Shared refrigerators stocked with coconut water, juice, soda and seltzer have become the norm in many American workplaces. ‘Perks’ like free drinks and snacks started out at tech companies in Silicon Valley, but now are a staple expectation for attracting top talent.
It’s become a conundrum for sustainably-minded companies, according to Sean Grundy, the co-founder and CEO of Bevi. Brands that make environmental commitments are also simultaneously contributing to the problem with plastic snack packaging.
Table-top and standalone drink dispensing systems have been one solution to this, servicing a huge market in the workplace. The team behind Bevi didn’t plan on being a part of the beverage industry, but they got involved initially to take on the single use bottle supply chain.
Doubling growth year-over-year
Bevi’s goal is to eliminate single use bottles and cans. Grundy told BeverageDaily that they want the quality of Bevi beverages on tap to speak for themselves and attract people away from single use drink packaging, rather than taking the approach of guilting people for using plastic and aluminum.
Bevi dispenses either still or sparkling purified water, with the option of fruit essence flavors. Each machine offers four flavors from Bevi’s portfolio of 15.
“The idea is to take the most popular drinks, make them high quality, and make the user experience of getting bottled beverages at the point of use fun,” Grundy said.
The team is able to track usage behavior through the machines, collecting data on whether Bevi is replacing water coolers or stocks of bottles and cans, as well as how many drinks are poured every day.
Grundy said this allows them to estimate single-use packaging savings, and since launching in 2014 Bevi has saved more 150 million bottles and cans. And with recent growth, these numbers have been more than doubling year over year.
Consistent pours and customizable flavors
Bevi differs from other popular drinks systems because of its small focus and function as a flavored water and seltzer alternative, rather than traditional soda. It also uses medical pumps and valves in the machine that can precisely dispense and maintain flow rate better.
This keeps the beverages consistent with each pour, Grundy said, and eliminates the risk of cross contamination from previous customers. The strength of the added flavors can also be customized per drink.
Right now Bevi is only found in commercial locations, with more than 3,000 corporate customers like the offices of Google, Salesforce, Netflix, Lyft and Bank of America. They see the workplace as an untapped market and opportunity, which they want to conquer before turning to direct-to-consumer.
Especially in larger offices, complementary food and beverage are expensive to supply and time consuming to manage, while also potentially harming a company’s sustainability goals. Bevi emphasizes that it can help them offer employee beverage perks while saving them money, time and environmental impacts.
Grundy also noted that the majority of the sustainability movement is focused on eliminating single-use plastic, with advertising that cans are more easily recycled. But energy is still expended to make, transport and recycle aluminum cans, and it’s preferable to produce no single-use materials at all.
Corporate budget opportunities
The initial plan for Bevi was for it to be in vending locations, with customers paying for a beverage in a reusable bottle. But Grundy said their research and testing led them to the office market.
“It blew my mind how many companies were offering free bottled water and free cans of seltzer to their employees,” he said. “The corporate budget for food and beverage for employees has skyrocketed over the last decade, as companies are competing for talent.”
In 2019 Bevi raised $35.5 million from its series C funding with Bessemer Venture Partners. Since then Grundy said they have doubled their revenue and are embarking on new product development.
“Our mission is to replace single use bottles and cans with a more sustainable beverage supply chain, and in order to do that, we eventually have to operate everywhere bottles and cans are used in significant volume,” he said.