Author Archives: Dave Carr

One size fits… almost no-one

Connected smart packaging to track usage and automate refill. The infrastructure to improve
customer engagement, increase margins and provide a path to eliminating harmful single-use
plastics.

‘Have your packages continually resupply your customers.’

A simple proposition that can be applied to all? Yes, but bespoke is key.

Over the last two years of working with clients at Vesta Smart Packaging, we’ve learned that every
auto-replenishment proposition comes with a range of specialist requirements.

Package-led auto replenishment makes a seller of product into a provider of that product-as-a-
service (yes, another XaaS). For our clients, it’s a fundamental transformation of their business and
how they compete to get their products into the hands of their customers. It’s not a surprise then
that our customers have come to care deeply about the specifics of tailoring their new services.

Our packages, platform and application combine to deliver a highly customisable auto-
replenishment product, and we’ve been both surprised and delighted by the range of customisation
requests from the projects we’ve completed over the last couple of years.

Some recent new developments include:

  1.  Automatic recognition of refills – our smart packages can use short range radio
    communications to check if the refill that has been used is legitimate. This provides both
    confidence in the proper running of the service and the potential to overcome the vast
    problem of counterfeiting.
  2. Session recording – by leaving our sensors active for longer, we can determine not only the
    amount of use, but the nature of use. This has already been adopted by some of our clients
    to enhance the service they offer to their customers via our packaging
  3. End user analytics – using the full range of package data to deliver insight to end users. How
    much do you use compared to last week, to others, to other times of day? How much are
    you spending? How can you use this product more effectively?

As we complete increasing numbers of projects to deploy smart packaging across all FMCG verticals (we have now completed trials in home care, food and beverage and personal care), we see how
vital it is to work with clients to provide bespoke solutions.

Get in touch with us if you think Vesta could help your company transform its business, engage your
customers in a range of ways you’d never thought possible and crucially provide a way drastically
reducing your reliance on single-use plastics.

Vesta Welcomes a New Director of Product Experience

Today Vesta is absolutely delighted to formally welcome Andrew Wallen as our new director of product experience. His work history and track record in creating world-class digital experiences for millions of users is something we’re really excited about bringing to the Vesta ecosystem, and in particular he’ll be working to build enhanced continuity across our devices, platform and application.

Andrew is a Director of Product Experience who has worked in real-time software development and management for over fifteen years. He has led technical delivery of projects ranging from prototypes to multi-billion dollar franchises and held responsibility for over forty staff. Having spent most of his career in the video games sector; working for both start-ups and industry titans like Electronic Arts and King; he currently collaborates on projects to realise technical aspirations and scale engineering teams. Andrew has a bachelor’s degree in Computer Science, Imaging & Multimedia from the University of East Anglia.

Getting to know your customers 3: Refining value from customer data

We did not set Vesta up with the idea of generating game-changing data sets to help our customers innovate – it just turned out that way (if that’s not the best Startup humblebrag of 2021, I really do want to see it). Our ultimate objective was to provide enough data about the supply chain to improve efficiency and eliminate the need for plastic. Absurd humblebragging aside, we really didn’t think what could happen if companies knew who had their products, how they used them and how much they had left.

We outlined the core elements of data-enabled services in the last blog, but will discuss these in a bit more detail here:

Personalisation at scale. FMCG/CPG have been talking personalisation for as long as I’ve worked in this space and like 99% of innovation in this space it was really talking about digital marketing. Or in other how to serve ads targeted to demographically defined groups of people. What we’re talking about here is an evolution beyond that. Offering services defined by a deep and behavioural understanding of interaction with your products. Do they use a lot of chili when they cook? Are they heavy-handed with the fabric softener? Have they been using a lot more moisturiser when the weather has been cold? The objective in a Vesta-enabled world is no longer to simply stay front of mind when someone is walking around the supermarket. It becomes about helping people to get the best of your products for them.

Adherence and support. We had a relatively recent brief from a group talking about immune-suppressant drugs prior to transplant. Putting Vesta into this supply chain helps remind people to take the right amount, and provides the medical professionals with data to assure themselves that the chance of rejection is minimised. It provides insurance companies with confidence to underwrite the process. When we think about other treatments, especially for chronic conditions, the potential is seemingly limitless.

Efficiency. We talk about efficiency in supply chains, but what about with products themselves? What do you do with the last bit in the bottle? When will my product be out of date? Do I even want more of this? Vesta targeted removing waste in the supply chain, but we’ve already seen we can go further. We helped a trialist understand they could save electricity costs AND CO2 emissions by using their dishwasher later in the day.

I hope this series has been interesting and that it might spark some more ideas. If any of those ideas would benefit from a conversation with Vesta, please get in touch through our contact page or direct through LinkedIn.

