First of all, give us your elevator pitch for Twiice.
Twiice is a company making edible coffee cups with plans to progress into other areas of edible packaging. New Zealanders throw away something in the vicinity of 290 million coffee cups a year, so that’s quite a few coffee cups going into landfill. There are a bunch of solutions out there for this problem, but nothing that’s quite as zero waste as the Twiice cup, which you can either eat or throw away without feeling bad, because it’ll decompose in any environment.
What were you doing prior to starting Twiice? What sort of background do you come from?
I come from a pro-audio background. I studied audio engineering and then I went and built a couple of recording studios. For the last four or five years, I’ve been working in commercial audio.
My co-founder (Stephen Cashmore), who’s also my father, is an ex-architect, so he’s got the engineering background. He’s involved in the process and the manufacturing side of the business and I’m on the sales and marketing side.
Both our wives are semi-involved as well. My wife (Simone Cashmore) is in graphic design and branding, so she’s done all the branding for Twiice, while my father’s wife (Theresa Cashmore) does a lot of stuff with him on the production side of the business.
So what was it that sparked the idea for Twiice? What was your lightbulb moment?
Back in 2015, we were down at Okahu Bay just having a swim. We’re all quite a creative family and my wife said ‘what if we had an edible coffee cup? Then you wouldn’t have to throw it away. You could just eat it and it would be gone’. Everyone kind of forgot about it at first but the idea stuck in my head. I brought it back up after a couple of weeks and suggested we give making it a go using what we had in the kitchen. But yeah, it all kind of started as a throwaway comment.
You launched Twiice just a few weeks ago, but you first started working on the idea four years ago. What happened in those years to make that idea into a reality?
We started playing with what we had in the kitchen, just playing with recipes and stuff. But it quickly became apparent that we’d need some sort of custom-made machine because the way we’re making these cups isn’t being done anywhere else in the world. There’s no machine that we can buy and just start making them. So we started on that process and kept refining it. Along each step, we made changes to the machine as needed, but it’s definitely been a journey. I don’t know what number machine we’re on now, but there’s been a lot of trial and error.
What ingredients do you use for your edible cup? Was there a lot of trial and error involved to get that right as well?
Our ingredients are all listed on our website under each product. But basically, it’s just your normal everyday ingredients you’d find in your pantry (ie: wheat flour, sugar, egg). The process and how we treat those ingredients is how we’re able to do what we do.
But you’re right, there was a lot of R&D, a lot of trial and error in terms of specific ingredients. We found that sometimes you’d get one ingredient but then use the same ingredient from a different brand which would react slightly differently with all the other ingredients, so we really had to nail down what we wanted to use and even the brands that we wanted to rely on. For example, all the vanilla that we use in the cookie is all-natural vanilla from Tonga. So everything in the cup has no added preservatives, flavours or colours. It’s 100% natural.
So what does the cup taste like?
It tastes really nice! It kind of tastes like vanilla biscotti or vanilla wine biscuits or even fortune cookies (for palates) in the Asian market.
Say you have a hot cup of coffee in your Twiice cup. How long can you keep that coffee in the cup and still have the cup remain intact?
Our official line is that it’ll stay crispy until after you finish your coffee. The cup won’t break with the coffee. We always test our cups with boiling water, [so it won’t] spill the coffee all over your desk or anything. Basically, you can have water in there for 24 hours and it won’t break or split. It might be a bit flexible and you might be able to push the sides in a bit, but the cup won’t actually break. So it lasts for quite a long time.
What cafes/restaurants currently stock your cups?
We’ve got five in Auckland (Fantail & Turtle, Sherry Kitchen, Freaky, Yeahbowl, Bow and Tie), two in Tauranga (Henry & Ted, Elizabeth Cafe & Larder), and [five more in the North Island]. We’ve also got one in Wanaka and one in Dunedin, so we’ve already got quite a few cafes on board. I’m literally talking to new cafes every day.
What’s been your biggest challenge so far?
Probably trying to figure out the packaging [to ship the cups]. If a cafe orders 100 cups, you have to make sure those cups will leave us here in Auckland and arrive in, say, Christchurch without being broken.
We tried working with a couple of packaging companies but we actually ended up designing the packaging ourselves. It wasn’t that they weren’t on board with what we were doing but I think they were a bit cautious because they didn’t want to be responsible… for not knowing if their packaging was going to work or not. Because when you order packaging you’ve got to order it in bulk [and if it’s not right] you’re stuck with a lot of packaging you can’t use.
So we designed the packaging and worked with a company in Wellington to have them all made up, sampled and trialled. That was probably our most frustrating challenge because our product was ready but we couldn’t move it. It took about six months for that process to be complete.
What can we expect from Twiice in the next year?
In the next year, we’ll have gluten-free and vegan options available. We’re also working with a couple of companies, ice cream and gelato shops, that want edible packaging. There’s been quite a bit of interest in more of a bowl-type packaging suitable for ice cream so we’ll probably go down that road as well, hopefully by this summer.