Anyone’s up for a coffee break?

by Arsene, Pål Idar, Marius & Vegard

 

 

In order to survive long and tedious days at the study halls, a major part of the students are dependent upon their daily (over)dose of coffee. It is also worth mentioning that Norwegians are one of the most coffee-drinking people in the world. In Oslo alone, it’s produced 10 tons of coffee grounds every day. We ask – do these coffee grounds become useless after the brewing process, or are they a resource that we don’t appreciate enough?

 

The Oslo-based company Gruten has taken on this challenge. They utilize what most people throw away, making a unique hand soap called “Grutensåpe” and a “grow-your-own-mushrooms” solution based on coffee grounds. The soap consists of olive oil, coconut oil, lavender oil and of course; coffee and coffee grounds. Gruten also offers courses teaching how to make soap and grow mushrooms at home (we are of course talking about tasty mushrooms for eating, and not getting high), and aims to share information on how to use a nutritious resource people think of as garbage. This might be “helping the process of composting, making nutritious soil, or using coffee grounds to fight the notorious brown snail that invade many gardens.” Their driving motivation is to be a positive role model and show people how it is possible to create exciting, sustainable products.

gruten

 

Gruten’s value proposition is simple – turning “waste” into ecological and sustainable products that people value and want to pay for. They capture value by selling products through their website and offering courses that people find interesting and alternative. In a way one might say that Gruten capture value in a sustainable way, by teaching customers not to throw away all of their coffee grounds. Gruten uses coffee grounds from the bakery chain “Godt Brød” in Oslo, securing their value delivering. In addition, the company’s leader, Siri Mittet, appears to be a devoted entrepreneur and a member of the “green” political party Miljøpartiet De Grønne, being an important resource for the company.

gruten 1

 

What fascinated us most when reading about Gruten, is that it represents a shift in the mentality of people. It seems like a “low impact” initiative, but addresses important values and a way of living that will be neccessary when striving for a sustainable future. It’s a bottom-up approach to sustainability, fully utilizing and respecting the resources we are fortunate to enjoy. Gruten, as a small company in Oslo, shows that you don’t need to be a large enterprise in order to take sustainability seriously, and making a difference. A simple idea can make a simple product, which serves both our hands and the environment!

 

Want to read more?

See http://www.gruten.no/

 

 

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27 thoughts on “Anyone’s up for a coffee break?

  1. First of all, I must say that their website is really good. It illustrates what they do in a simple and understandable way, and I think it sums up the firm pretty well: Innovative and customer friendly.

    I don’t think Gruten is one of the most “important” firms when it comes to the direct environmental effect, but I do think that it symbolizes the mindset of more and more firms around the world: If more people care about the environment, and do small changes in their living and consumption, than the environment will benefit from it in the long run. It is also an example of a firm that tries to reduce the externalities of others by reducing waste, while at the same time shedding light.

    Of course, as other entrepreneurs, Siri Mittet also wants to benefit from this project by earning money. You can read an interview with her on this website(in Norwegian):

    http://e24.no/privat/siri-vil-tjene-paa-kaffegruten-du-kaster/23550707

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    • We wanted to use Gruten as an example on exactly what you are saying – that it symbolizes a certain mindset, and that you don’t have to radically change your lifestyle in order to help the environment.

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  2. I think this is a really cool case! And even though they are a small company, they might inspire other people to think differently about the small things that we take for granted. It is important to see opportunities for sustainability in everything we do. Really like the concept!

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    • I agree with you. I have just recently started to drink coffee from capsules and I think people should try to find a way to reuse these too if possible!

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  3. I really like the way many sustainable business models are utilizing cheap (or maybe even free) input factors in their production. If these input factors are materials that otherwise would turn to waste – there’s a good chance that these companies can be both sustainable and profitable in the long run. However, I have to admit that I find some of these business models relying a bit too much on “ethically conscious” customers, making products that are not market oriented. I guess this is the case for Gruten, and I would personally (as a cheap and busy student) never think of taking the time to learn how to grow my own mushrooms. So to summarize I would state that Gruten are offering sustainable products (which I think is a great idea), but they do not have a market orientation and I don’t think they will be profitable in the long run.

    On another note; if Gruten really were interested in making a profit, I don’t think they should share the recipes for the very soap they’re selling. I know that they’re doing this as a way of being a positive role model, but I would say that this is a move that could potentially ruin their entire business idea.

    I also have an idea for further discussion:
    I find it slightly odd that Gruten give away a share of their profits to “good causes”, as they state on their website. I believe it should be sufficient for a company to offer a sustainable product in order for them to fulfill their social responsibility. Does anyone else have a view on this specific matter?

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    • I fully agree with your first argument, I don’t think I would take the time to grow my own mushrooms – especially not while I’m still a student. But I don’t fully agree with your second argument, about the company teaching people their methods. I would think that it’s both good marketing and a possibility for the company to come across as genuine to “ethically conscious”-consumers. As long as they get their raw material (the gruten) from bakery chains they won’t risk loosing their customers and at the same time they can promote the company, maybe benefitting both themselves and their supplier 🙂

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    • I agree with your argument that it should be sufficient for a company to offer a sustainable product, and that sharing profit with other “good causes” is not necessary for being a “good company”. Meanwhile sharing profits makes a statement and setting an example about how you want businesses to change, to caring more about other things than maximizing profits, and this is something I believe will attract customers.

