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 When will my product be out of date?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.
How value exchange is key when designing a disruptive service
We at Vesta were never much fans of the Dash button, and we weren’t alone. When you have to assure the world that your product isn’t an April Fool’s joke, it must be a rough day to work in marketing. Now the dash buttons are being withdrawn, there is value in assessing why this ambitious and bold, but flawed product missed out on mainstream adoption.
Dash was never claiming environmental credentials to be fair to it, but the rather glib one-button re-ordering of all that packaging was one of the things that inspired Vesta’s creation. However, the main reason behind its demise is about the experience and value it offered. A consideration of value exchange offers a useful way to understand service adoption, and we’ve voiced our concerns about Terracycle’s Loop in a similar way.
What did Dash offer? Simple ordering and a potential time saver. Sounds good, but what did it ask for?
- Own a button per product
- Don’t lose or break any of the buttons
- (at some point) recharge the buttons (we never quite understood how that would work)
- Restrict button access to responsible individuals
- Buy the buttons in the first place
Listed like that, the convenience Dash was trying to deliver was clearly more than offset by the demands the service made on its users. A really disruptive service must offer more than it takes to be successful. The iPod is a wonderful example of this. It asked us to effectively burn most of our invested capital in music collections and go digital. For those of us with a giant pile of CDs (we might be showing our age here!), there was a process of copying them all to MP3. One by one. Which took hours.
But we did it, because it offered more. All of everything we wanted to listen to. Anywhere. It outweighed the inconvenience of the change.
At Vesta, our packages offer fully automated re-ordering that is completely integrated. A single scan of our packages through Vesta’s store room application is the only step end-users need to take, and everything else is taken care of. It remains to be seen if our value exchange is the right one for mass adoption, but we believe that combining real convenience with the chance to eliminate single-use plastic is one that will work.
Amazon scraps Dash buttons
Amazon scraps Dash buttons
Amazon stops selling its Dash buttons because shoppers are using other methods to buy products.
BP’s energy report looks alarming, but has some interesting insight for those looking to tackle the plastic problem
It’s easy to demonise big oil, especially when they publish something that seems as nakedly self-serving as an opposition to a plastics ban. However, the BP 2019 energy outlook doesn’t look like quite such a whitewash.
The point they seem to be making is that simply replacing plastics won’t necessarily be a big win for the environment, if it fails to be accompanied by systemic changes to infrastructure and fulfilment. The good folk at Herriot Watt university have done some solid-looking work to support this too. The energy involved in making glass, for example, would be a real problem if we had to make the half- trillion bottles a year currently made with plastic this way.
At Vesta we, cautiously, agree with this. We need a more intelligent packaging solution that allows us to make efficient use of the materials available. Our connected devices allow for orders to be made when they’re needed, and provide a permanent home for whatever they’re storing. This allows our customers to look at short life packaging for transit, allowing us to provide convenience for consumers and a viable business model for manufacturers.
A reduction in plastic use is essential, but we will have to think about smart solutions. We must make sure we change to a method of packaging our products which provides a lasting benefit for everyone.
It’s been an exciting news day in the world of sustainability, with the announcement of several complementary schemes to tackle single-use packaging and the plastic epidemic. This got us talking at Vesta about accountability as an incentive to act in an environmentally responsible way, and about how easy it is to opt out of recycling if the local authority seems to have done the same.
A quick straw poll at Vesta HQ this morning revealed the vagaries of the postcode lottery, with widely different experiences of recycling across the three London boroughs and one county council in which Vesta staff live. Widening it out to family members revealed seemingly limitless permutations of coloured bins, separating, and effort involved, all of which acts as a disincentive to recycle household waste. In addition, blocks of flats and multiple occupancy buildings offer a further challenge, and often see anonymous piles of waste for landfill because services are stretched and there is no possibility of sanctions for failing to designate recycling.
When ease and accountability plummet, so too does the incentive to do the right thing.
The schemes announced today, broadly, are as follows:
- Consumers will be charged a returnable deposit on packaging.
- Household recycling will be demystified and streamlined, and county and city councils will aim to eliminate the postcode lottery of waste management services.
- Businesses will be charged for using polluting and hard-to-recycle materials when producing and packaging their goods.
Done properly, with everyone accepting their share of responsibility for their consumption, these schemes could combine to offer a real alternative to the single-use paradigm. Recycling should be made clear and easy, and in turn there should be financial sanctions for those who fail to comply.
Vesta CEO Tom Mowat has talked here about the ways in which convenience and profitability offer one of the best routes to sustainability. This concept is at the core of our smart refillable containers and of everything we do: seamless services which allow people to make the environmentally appropriate choice.
Plastic pollution is suddenly in the public eye, with everyone from legislative bodies such as the EU (though recent delays are a concern), to David Attenborough highlighting the appalling scale of the problem.
Recyclable one-use packaging – whilst welcome – looks unlikely to be enough to stem the tide of waste. The reduction in plastic content of disposables can be easily matched or exceeded by an extended period of reuse, and by adopting smart-packaging built to be re-used.
Companies and consumers alike need to spearhead the widespread adoption, or re-adoption, of reusable packaging. Simply using the same package twenty times would reduce plastic waste by 95%.
This is not an entirely new idea. Most people over the age of thirty remember the widespread use of milk bottles, which subsequently disappeared. There are a number of reasons for this, but what has changed since the demise of the milkman, is the widespread use of personal delivery and the availability of connected platforms that can more effectively manage the process.
It’s time for the milk bottle to make a comeback.