Dripl is a new player in the beverage industry. It takes a lot of courage and a great product to join this crowded market and to be successful. Luckily for Dripl, their vending machine might be the innovation this industry needed. There are so many vending machines where you can buy a plastic bottle of soda, but none of them are as unique as Dripl’s. To get rid of sugars and weird additives, they have partnered with a flavor developer who only uses organic ingredients. This results in low-calorie drinks with natural flavors like Lemon, Darjeeling Ice Tea, Cranberry Rose Hip, and Ginger Lime. On the other hand, Dripl allows us to move away from buying single-use plastic bottles, as their vending machines are compatible with all sorts of reusable bottles.
This innovation is the result of four young and ambitious minds working together. After achieving their bachelor’s degree in Product Development, each of them took a different route. That results in a wide range of qualities within Dripl. But who are these ‘Driplers’? Colin Deblonde is currently studying Applied Economic Sciences. He takes the lead within Dripl and is responsible for business development, focusing on finance and sales. Lucas Moreau is studying Industrial Engineering. Therefore, his job is to create, build, compare production processes, and take care of the hardware. Lukas Marivoet is an economist, just like Colin. He takes responsibility for IT and loves to work with all sorts of numbers. Mathijs Vanacker completes the team. He is currently studying for a master’s degree in Product Development. His involvement in Dripl concerns the design, marketing, and social media. “You can see by his mustache that he’s the artistic one within our group,” laughs Colin. There is space for everyone’s talent, which makes this team such a great match. They possess the right skills and knowledge to run this company effectively.
The Dripl vending machine is a refill point for your reusable bottle. In the first instance, this seems kind of simple, so what makes it so special? First of all, the machine is connected to the tap water of its location. Water flows straight from the tap through the Dripl machine. Secondly, the water is mixed with the desired taste of the customer. They only use organic ingredients to add flavor; the rest of the drink consists of water (70%). This results in a healthy lemonade with no weird additives and fewer calories. The machine also has a touch screen and the possibility for customers to pay with their mobile phone. In this way, Dripl is up to date with contemporary trends.
Dripl’s vending machine is, or could be a radical innovation. With the current increase in environmental and health awareness, Dripl innovation is a sustainable alternative for soft drink products. With the right execution and recognition, they can compete with the world’s largest soda companies. Or at least chip away a significant piece of their market shares. Dripl’s innovation is also scalable. According to Lucas, they are walking on safe soil. The networks and partnerships that they have gathered form a competitive advantage against newcomers. Additionally, their product is location-based. This means they can enjoy their first-mover advantage. Finally, this innovation is embedded in the business. The innovation is why the business started in the first place and will always contribute to Dripl’s mission of providing everyone with a healthy drink that’s also good for the environment.
On a summer day in June 2019, Lucas and Colin arrived at the Central Station of Antwerp. Thirsty as they were, they looked for a vending machine to buy an Ice Tea. “We were both carrying our reusable bottles, and suddenly we wondered why there was no place to refill them with fresh soda,” said Colin. That’s when they decided to invent a product that provides them, and hopefully others, with their needs: something that combines reusable packaging and tastiness.
Together with Lukas and Mathijs, they started thinking about this idea. First, they developed and visualized their concept and submitted it to a competition of the European Commission. During this competition, they received a lot of feedback. “Unfortunately, we did not win,” laughs Colin, “but professionals within the industry gave us valuable insights and encouraged us to keep going because they saw great potential in our idea.”
After that, the team did a lot of research around the problems within the soda industry. Initially, they thought that that plastic waste was the major problem. But they quickly realized that the whole process is fundamentally wrong. “It appeared that soda is just water with a taste,” said Colin, “which means that trucks are mainly transporting water, while we are fortunate enough to have tap water available at almost every building. That’s so unnecessary!”
Then, they performed some tests using the lean start-up method: a method in which you use a simple prototype of your product or service to test how your target audience reacts to it. For the Dripl team, this meant setting up a classic lemonade stand at Ghent University, where they refilled students' bottles with Dripl beverages. “In this way, we could validate if the students liked our product and find out how much they wanted to pay for it. And it went really well,” said Colin.
