Smart Cups of Mission Viejo, California, has introduced a line of 3-D-polycapsule printed, self-stirring and biodegradable cups that create an energy drink when water is added, according to FoodBev. The ingredients for the beverage are microencapsulated in the packaging itself.
The unique energy drinks come in four flavors, contain no sugar, no carbs and no calories, and are designed for active consumers who need a convenient energy boost, the company said.
"This delivery system is a scientific breakthrough that the food and beverage industry has never seen before," Chris Kanik, Smart Cups CEO and founder, said in a news release. "Putting the power of science into a cup, Smart Cups provides a more convenient, hassle-free and eco-friendly beverage experience for consumers. ... This delivery system print technology will become the new standard for a variety of industries including pharmaceutical, beverage, water purification and beyond."
The inventors behind Smart Cups assert that the 3-D-polycapsule technology is "poised to completely disrupt the future of beverage manufacturing and delivery." The company also said that the products can be easily transported, stored and disposed of in an eco-conscious way.
At first blush, the cups don't appear to have lids or be easily portable, so those factors could potentially be a barrier to purchase by consumers who are used to reusable water containers or bottled beverages that they can take to work, transport in a vehicle, or pack for recreational activities unless they are addressed. The new product also requires having a source of potable water handy.
According to a Smart Cups video, the microcapsule layer in the bottom of the cup is released by contact with water and bubbles up into a flavored drink. While the company notes that ingredients to make any beverage — juice, soda, coffee, etc. — can be microencapsulated in the bottom of its cups, it doesn't detail any of its energy drink ingredients. The video does point out that the stackable cups save shelf space and cost less to transport and deliver than traditional bottles and cans.
"Off the top of our heads, this is the first consumable product to come to market that makes use of 3-D printing tech in such a way that could have meaningful impact on our world," reported All3DP.com, a German online publication that writes about 3-D-printed products.
Smart Cups said it plans to release more beverages using this microencapsulation technology — including sports drinks, coffee, teas, juices, protein drinks — and also to develop a single-use water purification cup with the ability to filter contaminated water into safe-to-drink liquids.
It will be interesting to see how consumers take to this unique product. The novelty alone will probably attract plenty of millennials and others who appreciate high-tech applications in foods and beverages. Today's consumer is interested in and willing to pay more for premium, sustainable product offerings, and this 3-D cup seems to deliver on both of these fronts. If their interest will remain after the wow factor wears off, and whether the cup will attract enough customers to make it a sustainable product, is another question.