Abigail Forsyth and KeepCup: riding a green wave to profits

KeepCup’s sustainable branding captured the public mood about the environmental costs of disposable cups.

Abigail Forsyth struggled to get a hearing when she first came up with the idea of starting a business making reusable cups. “This is the stupidest idea I’ve ever seen,” said one designer she approached. “This is just a cup,” said a confused potential manufacturer. That was in Melbourne, Australia, in 2008, says Michelle Meehan on the BBC. Now, total worldwide sales at KeepCup have hit ten million. 

KeepCup’s sustainable branding turned out to be cleverer than it seemed and it was able to ride a wave when concern spread about the environmental costs of disposable cups. The company produces and distributes reusable plastic and glass cups for sale around the world, and eventually aims to replace the single-use cardboard receptacles we had until recently taken for granted. But sustainability was never going to be enough – the product had “got to be sexy” if it was going to appeal to customers. From the beginning, it was “all about the design”, she says. “People were saying, ‘I don’t even know what it is, but I want one’.”

Sales have grown steadily over the years, thanks to word of mouth, and the firm’s annual revenues are now reported to be more than A$8m (£4m). The growth has been organic, not needing any outside investors, and in keeping with the firm’s green credentials, manufacturing is completed locally in the firm’s two main markets, Australia and the UK. The business has been hit by the coronavirus crisis, but Forsyth is confident she can bounce back. KeepCup will one day, she says, be seen as the business “that kick-started the demise of the disposable cup”.

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