 

Vesta is Raising Capital

Almost exactly one year after finishing Startupbootcamp, and after our first commercial trials, our first revenue and a whole host of other activities, Vesta is ready to accelerate again.

To facilitate this, we are conducting a seed round of fund-raising to support our growth. We have secured investment already but need to close the round and we invite anyone interested to get in touch.

Over the last twelve months we have shown comprehensively that manufacturers and consumers are looking for something different from the packaging of products. Our solution offers convenience, efficiency, visibility and, of course, a route to eliminate single use plastic.

To disrupt an industry as established as packaging, we need to develop our solution and scale our business. The money we raise will help us take on our staff full time, work with more customers and make a solution that can go to millions of homes and businesses around the world.

If being part of this sounds exciting to you, please fill in the form below, and we’ll send you our prospectus and supporting information. As we are looking to close this round and get to work soon, the first deadline for expressions of interest will be February 21st 2020.
Sincerely,

Tom and the Vesta team

    Vesta’s Christmas Update

    Season’s greetings from Vesta:

    We’ve gone quite a while without a blog, but as things start to calm down after a frantic Q4, it feels like sensible time to consider and reflect on the last twelve months. It is sometimes hard to imagine that at this time last year, we had just kicked off our accelerator with Startupbootcamp, we only had one working Vesta and our platform and application existed far more in our imaginations than on our GitHub.

    So what have we done in the last twelve months?

    • We finished Startupbootcamp and presented Vesta to an audience of more than 400
    • We started our first paid trials in the UK, Norway and Brazil
    • We built a the first commercially viable version of the full solution AND this was with most of the team working evenings and weekends only!
    • We presented at events in London, Birmingham, Hamburg and Bologna and were able to see the market for sustainable and functional packaging take shape
    • We built dozens of Vestas and now have a hinged-lid, spray, pump and pour configurations designed, built and tested. This has involved more hours of configuration, testing and careful manufacture than any of us could have expected, and our prototype models are a real testament to the skill and dedication of our engineering team
    • We have partnered with our friends at NEW consulting and made huge strides in Scandinavia as a result
    • We have deployed our application, our client portal and our amazing new website (look at the website, I’m not kidding, it’s awesome)

    It’s not all achievements either. Looking back fondly on a year well spent is very satisfying, but a rose-tinted view won’t serve that well for next year. We have made loads of mistakes, got things wrong, ordered the wrong components, forgot to update a .PHP call, not planned enough time to test things properly and on one notable occasion, completely ignored that Android apps don’t like connecting to Wi-Fi networks with no internet connection (this doesn’t sound that bad, but it was a nightmare!!).

    Simple mistakes are easy though. You look at what you did, figure out what went wrong, and you try not to do it again. The biggest challenge of the year was more psychological – how do you stay positive in the face of challenges, how do you listen to the subconscious voice telling you that this whole exercise is doomed to fail, how do you work with no budget and try to balance life, work and an outlandish dream project for a distributed team of people with amazing skills and lots of other things on their minds beside Vesta? Three things have, just, kept me on course this year:

    • Tremendous support from my business partners, my friends and family and my network. We have had so much great support and even the smallest vote of confidence is more valuable than I’d ever have expected before we started.
    • Belief in what we’re doing. The world has become aware that we are doing damage to our environment in a way that isn’t going to be ok or work itself out. People are looking to take action and I think we’ll see disruption to every industry as we all start to think more about how what we do changes the world around us.
    • As stressful as this is – and it really is – this is a different kind of stress. I, and the whole team at Vesta actually care if this works. We’ll be exultant if it does and devastated if we fail. However safe and secure what were doing before was, it didn’t matter like this.

    And for next year?

    • We hope to close our funding round and bring the team on full time (stay tuned on this one)
    • We have a LOAD of new development work to do to make our service even better
    • We are looking forward to turning small trials into proper commercial roll outs
    • We’re looking forward to meeting new companies as clients and partners and to finding even more use cases for Vesta packaging all over the world

    It has been a breathless, exhausting and exhilarating twelve months. I can scarcely imagine what I’ll be writing at this time next year.

    Happy Christmas to all from Vesta!!

    Tom

    Vesta’s 6 Month Roundup

    Since finishing the IOT StartUp Bootcamp in January, it’s been an exciting and whirlwind six months for Vesta. The bootcamp wrapped-up in style, with CEO Tom Mowat giving his pitch presentation to a packed audience at the IMAX in Kensington. And we haven’t looked back.

    As the pressure mounts on companies to cut single-use plastic from their supply chains, Vesta’s combination of analytics and smart packaging gives them the tools to streamline fulfilment, and to provide refills in genuinely biodegradable packaging.

