“Being founded in the early days of the Circular Economy (CE) movement, Kaffe Bueno is built upon fundamental CE values and it is engrained not only in our operations but in our company culture. We believe CE will become the standard way of doing business in the next 10 — 15 years as businesses are obliged to maximise resource efficiency and minimize GHG emissions.” Alejandro Franco, Co-founder at KAFFE BUENO.
WHAT IS KAFFE BUENO? KAFFE BUENO is an ingredient company, using green chemistry and biotechnology to upcycle spent coffee grounds into ingredients for cosmetics, functional foods, and nutrients.
HOW DID YOU START OUT? I (Alejandro Franco) started KAFFE BUENO together with two friends from Colombia, Juan and Camilo. Together, we studied International Business in London. As Colombia natives, the problem of coffee waste concerned us for a long time. Coffee is the second consumed beverage in the world after water, and we often asked ourselves what happens with the spent coffee grounds. However, thanks to our upbringing, we knew coffee could be used for much more than a beverage. Our grandmas used to put coffee on our wounds when we were kids, and most women use coffee in Colombia for its skin and hair benefits. This is due to the bioactive compounds inside coffee, which less than 1% end up in your cup, while the remaining 99% remain intact in the spent coffee grounds. Ironically, these healthy compounds are the ones responsible for coffee being so harmful to our planet’s environment, as SCG usually end up in landfills or incinerated, which generates thousands of tons of methane every year. The equivalent of emissions caused by only coffee waste worldwide is about the same as by 10 Mio cars every year!
In London, most of our friends came from Scandinavian countries, with whom we had many interesting discussions about coffee and how it is perceived in different countries. These ‘coffee talks’ encouraged us to look deeper into the topic, and we found out about Startup Denmark, a scheme sponsored by the Danish Business Authority encouraging foreign entrepreneurs to bring their business ideas to Denmark. During our studies, we created a business plan and applied to Startup Denmark, which resulted in the team getting entrepreneurial residences. Initially, we started to trade coffee exported from Colombia directly from the farmers with an idea for the future — to recycle it. Being educated as Business Developers, we were missing the technical know-how to be able to recycle the coffee grounds. That is when, aside from our coffee selling business, we started to study and absorb every piece of information that we could find.
One thing led to another, and later we received an innovation grant from the government to work together with the Danish Technological Institute. After accomplishing the proof of concept, we dedicated us fully to the coffee recycling business and, later on, stopped the coffee trade completely.
In contrast to other companies who recycle coffee “waste”, at KAFFE BUENO, we have decided to focus on the valorization of every single molecule that coffee comprises of, instead of using the whole grounds for composting, as other companies do. This is the result of our in-house business analysis, which revealed that although it requires more CAPEX and more technical and regulatory barriers, the returns are much higher for every kg of SCG compared to companies using SCG for composting.
HOW IS KAFFE BUENO DOING NOW? After three years of operations, and despite COVID-19, KAFFE BUENO is stronger than ever. Of course, the crisis has slowed down some projects and has obliged us to slow down the plans we had for 2020 and 2021. However, in the midst of the pandemic, we are soon to close our seed round and a 3-year commercial and joint development agreement with an industry bull.
We are looking forward to building the world’s first coffee biorefinery in 2022.
WHAT DID YOU TAKE FROM PARTICIPATION IN KICKSTART? The highlight was the access to big corporates and the opportunity to run pilot projects with a commercial partnership perspective. Furthermore, being in the startup scene in Switzerland was new for us, and we enjoyed it a lot. Also, meeting other startups from all over the world was exciting. Additionally, along with highly supportive experts and mentors, the KICKSTART team, being very well connected, helped us a lot to meet more opportunities!
All in all, KICKSTART is an excellent opportunity for market-ready startups and scale-ups to get in front of the right people within the right companies.