Introduction and Background


K-Cups® are small plastic pods containing coffee grounds or tea, and are used in Keurig® single serve brewers. John Sylvan and his partner Peter Dragone invented the prototype in the 1990’s to brew individual cups of coffee, and Sylvan has since said he regrets this invention because of its environmental shortcomings. Once introduced to the market, Keurig® K-Cups® grew in popularity at an impressive rate. The amount of coffee pod machines sold in the U.S. increased from 1.8 million to 11.6 million from 2008 to 2013, and if the amount of K-Cups® sold in 2014 alone were laid end to end, they could circle the Earth more than 10 times (Baer 2015). K-Cups® are widely used, regardless of controversy surrounding their disposal. They can be seen as an example of disruptive innovation, meaning they have created a new market and displaced earlier technology (Skarzynski and Rufat-Latre 2011). The single cup brewing system has replaced standard coffee makers, and the K-Cup® market is still growing rapidly. We decided to focus on Keurig® K-Cups® for the commodity chain project because of their drastic rise in popularity over the last few years. The impact K-Cups® have on the environment also makes them an interesting commodity to investigate. When K-Cups® were first introduced, none of them were recyclable or biodegradable. Now, there is a so-called “war on K-Cups®” because of the negative effect they have while piling up in landfills. Producers have been working on creating more sustainable models of the cups.

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