    We’re thrilled to announce that we’ve just shipped our most recent commercial prototype to a global corporation dedicated to incorporating IOT-driven smart solutions into healthcare. We continue to be developing products for various FMCG groups, and are delighted to have branched into Femtech – a rapidly growing sector that brings all the functionality of IOT to feminine care essentials.

    In March, Tom held a seminar with the bright young things at the Holt Business School London, who came up wth some brilliant ideas about marketing and use cases for Vesta.

    In May, we were delighted to win the opportunity to have a stand at the SUBCON show at the NEC, and Tom and our COO Dave Carr appeared there last week meeting new customers and some potential new partners and suppliers to boot.

    To cap it all, we’ll be featured in the July 2019 issue of the brilliant Startups Magazine. Read the article here

    The future’s looking bright, and we’d love to hear from potential partners who want to use IOT enabled devices to improve analytics, fulfilment, and – vitally – environmental credentials.

    Happy summer everyone!

    A Bold Pledge

    In the wake of the UK government’s commitment to work towards plastic-free isles in stores, one of Britain’s supermarket chains has gone one better; it has set itself the target of becoming wholly plastic free within five years.

    Citing advances in technology, Iceland’s CEO told The Guardian ‘there really is no excuse any more for excessive packaging that creates needless waste and damages our environment’. The company’s first step was to remove plastic straws from its own brand range of products, and all new food ranges will feature paper-based food trays.

    This is a welcome development, especially in the wake of the ‘one million tonnes’ revelation, but it is essential that domestic consumers change their habits too.

    In the case of too many products—particularly domestic cleaning agents— single-use plastic containers remain the only purchase option. The onus is then placed on the consumer and the local authority to dispose of these, in a waste paradigm that has led to the current crisis of plastic in our oceans.
    To combat this effectively, householders need easy affordable solutions which fit into busy lives.

    Vesta Smart Packaging represents a paradigm shift. Using the Internet of Things, Vesta imbeds refillable solutions into homes, offering an integrated delivery system and environmentally sound alternative to one-use plastics.
    Vesta knows when cleaning products are running low, and delivers to refillable containers, combining peace of mind, affordability and environmentally sustainability.

     

    Iceland supermarket vows to eliminate plastic on all own-branded products

    Iceland supermarket vows to eliminate plastic on all own-branded products

    Retailer outlines five-year aim to replace all plastic packaging with trays made of paper and pulp

    Source: www.theguardian.com/business/2018/jan/15/iceland-vows-to-eliminate-plastic-on-all-own-branded-products

    UK Supermarkets 1 million tons of plastic per year

    In a damning expose, The Guardian has revealed that Britain͛s leading supermarkets ͚create more than 800,000 tonnes of plastic packaging waste every year͛. And, more worryingly, the paper suggests that the firms go to elaborate lengths to hide

    the extent of their plastic footprint. What is clear is that their use of contractual loopholes to obfuscate the scale of plastic use prevents clear calls for change. Supermarkets were the first to be obliged to charge for plastic bags, and supermarket delivery services are often touted as a green option. However, until the products they supply are encased in less single-use plastic, they will continue to act as huge catalysts for pollution.

    In the face of this, startups are setting themselves the challenge to combat the plastic epidemic. And it͛s working. A paradigm shift is coming from the world of smart refillables—smart containers can be integrated seamlessly into homes and refilled with the goods we use the most.

    For the first time, the Internet of Things allows household goods to order themselves, and to be delivered in a refillable and sustainable way. Of course, Supermarkets could get in on this too, but they first need to face up to the dangers of feeding the nation͛s plastic addiction.

    Nearly 1m tonnes every year: supermarkets shamed for plastic packaging

    Nearly 1m tonnes every year: supermarkets shamed for plastic packaging

    Exclusive: Guardian investigation unwraps truth about supermarket plastics after big brands refuse to divulge packaging secrets

    Source: www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/jan/17/nearly-1m-tonnes-every-year-supermarkets-shamed-for-plastic-packaging

     

    Bioplastics and Vesta Smart Packaging

    At Vesta Smart Packaging, we strive to significantly reduce plastic pollution and, by extension, carbon emissions used in the life cycle of one of our containers, or Vestas. It is also important that our containers be recyclable and preferable that they be made from recycled, recyclable and sustainable materials. However, choosing the materials for our refillable and reusable containers has been a more complex exercise than we had first envisioned. On first glance, bioplastics seemed to be the answers to our problems because it is a plastic derived from renewable biomass sources, such as vegetable fats, vegetable oils, corn starch, or microbiota (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bioplastic).

