Smile Coffee Werks®: Tiny Coffee Pod Brand On A Huge Sustainability Mission

Smile Coffee Werks®: Tiny Coffee Pod Brand On A Huge Sustainability Mission

What started as a tiny coffee pod brand, known as Smile Coffee Werks®, turned into a passionate team of sustainable food packaging gurus known as Smile Beverage Werks®. Grab a great cup of coffee and follow along with their mission to make people and the planet smile!

Smile Coffee Werks Coffee Pods


Great businesses exist to solve a problem. Apple creates technology that delivers a great user experience to its customers. Smile Coffee Werks®? They create great-tasting coffee without burdening the earth with potential waste for hundreds of years.

The Problem With Traditional Coffee Pods

For people who are conscious of their waste, it isn't difficult to see the problem coffee pods pose. The single-use plastic capsules of coffee usually end up in landfills. No one knows for sure how many are actually getting recycled. It is projected that billions go into landfills each year. Claims of recycling availability have yet to be resolved according to California lawsuit against one of the major coffee pods companies in the industry. We can all just be thankful that at least some pods get recycled or composted, but it is not enough, since a majority don't. Even compostable cups are thrown into the waste stream. More recycling and compostability resources are needed. The question you have to ask yourself is, "which do you want in the landfill, plastic or plant-based compostable pods"?

The pollution of the pods hasn't gone unnoticed, either. It has inspired a YouTube video called "Kill the K-cups®," a doomsday film where K-cups® invade the earth. The message: "kill the K-cups® before it kills the planet."

Perhaps most interesting of all, John Sylvan, the inventor of the K-cups®, actually regrets creating it at all. He intended his invention to be used in workplaces, where they would replace a cup of coffee from Starbucks® or Dunkin' Donuts®. Then the pods would replace a disposable cup and it would have a neutral impact in terms of waste.

The pods have spread to households, though. Sylvan says he doesn't understand the appeal of these single-use machines and feels bad about the waste they produce. In fact, he doesn't even own one.

Yet it isn't difficult to see the appeal of single-serve machines; people are so attracted to the convenience of it. And who can blame them? Making coffee doesn't get any easier than putting a plastic cup of pre-portioned coffee into a machine and pressing a button.

But what if there was a better way to get the convenience?


The Beginning of an Idea 

The idea for Smile Coffee Werks® started when co-founder Frankie Schuster discovered an alternative to the aluminum coffee pod.

On a cold February day in the rural Bavarian Alps, Schuster discovered the technology for a fully compostable coffee pod that is compatible with Nespresso Original brewers.

As an avid environmentalist and coffee enthusiast, he immediately saw the potential in his discovery. 


Joining Forces To Make It A Reality

Back in a local cheese shop in the United States Schuster was introduced to his future co-founder, Michael Sands. Sands worked with consumer packaged goods and made it his mission to seek sustainability in a world full of disposable products and misinformation. 

The perfect match, the two joined forces to disrupt the coffee pod industry. They could do better: a fully compostable, high-quality coffee pod that is compatible with Keurig brewers and offers a plant-based, carbon neutral alternative. A vision was born for a gourmet coffee as convenient as it is sustainable.


After Many Cups Of Coffee, They Developed A Sustainability Plan

After tons and tons of research fueled by an embarrassing amount of coffee, the Smile Coffee Werks® duo came up with a plan that focused on improved sustainability at every stage of their pod's life cycle, starting with the beans and ending in the compost. Here's what they came up with…


  • The Beans – Responsibly Sourced From Rainforest Alliance Certified Farms
    Smile Coffee Werks® coffee beans are exclusively from Rainforest Alliance Certified farms. This means the beans were produced using practices that support their three pillars of sustainability: social, economic, and environmental.

    We source beans from what coffee lovers consider some of the best coffee regions in the world. They can come from Peru, Honduras, Guatemala, Ethiopia, Sumatra, India, Colombia, Nicaragua, and Brazil.

    Rainforest Alliance Certified farms produce coffee beans following practices that contribute to a better future for people and nature.

    From there, the Smile Coffee Werks® beans get shipped over to their roasters in Germany, who carefully craft their gourmet coffee. The coffee beans are roasted, ground, and placed into their commercially compostable coffee pods.
  • The Pods – Plant-Based & Commercially Compostable
    These plant-based, commercially compostable coffee pods are manufactured in Bavaria, Germany, from the fastest and best decomposing plant-based materials. The facility the pods are developed in even use sustainable power sources such as wind, sun, hydropower, and biogas for the manufacturing process.  
  • The Box – Recycled Materials 
    The cool thing about these coffee pods is the sweet oxygen barrier that keeps the coffee fresh in the pods for 12+ months without the use of any unnecessary wrappers, bags, or plastic wrappers. 
    The coffee pods are packed in a simple recycled paperboard box that can be recycled again. You heard right; just leave the typical packaging guilt behind!
  • Supply Chain - Climate Neutral
    The sustainability goodness didn't stop at the creation of these coffee pods. The Smile Coffee Werks® duo took their commitment to sustainability a giant step further by taking a hard look at their footprint, their carbon footprint, that is! They partnered with ClimatePartner to have their supply chain assessed in order to make contributions that would offset their footprint, making them a certified Climate Neutral company you can smile about. 
  • Convenience
    The Smile Coffee Werks® team wanted to create a coffee pod solution that was easily accessible for as many people as possible. That's why we developed commercially compostable coffee pods that are compatible with the machines people already use in their homes and offices.

    More than forty percent of Americans already own a single-serve coffee machine. This means that millions of people are already using these machines every day.

    By just making a simple swap to compostable coffee pods, these coffee lovers do not have to change their coffee-making routine. They still have the convenience of using the machines that are already on their counters. A cup of coffee can be ready at the press of a button. Yet, they are able to make a positive impact on the environment by choosing a plant-based pod from a carbon neutral company.


A Sustainability Mission Beyond The Beans

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, food packaging makes up approximately 45% of materials in U.S. landfills. This problem isn't going to solve itself, so parent company Smile Beverage Werks® started its mission to develop and manufacture commercially compostable food and beverage packaging beyond their Smile Coffee Werks® single-use coffee pods.


Follow The Sustainability Journey With A Smile

Follow along with Smile Coffee Werks® and Smile Beverage Werks® as they embark on their mission to make people and the planet smile! Subscribe today for the latest in coffee and sustainability news, special offers, and more!  

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