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  4. This sounds amazing! Even though it may have to change people’s mindset about soap in this case. It may sound weird for somebody to wash themselves with soap that has been made from “garbage”. Especially when you look at the brands like Chanel, Dior, Lancôme etc who brand their soap as luxury soap. To get these customers to buy the Gruten soap might be a bit hard, but when that is said there are so many other customers in Norway to take from, so that shouldn’t be hard in my opinion. However, for a business model like this to be successful, it requires people to actually understand that even though a product has been made from something else that we used to name garbage, it might just as well be an amazing product. it will be interesting to see where this goes 🙂

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    • I actually learned from a chef that coffee grounds are commonly used by kitchen personnel to rid their hands of strong smells like fish and the like. Coffee grounds therefore fits pretty good in soap, even though it could be classified as “garbage”. However, while I love low impact sustainable projects like every other man, I have huge difficulties seeing how this business could ever take off. For example it’s not like there’s any shortage of soap or mushrooms, and going through the trouble of recycling coffee grounds really doesn’t seem like it’s worth it. I just think the business is going to have a hard time discovering its niche customer base, even among members of the Green Party. Also I think it might be a little too naive and uprofitable to give away the earnings. Is there no consideration for the cost of capital? I guess one could argue that the owners worry about other issues than profitability, but that would make the business a charity by definition.

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  5. I really like the idea of this business model. You take something most of us just throw away as waste, and you transform it into something we will pay to get. You add value to the waste through new ways to use it and a nice design!

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  6. Their website was really cool! and this was a great tip for a christmas gift to a family member that is really loving coffee, and loves organic products. He is also the type that could grow his own mushrooms… But at the same time I wonder, how many of those people are there? Do they have enough customers to survive in the long run? In Oslo maybe, and it will be exiting to see have this develops.

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    • That remains to see. I will buy their soap as christmas gifts to people i know share the same values (like my mother), and for others I belive would enjoy a luxury soap whit a good story to it. My mother also enjoys growing her own vegetables, so in searching for a creative birthday gift, I’ve decided to sign her up for the oyster mushroom course. If there’s enough interested people out there to make this profitable is hard to say. I believe, however, that there are many (slightly odd) products and services that there is a sufficient demand for. As mentioned in a comment above: “I’m cheap and busy student, and wouldn’t buy their soap nor the mushroom/soap course. It’s probably not marked orientated enough to have success.” I understand this opinion, but I honestly find the conclusion a bit hasty. There are two reasons for this:

      First, this is obviously a niche, and one cannot expect that everyone would find interest in it. But that is not a necessity for success. I bet their fixed costs and capital employed are both pretty low.

      Second, as a student the soap is the perfect gift to buy. It’s creative, gives a sense of luxury, but still reasonable. So if you’re “cheap”, that is an even better reason to buy this. Also, if the soap turns out to be as good as some people claim, it’s likely that people will buy it again (with good conscience).

      The link under is for another product that was a huge success in Norway some years ago, which has recently been gaining new territory in Europe:

      http://www.hegnar.no/okonomi/artikkel574278.ece

      Don’t underestimate the underdog and the power of fashion:)
      Although the skeptics might be right and they’ll flop…

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  7. This is a very interesting and great case! The huge amount of waste in this world represents a major problem. We all have to contribute, and ever as little or big a company is, their contribution to this problem is important. This is a fun and innovative business idea, and it can help spread the awareness of this problem around.

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  8. If they use the grut as fertilizer for coffe trees, they have taken Circular Economy to a new level! haha
    It’s quite exciting to see people develop a business out of using peoples waste. The product cost in Gruten’s accounts would probably make every economist cheer.

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  9. I also like this idea, mostly because it is really creative! Why not make it even bigger and build large greenhouses for mushroom farming and collect grut from all coffee bars in Norwegian cities?

    However, I don’t see the big environmental issue with coffee grut waste. After all, this is organic waste that most Norwegian people (hopefully) throw in the organic waste disposal (not in Bergen though, where the sorting of organic waste is lacking). Most of this organic waste is recycled into compost and bio gas, so throwing coffee grut in the organic waste disposal is not bad for the environment!

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  10. I have never thought that coffee gounds actually could be reused as something positive for the society. As you said in your blog post, coffee is frequently used by most adults in Norway, and other countries, and it is facinating that you could make a business from the “waste” it produces.

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  11. This company seems like a great example of how one can create a business model on reducing the shadow of others. Although coffee ground may not be the biggest environmental problem, it is (or was) a underutilized resource, and it is encouraging to see how “Gruten” makes full use of this. I think this approach to creating business models will be ever more pertinent as the global focus on reducing our climatic footprint increases. This is also a good example of how to do a business model innovation, by moving into a market where there currently are no other players. I would be surprised to see others trying to fight Gruten about this segment as Gruten seems to have established relations with some major “suppliers” of coffee grounds, which functions as structural entry barrier for others who might want to enter into the same market.

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  12. Haha, Mushrooms. This is a cool business model! Using waste as a resource is not unknown of, but this way of doing it I believe is quite the innovation for many people!

    This comapny has been frequently in the media the last year, and I’m looking forward to seeing more of how they are doing, and if we get other similar business models in the time to come!

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  13. What a nice way of doing sustainable business. Moreover, I couldn’t even imagine how much issues we have because of coffee waste. But the whole model seems to be exactly what we need.
    Like Jørgen mentioned, coffee waste is a good fertilizer and could be used in that purpose.

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  14. What a nice way to build up a business thinking circular from the beginning. It’ll be interesting to see firms like these pop up everywhere using our waste as an input-factor in production. Very relevant these days with food waste being a hot topic.

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  15. I did not know that it was possible and was positively surprised. Very interesting and inspiring initiative! I hope to see more of this in the future! As a consumer I will often try to choose better alternative, but as a student my budget is tight. So I hope that we soon can see more environmentally friendly products at a more competitive price.

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  16. I already knew about the coffee grounds propreties because my familie use it in our garden. But I am surprise about this company. That show that no matter what kind of “waste” is, you probably will find someone for making something usefull with it. That a very hopefull for all the company it still have to be created.

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