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KeepCup founder on rebounding after the pandemic

Abigail Forsyth spoke with Yahoo Finance about how Covid-19 resulted in an 80 per cent drop in sales, and why the focus is now more than ever on sustainability. Interview: Michael Dahlstrom

Video transcript

MICHAEL DAHLSTROM: Did the COVID pandemic hit guys hard?

ABIGAIL FORSYTH: Yeah, really hard. Because we're a-- we're a company that just had a cup, so our reusable coffee cup, and our sales dropped 80% overnight. McDonald's still haven't returned with re-use. Starbucks only recently returned with re-use. So there's been a-- yeah, it's really impacted that movement and people's behavior in that space. So we've now got to get people to get them out of the cup again and start using.

MICHAEL DAHLSTROM: But is that starting to change? Are sales going up?

ABIGAIL FORSYTH: Yeah. Things are changing. And unfortunately for us, we had a reusable bottle on the horizon. And the other thing the pandemic did was slow down a lot of that innovation. Like, the supply chain was interrupted. People's offices and factories are interrupted with the pandemic. So we were slowed down in that process.

MICHAEL DAHLSTROM: What was the reusable bottle?

ABIGAIL FORSYTH: So it's here. It's a reusable bottle. And what it does is it converts to a cup as well. So you can have the lid on, the super lid for drinking. And then you put this on. So it's a much more hygienic bottle solution because you can wash it completely. And you can fill it with ice and all sorts of things and then clean it. So it's a really great product for people.

And again, it's a product designed a lot for traveling, for people traveling. Like, when you travel and you've got your coffee cup and your water bottle, this does two in one. So yeah, we've just launched that this month.

MICHAEL DAHLSTROM: Do you think people forgot about the peril that the environment is facing when COVID hit?

ABIGAIL FORSYTH: Probably. I mean, I think there's a lot of things have happened certainly in the hospitality sector, people have just fought for survival to have their business survive through it. The illness itself and people's quality of life and thinking about what life's all about and hopefully, coming out of that, is this sense of urgency around biodiversity collapsed the environment and what changes we need to make in our personal lives but also the changes business needs to make to drive re-use.

The government needs to make to ban problematic-- problematic single-use plastics. So I think there is-- certainly, with our change of government here, I think there's a renewed focus on that, which is pretty hopeful.

MICHAEL DAHLSTROM: Why are single-use coffee cups bad?

ABIGAIL FORSYTH: Because, well, one you chopping down trees to make the single-use cup for the paper part of it. But it's actually like drinking out of a plastic bag because it's a really thin polyethylene lining, a plastic lining that is making the cup able to carry it liquid. And the lids have traditionally been polystyrene.

Now, you've got a lot of people now coming out talking about biodegradable and compostable. But still, the enemy is single use. Still, it's the resources used to make transport. You use something that you only use for 30 seconds, three minutes and then throw it in the bin. That behavior worldwide has got to stop, and we have to find new ways to consume.

And I think you know, when you think about people in-- you know, when you see photos on Instagram or photos on social media of people enjoying life and having a great time, they're rarely drinking out of single use items. It's all-- our mental picture of a quality life is not a throwaway culture. So we need to move toward that.

MICHAEL DAHLSTROM: Just lastly, is-- are more cafes-- are most cafes now accepting KeepCups again?

ABIGAIL FORSYTH: Yeah, most of them are. And a lot of them are-- you know, I guess, significantly, a lot of them have come back saying we're not even going to use disposables. Like, cafes that do have a really strong food offering or something else that don't just rely on coffee are able to say, that's it, no more single use cups at all, which is great.

MICHAEL DAHLSTROM: So people shouldn't be afraid of bring in their Cape cup now to their favorite cafe?

ABIGAIL FORSYTH: No. And I think there's a really important role we all play just to, you know, bring that stuff top of mind And Just come in with your reusable and say, will you fill this? And more often than not, cafes are also waiting on demand from the customer to go, this is what I want to do. So there's a bit of push-pull always.

So it never helps to state what you'd like to do, like even being on an airplane and saying, can you fill up my water bottle? Like, all aeroplanes have a tank where you can-- you know, they're not filling out a single-use bottle. So demanding that change creates a new culture, and that's what we need to do.

MICHAEL DAHLSTROM: Perfect. Thank you so much for your time. I really appreciate it.

ABIGAIL FORSYTH: Thanks, Michael.

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