APAC Greenhouse Accelerator Program 2023

7 min read

On 19 June 2023, PepsiCo held a press conference for their APAC Greenhouse Accelerator Program at National Gallery Singapore. 10 shortlisted finalists from the start-up community were granted USD$20,000 to participate in the four-month business optimization program that will provide access to PepsiCo’s networks, expertise, and mentoring. These companies will be contemplating on sustainability, climate change and conservation in their products and processes. According to Alan Choi, PepsiCo’s CFO and Senior Vice President for Asia Pacific, Australia, New Zealand and China, one of the first criteria when shortlisting was determining the potential for long term scalable solutions in climate tech. Here are some interesting conversations during the conference – With Colin Matthews, PepsiCo Supply Chain Senior Director, Indochina Foods:

Regarding solutions, could you share on particular problems that PepsiCo was looking at when choosing the shortlisted finalists?

It’s not so much about the problems, but more about the opportunities. We recognize that there are a lot of startups out there. I think we’ve got some really good finalists for the climate and sustainable packaging agenda. It’s really about how we bring that disruptive and innovative thinking into our ‘ecosystem’. How do we use that to drive forward science-based targets that we have and bring in an entrepreneurial sort of mentality into our businesses as well. So I think there’s lots of opportunities towards that.

How will this program go back to PepsiCo? Would it affect PepsiCo’s product line or business in the future?

We’re really keen to see a couple of things. One is how some of the applicants got technology that we can use – it might be in our manufacturing process, in the logistics and distribution system, or upstream in our agriculture. So it’s not necessarily about the actual products, but about the way in which we make those products. You may have heard about a biogas solutions, that also creates a byproduct of green fertilizer. Working with many farmers across Asia Pacific, how do we take that and create a true circular economy? We know that fertilizer costs have gone up; if we can find a way to help them by introducing this, then it would be great. So it’s not just about our products, but about the way in which we operate the business as well.

We also had conversations with finalists Jack Charewicz, Director of TURN, Jonathan Tostevin, CEO and Co-Founder of Muuse, and Stanislav Boriso, Principal Consultant of MEDS Venture. TURN, based in New Zealand, uses smart technology to combat single-use plastics, focusing on returnable cups in large social events. Based in Singapore, Muuse also replaces and reduces single-use packaging by providing a track and trace technology platform for reusable packaging as a service. MEDS Venture Global’s DECAPLAN tool is the only digital platform in the world that allows end-to-end Multi-Energy and Multi-Objective Optimization and Decarbonization of industrial sites.

What is your story behind starting the company and how does sustainability come in?

Jack (TURN): Sustainability to me, and to us as a company, is everything. The people that we have in our team are very driven and passionate about sustainability and achieving a sensible business model in terms of targeting the biggest impact, the largest scale, and being able to deliver a sustainable product at that scale. I think our world and the future of our children need those first initial steps where, even if it feels a bit uncomfortable stepping out of the normal, is still the right direction no matter how slow or challenging it may be.

Stanislav (MEDS Venture): So my whole background is in the energy industry – initially the more traditional oil and gas business. Eventually, with the trends and data available, it became clear that we need to shift towards a more sustainable future, which means cleaner energy sources. So how can you deliver it? It’s not an easy question to answer, but that’s why we started this company. We understand the energy industry and its complexity.

Jonathan (Muuse): I moved out to this region six years ago, and for many areas, there still isn’t the greatest waste management in places such as beaches, tourist spots, or seas. And I think that somebody needs to create that spark to transition the whole circular economy. It is a real complex problem that would need a lot of incentives and system change, as well as behaviour change too. Figuring out how to shift this puzzles and which levers to pull at which point is what stimulates me and keeps me going back every day to move the company forward.

Focusing on Muuse and Turn’s returnable module, could you share current challenges for that?

Jonathan (Muuse): So the default and norm is single use – it’s everywhere. Shifting that norm is really challenging without taxation, regulation, or top-down changes to the landscape. And it’s really trying to find the right clients to work with who are willing to take a bit of a risk and trust that their consumers and customers are going to want that too. It is a challenge to work out the right commercial solution that works for everyone. That, as well as behaviour change are probably the biggest challenges. We try to educate the customer base whilst also encouraging use of the product and service.

Jack (TURN): It is a big education piece for us; driving the educational points, ensuring that consumers understand what our product is and the differences it’s making. I think single-use plastic is very engrossed in people’s minds and how they use it very easily. Especially post COVID, we took a lot of steps back in terms of how we do things that are better for the environment. It changes people’s mindset of how they approach their day-to-day tasks. So to be able to achieve success, we should eradicate single use plastic from a global perspective. It needs to be educated not only to the young, but to the old and middle class too.

Jonathan (Muuse): To add on to that, the market for food packaging is on a huge scale, and the reusable space is still pretty small. It’s pretty early in the market and we’re trying to compete with something that’s already achieved economies of scale. So it is challenging as the people we’re working with also want us to provide a commercially viable solution. Actually, would there be any instance in the future where these new reusable products, should it be successful and undergo high production rate, become the ‘new waste’?

Jonathan (Muuse): I think it’s definitely a risk. The value of this system is that it’s a closed loop system that we track within our network. We incentivize people to return, with guarantees. And when those products are no longer usable or viable, we’re able to manage their end life in a controlled way; whether that’s upcycling into something else, or recycling them with a vetted QC agent. We are able to improve the current waste streams and processes that exist.

Jack (TURN): We put in steps and processes of retaining these products within the reuse system to ensure they do not end up into waste streams. Once a product does come to the end of its life, it has got a place to go and be reused or re-enter into a different product market. So I think there are always endless possibilities.

What are the social steps Muuse and Turn are taking to manage social directives and encourage consumers to stay aligned with your objectives?

Jack (TURN): The biggest success we’ve seen is through digital marketing and social media. We’ve got signages on our bins and words on the cup that describes what it is. I think it’s really about us being an education pieces and really putting the message in front of people’s faces so that there is an understanding. But also, as time goes on, the more events we are at, the more stadiums we cover, there will come a routine or procedure for people using it.

Jonathan (Muuse): Yeah, I think we found that people, by and large, are actually really up for doing something and changing their behaviour by taking these small steps that aren’t major changes in their life. It’s just a small step, but made as simple and convenient as possible. So they almost do it without thinking. It’s kind of just intuitive. I think that’s really important.

Overall, it was insightful to have different experts in the same room, all with the common goal of achieving climate change solutions. From products to services to manufacturing processes, each hope to contribute to a greater good. At the end of the program, one start-up will be awarded an additional USD$100,000 in grants to continue expansion, and an opportunity to continue partnering with PepsiCo on future projects.


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