Still, a lot of technical research was necessary. They analyzed different production methods and were finally able to develop the prototype. In February 2020, they installed their first vending machine at Ghent University. The result? Over 500 Dripl beverages sold in one week compared to the 100 to 150 beverages sold at the soda vending machines. That’s when the team knew they were really onto something.
Besides their personal investments, they were able to attract external financing and other interested partners. “That’s when our initial on-the-go-concept broadened out to an on-the-working-floor-concept.” During the summer of 2020, they continued developing, which resulted in a total of five active Dripl vending machines at the moment of our interview.
Dripl is founded to create a positive impact on the world, and with every Dripl drink tapped, a contribution to this purpose is made.
On the one hand, Dripl takes care of our planet. Dripl’s vending machines are only compatible with reusable bottles. This reduces the use of plastic bottles and metal cans and the pollution that comes with it. If that wasn’t enough, it also reduces air pollution because there is no need to transport packaging. The only thing a Dripl machine needs is running water and the secret Dripl ingredients!
That the Dripl innovation has a positive impact on the environment can be demonstrated by figures. An average of 500 plastic bottles is saved per month per installed Dripl machine. So on an annual basis, with their five active Dripl vending machines, they save over 30.000 plastic bottles. By the end of 2021, Dripl would like to double the number of Dripl vending machines. That would amount to a total of two hundred machines, distributed in Belgium. So on an annual basis, with two hundred vending machines, they would save over 1.200.000 plastic bottles. So can you imagine the impact when Dripl will be active all over Europe? With this ecological innovation, Dripl contributes to the reduction of the dump and the plastic soup.
On the other hand, Dripl offers a healthy yet tasty solution for soda drinks. “Dripl gets rid of sugars and weird additives and uses organic ingredients instead. Low in calories, and very healthy.” Besides, it also provides customers with a cheap alternative as they don’t need to pay an extra sum for the packaging. With its wide range of flavors, Dripl wants to show that soft drinks can be tasty and healthy at the same time.
As a start-up, Dripl still finds itself within the early business stages. “Currently, there are five active Dripl machines which find themselves in different office spaces of various (possible) partners, but our main goal is to install twenty by the end of 2020,” said Colin. However, those machines are still part of Dripl’s market research. After this research, there will be more insights into whether the business is on the right track and ready to move on.
That’s when the stage of growth starts. By the end of 2021, the ambitious team would like to improve to 200 vending machines distributed in Belgium. But how will they be profitable?
First of all, it is important to create added value. How do they do this? Starting from their sustainable mission, these four young entrepreneurs provide everyone – not just the happy few – with an ecologic and healthy substitute for packaged soda drinks. On the other hand, a Dripl drink is often cheaper than a bottle of soda. Besides that, the concept of user experience is of great importance: they make sure that refilling your reusable bottle at a Dripl vending machine is a unique and fun experience.
Furthermore, the business saves costs by using lease agreements on specific locations, getting rid of packaging costs, and reducing transport costs by 80%. Besides, a Dripl machine also saves in terms of maintenance costs in comparison to other soda machines.
Finally, they can take advantage of their first-mover competitive advantage. Once a Dripl machine is installed, they are settled for a certain time. That’s why they want to install as many vending machines as possible and develop Dripl as a brand.
Those things combined predict a healthy business activity for this innovation. The fact that they won Start Academy 2020, a competition organized by Vlajo, proves great potential. Dripl was able to convince the jury with their mature and professional approach. “They think like real entrepreneurs and not like students, and that is important to us,” said jury member Eline De Munck. So, with the right partners, this idea is very scalable. Dripl’s ultimate dream is to compete with large soft drink companies, such as Coca Cola. The young entrepreneurs are not afraid of being pushed out of the soft drink market because they strongly believe in their concept and fully enjoy the first-mover advantage. Currently, the founders of Dripl are talking with some major international players such as Bol.com and Dopper to enter into partnerships possibly.
