Almost one in three American homes now has a pod-based coffee machine, even though John Sylvan, the inventor of K-Cups, never imagined they would be used outside of offices. Last year K-Cups accounted for most of Keurig Green Mountain’s $4.7 billion in revenue—more than five times what the company made five years prior.
Green Mountain, a company long known for eco-friendly approaches to coffee, acquired Keurig in 2006, even though the company did not change its name to “Keurig Green Mountain” until March of 2014. And indeed, every new K-Cup spin-off product that the company has introduced since 2006 (including the Vue, Bolt, and K-Carafe cups) is recyclable, if a person is willing to disassemble them into paper, plastic, and metal components.
Later this year, in partnership with Coca-Cola, the company will release a machine called “Keurig Cold”.
When Sylvan was bought out of Keurig in 2007, he turned around and bought stock in Green Mountain for $3.20 per share. He sold the stock a couple years ago when it broke $140.
Looking back on his invention, amid increasing public condemnation of K-Cups as a scourge on the planet, Sylvan told me, “I feel bad sometimes that I ever did it.”
Today the cups are still not recyclable or biodegradable.