Interviews · 8min read
Interview with Julia Piechotta from Spoontainable
Learn about sustainability in the ice cream industry, plastic-free packaging and more.
“Don’t waste it. Taste it.”—guided by this mantra, the passionate team behind Spoontainable works to bring edible, vegan, plastic-free ice cream spoons and cutlery to consumers across Europe. The Heidelberg-based startup produces its exciting and innovative product range in Germany. Spoontainable has replaced over 2 million plastic spoons on the market to date.
About Julia Piechotta
Julia Piechotta co-founded Spoontainable together with Amelie Vermeer in 2018. After successfully implementing a crowdfunding campaign for the Spoonie, the duo went on to finalise their prototype, expand their team and, in March 2019, launch their first product. Julia Piechotta has a Master of Science in Business Administration and Management from the University of Hohenheim.
Talk us through your R&D process for the 'Spoonie'. How did your hero product take shape from start to finish?
It all started whilst we were doing our Master's degrees at the University of Hohenheim. We contemplated different ways of creating plastic alternatives for the cutlery industry. One day, during a break between two lectures, we were eating ice cream, and we thought to ourselves “Why not eat the spoon as well?“. And this led to the start of our prototyping journey.
We met in our kitchen and started creating our first set of spoons. They ended up having the same consistency as cookie dough. This, of course, wasn’t quite the right fit. So next, we looked at other raw materials. Cocoa shell fibre turned out to be the perfect raw material—it provides our Spoonies with both the stability and sustainability we envisioned. To produce the Spoonies in large quantities, we launched a crowdfunding campaign in 2018, which helped us finance the first production of our edible spoons.
What are the biggest sustainability challenges the European ice cream industry currently faces? And how is Spoontainable helping the sector overcome these?
Every year, billions of plastic spoons and ice-cream packagings end up in landfills. In 2021, the EU-wide ban on single-use plastics will come into effect. As a result, the ice cream industry will have to rethink its approach and will need to find alternatives. Spoontainable's Spoonies have proved themselves as the perfect solution to two problems. By using waste materials from the cocoa industry, we are creating an edible alternative to plastic while revolutionising consumption in the catering industry.
Share some insights from the ice cream market landscape. What trends have you observed in recent years? And which other exciting players are helping propel the industry forward with innovative ingredients, products, services and ideas.
In addition to new ice cream creations that offer unique flavour experiences—such as cucumber or pumpkin—we have noticed that, in recent years, more and more brands are directing their attention towards sustainability efforts. And this not only holds true for cups and spoons but also for the raw materials used in their production. They should be as natural as possible and locally sourced.
If we look at the entire food supply chain, reusable containers and packagings are also revolutionising the food industry. Reusable coffee cups and single-use containers are impacting consumer behaviour. From our perspective, startups, in particular, are leading these innovative ideas. They are rethinking the entire food industry and instigating fundamental change.
Spoontainable has been fighting to abolish plastic from ice cream parlours' tables since day one. The EU's single-use plastics ban is coming into effect in 2021. In what ways has the ban affected your business and partners to date?
When we founded Spoontainable, most retailers and restaurateurs were unaware of the upcoming plastic ban. Our alternative triggered them to rethink their practices and raised consumer awareness around the need for alternative solutions. Meanwhile, the closer the ban gets, the more their interest in our products grows. Customers have requested everything from custom shapes and varieties to a more extensive portfolio.
First edible spoons, now edible straws. What exciting edible product(s) are you looking to launch next?
We are currently working on a coffee stirrer to provide coffee lovers with a sustainable solution too. We cannot yet say with certainty what other specific products we will launch next year. What we can say is that we are planning an extensive product portfolio expansion as a means of becoming the market leader in sustainable plastic alternatives.
Spoontainable is a Member of the EIT Food Accelerator Network. This EIT Food Programme is aimed at registered startups pre-seed funding with traction indicators. The Food Accelerator Network is a four-month programme delivered at six innovation hubs across Europe. By participating, registered startups build skills and gain exposure to their relevant markets, customers, investors and media. The programme provides access to experts and partners with facilities such as labs, agricultural land and pilot sites.
EIT Food, the leading food innovation initiative supported by the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT), has lunched a search to find the next 100 agrifood entrepreneurs who can transform the food system to be healthier, innovative and more sustainable. EIT Food are currently searching for the 2021 cohort.