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Dunkin’ Donuts Briefly Flirts With Nixing K-Cups

Many argue the little coffee pods are killing the environment

Dunkin’ Donuts K-cups. Photo: m01229/Flickr

Earlier this week, Dunkin’ Donuts shareholders debated whether or not to reconsider its booming K-cup business — aka those disposable single-serve coffee pods made ubiquitous by manufacturer Keurig Green Mountain. The admirable reason? The environmental impact of the pods, which many argue unnecessarily clog up landfills (some estimates suggest that literally billions of K-cups end up in American landfills each year).

But perhaps not surprisingly, more than 80% of shareholders voted against the proposal, according to a Dunkin’ rep, squashing that environmental debate for now.

Before the decision, Dunkin’s board advised its shareholders to vote against the measure, citing Keurig’s own goal of making its K-Cups 100% recyclable by the year 2020. (They’re currently only kind-of recyclable, and even then, require the dismantling of the pod in order to properly recycle its components.) But many consumers remain skeptical at the amount of waste generated by the single-serve machines, to the point where some entrepreneurs are now attempting to market more eco-friendly versions.

Dunkin’ Donuts’ flirtation with ending its K-cup business on the behalf of the environment was ultimately a long shot, but the coffee chain has publicly wrangled with its K-cup business before. In January 2015, Bloomberg reported that Dunkin’ experienced a double-digit drop in its K-cup sales, which at the time, were available for purchase only in Dunkin’ stores. By February of that year, Dunkin’ changed its strategy and partnered with the J.M. Smucker Company to introduce the cups to grocery stores and other outlets. (They’re now available everywhere from Staples to Walmart.)

In the first year of its more traditional retail approach, Dunkin’ sold 300 million pods, to the tune of $220 million. As Bloomberg reports, during an earnings call last week, executives reported they were happy with current K-cup sales numbers.

The idea of one brand nixing a multimillion dollar business for the betterment of Earth was a good pipe dream: The market might be in flux depending on who you ask, but K-cups aren’t going away anytime soon. According to Statista, Keurig, the biggest player, sold $1.3 billion worth of single-serve coffee pods in 2016, while a National Coffee Association survey suggested that 28 percent of American at-home coffee drinkers use a single-serve machine. Some smaller coffee brands still see the K-cup market as the future of coffee.

Whether or not the waste associated with the tiny plastic pods will lead to a more dystopian future, as in the video below? Time will tell.

Dunkin' Vote Renews Debate Over Environmental Impact of K-Cups [Bloomberg]
Keurig Tries, Fails to Be Green With New Recyclable K-Cup [E]

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