Convenience and sustainability rarely go together. Smart Cups is trying to change this paradigm. The company is “printing” the ingredients of liquids – such as energy drinks, medicine or mouthwash, at the bottom of single-use cups. The cups are made of compostable plastic or paper. Their light weight allows for fuel savings during transportation.

We reached out to Chris Kanik, founder and CEO of Smart Cups, to learn more about how the company is trying to transform the drink experience.

Note: This interview was conducted over phone and email. It has been lightly edited for clarity and length.

Funding Round Details

Smart Cups logo
Company: Smart Cups
Security Type: Equity - Common
Valuation: $10,650,000
Min Investment: $250
Platform: StartEngine
Deadline: Oct 5, 2023
View Deal

In your own words, how would you describe your company?

At Smart Cups, we are revolutionizing the consumer-packaged goods industry with our groundbreaking technology. In essence, we are pioneers in innovative precise ingredient dosing through printing. Our vision is to provide a mindful path forward for the industry and beyond by transforming how beverages and other products are delivered.

Through our proprietary printing process, we have created the “World’s First Printed” beverage, Smart Cups, eliminating the need for traditional liquid-filled containers, significantly reducing waste and environmental impact. But our ambitions go far beyond beverages. Our technology has vast applications across multiple industries, including pharmaceuticals, nutraceuticals, cosmetics, and even humanitarian aid. UCLA’s Institute of the Environment and Sustainability recently published a study highlighting Smart Cups Technology can have on the environment. It can be viewed here.

We take pride in our commitment to sustainability, utilizing plant-based PLA materials for our cups and continually exploring even more eco-friendly options. With our newly installed patented production line, we have successfully scaled our production process, ensuring efficient and cost-effective operations. This newly installed patented automatic production line took 4.5 years and over $8M to engineer, design and construct. It will enable us to close enterprise business moving forward.

Smart Cups isn’t just about a single product; it’s a disruptive force for positive change. It is a technology platform.  Our company leads with innovation, challenges the status quo, and believes that responsible choices can create a lasting impact. Our journey has only just begun, and we invite potential investors to join us as we continue to rewrite the narrative of the consumer-packaged goods industry and build a greener, more sustainable future.

What inspired you to take the leap and start this company?

The inspiration to start Smart Cups stemmed from a profound sense of responsibility to leverage my decades of scientific expertise for a greater purpose. Having worked in various scientific fields, I witnessed the environmental challenges and the need for sustainable solutions firsthand.

I felt a strong calling to utilize my knowledge and skills to make a lasting impact on the planet. It became evident that traditional methods of delivering beverages and consumer products were not sustainable and contributed to excessive waste. This realization fueled my determination to develop a technology that could disrupt the industry and pave the way for a greener, more eco-friendly future.

Smart Cups became my mission—a manifestation of my desire to create positive change through innovation and responsible choices. By embracing the power of science and sustainability, we are rewriting the rules of the consumer-packaged goods industry and providing a mindful path forward for future generations.

Who is on your team and how did you come together?

At Smart Cups, we have a dynamic and talented team comprising individuals with diverse backgrounds and expertise. One of our key members is Matt Bottomly, our IP attorney. With his extensive experience, including working at the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), Matt brings a wealth of knowledge to protect our innovative technologies and ensure our intellectual property is safeguarded.

Another integral team member is Bill Davidon, a fellow Cornell University alumnus, who boasts over 25 years of experience in the aerospace industry. Bill plays a crucial role in overseeing our engineering efforts, ensuring the precision and reliability of our groundbreaking processes.

Additionally, we are fortunate to have Owen Dolan, who I’ve known for over 16 years. Owen brings nearly two decades of experience in the medical industry and expertise in engineering and logistics. His contributions to our team are invaluable in developing and implementing efficient manufacturing processes and ensuring the seamless distribution of our products.

As the CEO of Smart Cups, my journey in the world of science began at an early age. Entering a college chemistry class at 10, I embarked on a path of continuous exploration. By 12, I was working in a lab at Steven’s Institute of technology studying the degradation of aspartame. I joined a research team in the Nutritional Sciences Department at Rutgers University at 14, where I contributed to the discovery of a functional compensation by the keratinocyte-FABP in the study of adipocyte metabolism in adipocyte fatty acid binding protein (A-FABP) knockout mice (aP2-/-) after short-term high-fat feeding. I then joined a research team working on a NASA-funded project developing biologically based nano-robots at Rutgers in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering.

Throughout my academic pursuits, I was recognized as an American Chemical Society Scholar, reflecting my dedication to learning and scientific advancement. These experiences have shaped me into a qualified leader for Smart Cups, driving innovation and sustainability in the consumer-packaged goods industry. My decades of science expertise fuel our mission to impact the planet positively.

Our team’s synergy and combined expertise enable us to push the boundaries of innovation in sustainable packaging and precise ingredient dosing. We share a common passion for environmental stewardship and are committed to making Smart Cups a global leader in the consumer-packaged goods industry.

Your product is new and unique on the market, which may pose risks regarding customer adoption. How would you respond to those unsure of the market’s response to the wide launch of your product?

