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Contemporary healthy magazine

Wake up, have a shower, make coffee, go to work. This is a common morning routine in the first world, but have you ever considered the environmental cost of using coffee pods?

Nils Leonard, until last year former chief creative officer at Grey London, together with partners who include former Nespresso director Andrew Richardson, has launched Halo Coffee, according to them the first fully compostable coffee capsules.

Most of the current coffee capsules available are made from a mix of plastic and aluminium and can’t be recycled easily, therefore the vast majority end up in landfill. These capsules take between 150 and 500 years to biodegrade.

As well as their eco-friendly ethos, the team behind Halo Coffee also aspires to offer the world’s best coffee. Their catalogue includes some of the most exclusive, rarest beans in the world, like Kopi Luwak Diamond, never available in capsule form before.

For an advertising expert like you, how difficult is it to convince people that Halo Coffee is good for the planet without compromising the quality of the coffee you offer?
I love brands. I have spent 20 years pushing brands that aren’t mine forwards and I wanted to know what it was like to launch one of my own. Our industry is obsessed with finding new models to make money and new ways to partner with clients, but how can we really expect our clients to trust us at this level and give us more of the upside if we have never really experienced true ownership of a brand and all that comes with it? We can invent ideas as well as market them and surely this is the purest form of client partnership and I’d encourage more of the industry to do it.

I wanted to create a brand that started with a purpose, that people actually wished existed and that mattered in the world. I may be an ad man but for me the best ads don’t look like ads. The truth is that the best ads are a conversation, a question that provokes change on behalf of a brand. But better than any ad is a product that does all the talking and that’s what I have created. A product that answers the massive challenges in the coffee capsule market: a lack of truly special coffee, packaged in a way that retains its incredible flavours and a product that doesn’t contribute to the landfill of waste the industry has created.

How do you ensure that your premium coffee comes from responsible, environmentally-friendly growers?
Halo do aim to visit as many growers as possible as part of our engagement strategy, and understand where we can contribute to their social and economic well-being.
This is a programme currently under development.
We have ensured that all of the coffee is carefully, ethically and sustainably sourced and meets the highest standards and accreditation in the speciality coffee world.
We work with Sandalj who are the biggest and most recognised green bean brokers in the world with a 70-year heritage of importing the world’s best speciality coffees. They have a serious commitment to the growers and work with them to improve sustainability, education and innovation. All of their growers have to be committed to the highest standards in speciality coffee to be a part of these sustainability projects.

What difference does Halo make for the planet in comparison to the traditional aluminium capsules? How will the world benefit?
Approximately 39,000 non-biodegradable capsules are produced every minute worldwide. Of that at least 13,500 end up in landfill. Based on the latest available figures for the US K Cup this is conservative. We actually believe the figure could be as high as 29,000 based on estimations that the best global recycling rate is at most 25%.
We estimate about 95% of the world’s supply of coffee capsules are plastic/aluminium, with the remainder being industrially compostable capsules. The vast majority of compostable capsules on the market have to be disposed of at industrial composting facilities, they need the right environmental conditions to degrade which are not typically found in landfill or garden compost heaps. While items classified as fit for industrial composting will still break down in home compost heaps, they will take longer to do so.
In summary, aluminium and plastic coffee capsules are very difficult for people to recycle so most of them get thrown in the bin. Or they are sent for industrial composting which is very difficult and expensive.
The primary innovation is the capsule and what it’s made of. It’s a unique blend of bamboo and paper made to hold the incredible coffee flavour. The capsules replicate the current utility and performance of aluminium and plastic capsules, maintaining freshness and consistency, superb water flow and extraction rates.
We have tested the capsules ourselves and they composted in less than 90 days. As all our components comply with the highest EU 13432 standards we are eagerly awaiting results from the independent labs we are working with to see their results which could be even better.
We partnered with Dr Nicholas Worsfold, Senior Lecturer in Environmental Science at the University of Bedfordshire to conduct a sustainability study on the capsule category so that we were confident we were producing something innovative that actually delivered on quality, taste, convenience and sustainability. This collaboration provides a real-world test of the compostability and our capsules unique organic components.
We are also bringing on board a Head of World, one of the most respected environmental and sustainability consultants in the UK who will continue to review and improve our current supply chain. We are also working with Cranfield University to do a full supply chain audit. We are guided by the UN Sustainable Development Goals, the principles of Management 3.0 and other progressive approaches such as the B-Corps movement.
It’s attractive to claim environment first, but we have learnt it’s not easy to do it well. There are easier ways to make coffee and easier ways to make capsules, but that’s never what this has been about. This is about being the best. The best coffee in a capsule. The best capsule for the planet. We haven’t just innovated in the capsule itself, we have looked at every part of our business. From the growers we work with, materials that we use and their proximity to the factories, the suppliers we use through to how we transport the capsules and the packaging process. A good business is what we want to be. We want Halo to be a commercial success, but more than that we want to leave the world in a better place than we found it.

Could you please describe the process of crafting Halo coffee, from the beans to the capsule? And also, the process of creating the bio-degradable capsules?
We worked with coffee experts and a world-class environmental design team and gave them one brief: fix the coffee capsule category. And they did. Each Halo is moulded from a 100% natural blend of bamboo and paper and are designed to maintain the incredible coffee flavour in a way that’s good for the planet.
The Halo capsule has been developed over a period of two years using an already existing material for the body and then substantial research and development into the correct top seal material and design to obtain the optimum results from specific granulometry and extraction rates from the coffee grounds over a specific time period.
The coffee beans come from three mountain regions in Nepal, Colombia and Kenya. The beans are roasted in Italy and Halo works with Antica Triestina Tostatura, in the home of espresso Trieste and its owner, Alessandro Hausbrandt is one of the most respected coffee roasters in the world. They use a very traditional method of roasting the coffee using reclaimed beech wood which gives the best taste and takes two to three times longer to roast the coffee. However, it is much more environmentally friendly than using gas.

Where would you like Halo coffee to be in a couple of years? Do you aspire to offer organic coffee only? Would you consider applying your bio-degradable capsule technology to other foods’ packaging?
We believe we can put an end to the continued negative impact that aluminium and plastic capsules have on the environment; to show the world that great coffee in a sustainable, environmentally form is possible, and that it should be the norm. We want to offer the best coffee in the world in a way that’s good for the world. Halo wants to become the coffee brand for now.
People can continue with current practice, consuming average quality coffee in a way that damages the environment, or excellent coffee in a way that doesn’t. For us, the choice is obvious.
We are deeply committed to developing our technology further and relentlessly pursuing our vision of a different future for the single serve coffee capsule market. This path will hopefully lead to our innovations being available for others to use and thus benefit the wider coffee community.

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