeepCups has been the number of people who didn’t realise disposable cups weren’t recyclable, with Forsyth believing “our grandchildren will damn us for this”.

“A lot of people weren’t aware that we exist as a pretty good solution to this problem. Also, the awareness that we’re an Australian made product has been helping drive the demand,” Forsyth says.

“We’ve been around advocating for the banning of single-use packaging since 2009 where we had to campaign at cafe’s to prove we weren’t contravening health regulations with the KeepCup,” she says.

“We’ve come a long way.”

Going from 300 online orders per week to over 1000 hasn’t been easy, and Forsyth says it couldn’t have been done without the dedicated team and the business’ strong processes.

“You’ve just got to take a big bite and keep on chewing. In times like these it’s great to have people in the business with the capacity to take on more work in the short term, and who want to help and are really engaged in what they’re doing,” she says.

“Right now it’s just about getting through the next couple of weeks.”

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Dominic Powell

Dominic Powell is a journalist at SmartCompany and a tech and music geek. When he’s not writing, you can find him reading or browsing record shops.

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FROM AROUND THE WEB

  • The tragedy of disposability is not getting any better. I admire KeepCup for their contribution to sustainable solutions and for educating consumers on the truth about coffee cups becoming landfill. But when companies such as Breville and other electrical appliance manufacturers build planned obsolescence into their business models, it undoes the hard work of businesses like KeepCup. Recently, I had a $70 handheld vacuum that I had to throw away because the battery couldn’t be replaced. I called Breville and there was literally no other solution.

    As long as KeepCup and similar enterprises continue to lead the way and show other businesses, and consumers how it’s done, the future will look a glimmer brighter.

  • The show had a profound impact. I am a daily coffee drinker – decaf, don’t judge – and I had NO idea that paper coffee cups could not be recycled.
    I tried to use my keep cup, but didn’t feel that bad if I forgot it. “it’s paper, it’s going to be recycled or it will break down quickly.”

    Now I know.
    Good on Keepcup and other reusable coffee cup companies for developing a solution to this problem and to the ABC’s War on Waste for opening our eyes!