Our approach to launching Smart Cups has been methodical and strategic. In 2018, we took a bold step, and since then, we have sold $3 million worth of products directly to consumers (D2C) to prove the market’s acceptance and demand. The success of this initial phase confirmed the viability of our unique technology.

Since then, we’ve been focused on scaling up our production capacity to meet the growing interest and demand. This has attracted the attention of Fortune 500 companies, who see the potential of our groundbreaking technology and its applications across various industries.

Awards and accolades such as being recognized on Time Magazine’s prestigious 100 Best Inventions of 2021 has helped validate us. Our marketing efforts have also played a significant role in building customer awareness and adoption. Being featured on Gordon Ramsay’s Food Stars has brought us valuable visibility and credibility. As we move forward, we explore future celebrity endorsements, further enhancing our marketing reach.

With our increased production capacity, we are engaged in white-labeling and licensing discussions with larger companies. This mutually beneficial partnership allows us to leverage their infrastructure and marketing resources to gain wider consumer adoption.

With a proven market acceptance, growing interest from industry leaders, and innovative marketing strategies, we are confident in the strong response to the wide launch of Smart Cups. We believe our unique product will revolutionize the consumer-packaged goods industry and create a lasting impact.

How will your deal with Compana Pet Brands impact your business?

The deal with Compana Pet Brands represents not only a transformative opportunity for Smart Cups in the pet care industry but also a highly lucrative one. We are tapping into a vast and growing market by leveraging our revolutionary printing technology to provide precise dosing of pet supplements onto recyclable pet bowls. It also sets the stage for other global companies to start adopting Smart Cups Technology. A domino effect of sorts.

This partnership demonstrates the depth and versatility of our technology’s applications beyond traditional beverage lines. It showcases our ability to adapt and excel in various categories, unlocking new revenue streams and expanding our reach to new audiences.

With Compana Pet Brands as our partner, we are establishing a strong foothold in the pet care sector and attracting the attention of other Fortune 500 companies and investors. The potential for white labeling and licensing agreements further amplifies the financial gains we can achieve through this partnership.

Smart Cups’ technology has proven its market acceptance since 2018, and this collaboration solidifies our position as an industry leader in precision ingredient dosing and printing. As we continue to explore opportunities in food, pharma, and beyond, the Compana partnership sets the stage for tremendous financial growth and success.

The deal with Compana Pet Brands is a game-changer for Smart Cups, offering financial rewards and reinforcing the wide-ranging applications of our groundbreaking technology. We are excited about the prosperous future this partnership holds for our company and shareholders, and we eagerly anticipate the continued expansion into multiple industries as we revolutionize the consumer-packaged goods landscape.

Which milestones do you want to achieve in the next 12 months?

In the next 12 months, our primary focus is on achieving several key milestones that will drive Smart Cups to new heights. We will be riding the momentum of our appearance on Gordon Ramsay’s Food Stars. 

Firstly, we are committed to reformulating and relaunching our current energy drink. By incorporating valuable feedback and optimizing our formulation, we aim to deliver an even more appealing and effective product to the market.

Secondly, we are eagerly working towards the launch of our printed mouthwash product. We believe this innovative offering will serve as a strategic Trojan horse, enabling us to penetrate new markets and gain wider consumer adoption. The printed mouthwash showcases the true versatility of our technology and opens doors for greater opportunities across various industries.

Furthermore, we are actively pursuing the closure of 2-3 more white label deals. These partnerships will diversify our revenue streams and validate the demand for our technology in different product categories. Our vision is to become the go-to solution for precision ingredient dosing in various consumer products.

Overall, the next 12 months hold immense potential for Smart Cups, with exciting milestones in product development, strategic launches, and new partnerships. As we push forward with determination and innovation, we are confident in achieving these goals and solidifying our position as leaders in the cutting-edge field of printed ingredient technology.

What have you learned from your experience on Fox’s Food Stars?

My experience on Fox’s Food Stars has been transformative. Being part of the show has provided invaluable insights into the world of consumer-packaged goods and the dynamics of the food and beverage industry. Working closely with Gordon Ramsay and other seasoned entrepreneurs has been a tremendous learning opportunity.

One of the most important lessons I’ve learned from this experience is the critical importance of adaptability and agility in a rapidly changing market. The fast-paced nature of the show challenged me to think on my feet, make strategic decisions, and pivot when necessary. This agility has been instrumental in shaping our approach to product development and marketing at Smart Cups.

Additionally, exposure to a broader audience through the television show has helped me appreciate the power of brand visibility and the impact of effective storytelling in building a loyal customer base. It reinforced the significance of creating a compelling narrative around our products and mission, which resonates with consumers and sets us apart from competitors. Having a name like Gordon Ramsay put his stamp of approval on Smart Cups will catapult us to new levels.

Furthermore, Food Stars has underlined the value of collaboration and leveraging strategic partnerships. The feedback and mentorship from industry experts and fellow entrepreneurs have been invaluable in refining our strategies and positioning Smart Cups for continued growth.

Overall, my experience on Food Stars has been an eye-opening journey that has strengthened my belief in the potential of Smart Cups and its revolutionary technology. It has inspired me to continue pushing the boundaries of innovation, delivering meaningful products to consumers, and positively impacting the consumer-packaged goods industry.