An online pitch should be short and to the point, but at the same time enormously sustainable! NEXT>IN SUSTAINABILITY, QVC’s new startup competition, met all these requirements. Five great founders competed with their impressive products and concepts. In the end, the jury was most impressed by the compostable flower pot from Pottburri. The prize: a trip to SXSW 2022! Find out what happened and who was involved here!
Sustainability is becoming increasingly important for consumers when making purchasing decisions, as confirmed by Marielle Bergmann, Brand Development Specialist at QVC, in a conversation with our host Freya Oehle. The multi-channel retailer launched this competition specifically for this purpose and expanded the criteria in the course of the application process. While the initial focus was on products from the food, fashion and beauty sectors, an additional “Innovation” category was added for all startups that develop ideas for a more sustainable economy. A good decision, as the selection of finalists proved!
More transparent supply chains and entirely new taste experiences
Antoni Hauptmann opened the competition with his startup Ourz. More and more consumers want to know where their food comes from and which delivery routes it has taken. Pure designations of origin are often not enough, and there is limited space to show the entire supply chain on the packaging. But there is enough space for a QR code, which can be used to call up all the important information via an app. Ourz uses a blockchain to ensure that all data is correct and tamper-proof. One test customer found that 20% of buyers used this service, indicating the added value it can have for all parties involved.
For Lena Jüngst, co-founder of air up, the big issues were on the agenda:climate change and, of course, plastic waste, to which beverage bottles are a major contributor. air up needs merely a single, reusable bottle to conjure up a diverse world of flavor. To do this, it relies on the sense of smell and so-called pods, which also stimulate the taste buds via the nose. One pod is enough to flavor five liters of water, saving not only significant amounts of plastic, but also sugar and, consequently, calories. In concrete figures, air up has so far saved 17.5 million plastic bottles and 500 tons of sugar.
A new multi-plant system, a plant pot, and an underestimated raw material to combat plastic waste
Food delivery services and restaurants that use takeaways to stay afloat produce a particularly large amount of plastic waste. A reusable system could solve the problem, and that’s exactly what Tim Breker, one of the founders of Vytal, presented. Vytal provides high-quality trays and other packaging suitable for multiple uses. Customers do not have to pay a deposit; instead, a fee of ten euros is charged if the containers are not returned within 14 days. An app provides an overview of which containers are currently in circulation and sends a reminder when the deadline is approaching. This results in a 99% on-time return rate.
Pottburri‘s plant pots are not reused, but instead go back to the earth, decomposing when planted in the garden. A plastic planter is, therefore, no longer necessary: another clever contribution to waste avoidance. This is made possible by a natural fiber material composed of sunflower husks. The pots are sold through nurseries and the company’s own online store to great success: Pottburri has already sold five million units. Stacked on top of each other, they are said to be twice as high as Austin’s tallest skyscraper. Next year, founder Antonia Cox will be able to personally check whether this is true.
Joana Gil, CEO of Lignopure presented another way to avoid plastic. She uses lignin, a wood component that has typically been incinerated. Yet, it can be used in an enormous variety of ways, as an alternative to plastics in many consumer goods, but also for cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, and even food. Investors recently provided Lignopure with 2.2 million euros, which it intends to use to increase its annual production to 90 tons. On a global scale, of course, that’s not enough, so licensing the technology would be the next step.
The jury has chosen Pottburri!
Including follow-up questions, each startup had only five minutes to present, and it was impressive how much information they were able to impart in such a short time. The jury took a little more time to come to a fair decision. The jury consisted of Mali Baum, founder of WLOUNGE, a network for women in the tech industry; Kerry Rupp, General Partner at True Wealth Ventures, an investment firm that specializes in female founders; and Carsten Jürgens, Vice President of Merchandise at QVC.
The jury had plenty of praise and a few tips for all of the startups. Ourz was advised to show the supply chain for products other than food, while air up was told to pay particular attention to keeping post-purchases high for pods. Vytal has the best growth opportunities with plastic packaging in supermarkets. Lignopure was judged by the jury to have global market potential, as was Pottburri, where the overall package and success to date were the most convincing.
In 2022, it’s back to Austin (hopefully).
If everything works out and no insidious viral mutants get in the way, Pottburri will make the trip to Austin for SXSW 2022. The startup will then be part of a delegation accompanied by german.innovation and will enjoy an extensive program full of exclusive events and great networking opportunities. Just thinking about it now, we can hardly wait!
Incidentally, if you’re a founder and don’t want to wait for QVC’s next pitch to get in touch with the retail company, no problem. The QVC NEXT initiative has been supporting startups from a wide range of industries since 2017. There have been over 40 so far, and if you include candidates from “Die Höhle der Löwen” (German version of Shark Tank), there are even over 100. You can apply to QVC NEXT at any time!