    With a current-life of 2 years, our Vestas already show that we can reduce the number of plastic bottles containers over 2 years per product by at least 23. They can be reused after the 2 year period if the plastic container has not sustained too much damage, as we can simply steam clean them, replace their batteries and re-deploy them. However, not all of them will be re-usable and at some point, all of our Vestas will need to be recycled.

    Bearing this in mind, we decided to investigate using bio-plastics as the building material for our product. The main considerations for us when choosing a material were:

    1.  Strength
    2. Recyclability
    3. Bio-degradability
    4. Carbon Footprint

    1. Strength

    Bioplastics are generally not as strong as regular plastics. Currently, the only known way to increase their strength is to mix them with regular plastics – which we would need as it is intended to be used multiple times over a 2 year period. Though this might be better than pure plastic, it can also reduce the recyclability of the plastic and how bio-degradable it is, whilst increasing the cost. These are also important factors in choosing the correct material for our containers. There is currently research being conducted into including cellulose fibres or particles in bio-plastics to increase its strength, which will be watching closely. (see http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/bm050897y)

    2. Recyclability

    Recyclability varies considerably with bioplastics. However, those bioplastics that are recyclable cannot be recycled with regular plastics. They require a new stream of recycling, which most recycling plants do not have. A method would have to be developed to separate bio-plastics from regular plastics to make bioplastic recycling on a large scale viable. There is also some concern that bioplastics would contaminate normal plastic recycling (https://waste-management-world.com/a/napcor-concerned-over-pla-contamination-of-pet-stream), increasing the cost and decreasing the effectiveness of plastics recycling. So in short, while many bioplastics are theoretically recyclable, very few places are equipped to process them.

    3. Bio-degradability

    If a bottle cannot be recycled, it is important that it is bio-degradable. Being made from bio-plastics does not automatically make a bottle recyclable or biodegradable, it just means that the plastic has come biological sources rather than fossil fuels. For example, CocaCola’s PlantBottle, which is made from bio-plastics cannot be composted and does not bio-degrade because it has the same chemical structure as a plastic made from oil (https://www.alternet.org/story/151543/compostable_or_recyclable_why_bioplastics_are_causing_an_environmental_headache). The more bio-degradable a plastic is, the weaker it tends to be. This means they might be more suited for plastic packaging of items such as fruit, or potato chips and don’t lend themselves to tough, robust packaging like that produced by Vesta Smart Packaging. The bio-degradability of many of these bioplastics is also questionable. Many require special high-temperature composting plants and won’t biodegrade in a domestic compost heap.

    4. Carbon Footprint

    David Grewell of Iowa State University (http://dgrewell.public.iastate.edu/research/bioplastics/cost_comparison.html) has conducted some research on the life-cycles of bio-plastics and has found that many types of bioplastic have a higher carbon footprint throughout their life than regular plastic bottles. See the video below for a more detailed analysis of this problem

    Having considered these factors, we believe that bioplastic technology is not ready to be deployed for Vesta Smart Packaging….YET. However, we believe that as the technology is developed and problems are solved we will be able to move to bioplastics. The technology is constantly being researched and in time we believe that bioplastics will become stronger, more recyclable and more bio-degradable. Bioplastics are the future, but that future is not quite with us.

    Useful Sources

    Recycling Mystery: Bioplastic

    http://www.explainthatstuff.com/bioplastics.html

    http://green-plastics.net/posts/74/qaa-starch-plastic-tensile-strength/

    https://www.alternet.org/story/151543/compostable_or_recyclable_why_bioplastics_are_causing_an_environmental_headache

    https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/may/23/biodegradable-plastic-false-solution-for-ocean-waste-problem

    http://dgrewell.public.iastate.edu/research/bioplastics/cost_comparison.html

    UK faces build-up of plastic waste

    The world’s plastic epidemic is often portrayed as a far-flung problem – one which might cause a bit of unsightly litter on motorway sidings, but not one that could seriously affect our daily lives.

    But this could be about to change.

    It is a little-known fact that Britain has been selling rubbish to China, paying to pass the buck of our excess garbage, and the proof of our national unsustainability.

    According to the BBC, ‘Britain has been shipping up to 500,000 tonnes of plastic for recycling in China every year, but now the trade has been stopped’.

    That’s right. With China no longer willing to accept the waste – in a bid to clean up its own outlook – we as a nation will be forced to confront our throw-away, one-use culture, and the staggering quantity of rubbish that this generates.

    The solution is for business, homes and manufacturers to be proactive, and to take this opportunity to adopt smart, refillable solutions for the health—not just of the planet—but of the nation.

    UK faces build-up of plastic waste

    UK faces build-up of plastic waste

    UK does not have capacity to deal with extra plastic waste after a Chinese import ban, says industry group.

    Source: www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-42455378