Together with the Dripl founders, we took a closer look at the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and combined them with Dripl’s benefits. Dripl approaches two main SDGs. One of them is good health and well-being (3), the other is responsible for consumption and production (12).
To meet the SDG's‘ good health and well-being’ (3), Dripl tries to take care of our health. It offers us a healthy substitute for soft drinks. The locally produced organic lemonades are low in calories, making the drinks much healthier than other soda products. In this way, Dripl meets the general wish of our contemporary society to live a healthier lifestyle. In addition to health, Dripl also focuses on the well-being of its customers. ‘Dispense your drink and get a smile for free’ is one of their slogans. Dripl wants to bring joy through little things when buying a unique flavored Dripl drink during the customer's experience.
Responsible consumption and production (12) are also of large importance within the Dripl company. After an initial survey, it turned out that almost 80% of the respondents want to consume sustainable and healthy drinks, but that this is not possible. The Dripl vending machine is a solution to this problem. However, Dripl allows us to consume soft drinks sustainably rather than buying endless amounts of single-use packages. Not like other vending machines, you don’t buy a new plastic bottle every time. You use your own reusable bottle. This ensures a waste reduction. Besides, it nudges passers-by to think about their consuming behavior. The Dripl vending machine also uses running water from the location where the Dripl vending machine is located. This ensures a decrease in transport and a better sustainable production of the Dripl lemonades. With this innovation, they are fully committed to eco-efficient production. Dripl tries to reduce its packaging to a minimum, and they aim for zero waste. Currently, the team is still working on improving the production process. “We really aim for circularity in the whole process and go to absolutely zero waste,” said Lucas, who is in charge of the production.
When we look at the bigger picture, we see that Dripl contributes indirectly to three other SDGs. The first one is climate action (13). “Even though we are not a specific climate action group, we still contribute to a better climate,” Colin claims. “Reusable bottles result in less plastic bottles, fewer metal cans, and even less air pollution during transport.” In a way, Dripl hopes to nudge passers-by to reflect on their contribution to our climate. With their vending machine, they want to show us that there is another way. The other two SDGs are life below water (14) and life on land (15). The fact that Dripl triggers responsible consumption leads to a better environment for organisms. “We also have a positive impact on life below water and life on land, because less rubbish ends up in the plastic soup. Better for our fishes and our birds,” said Mathijs.
Colin Deblonde, Founder
Lucas Moreau, Founder
Mathijs Vancker, Founder
Lukas Marivoet, Founder
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Leuven, Vlaams-Brabant, BE
Business Website: https://www.dripl.be
Year Founded: 2020
Number of Employees: 2 to 10
Across the world, waste and pollution are hot topics. We realize we have to reduce our ecological footprint before it is too late. But more often than not, we fail to turn our realization into actions. Take plastic waste, for example. We have all seen those horrible images of the plastic soup, yet most of us continue to buy plastic bottles. This may be because there are few substitutes available for us? That’s where Dripl comes in handy.
Dripl is an innovation by four Belgian students with one mission: reduce plastic waste and create a more sustainable and healthy substitute for the soft drinks industry. On a thirsty summer day, Lucas and Colin got great inspiration. They thought of the idea of building a soda vending machine, where people all over the world can refill their reusable bottles with a healthy and inexpensive lemonade. Together with Mathijs and Lukas, they turned this idea into reality and created the Dripl vending machine: the first healthy refill point for your reusable bottle. Besides that, they made sure that refilling your bottle at a Dripl vending machine is a unique and fun experience. The machine is very modern and of high quality. With the touch screen, customers can choose their desired taste and quantity. So why choose Dripl? First of all, to contribute to a less polluted world. ‘Goodbye plastic jars, hello reusable bottles!’ Secondly, to shift to a more healthy and thoughtful lifestyle. ‘Stay healthy. Stay productive.’
As a company, Dripl is committed to more than one of the sustainable development goals: good health and well-being, responsible consumption, climate action, life below water, and life on land.