Smart Cups discusses 3D printed beverages and its proprietary technology

It is increasingly often that we hear news about how 3D printing technologies are transforming the food industry. Today we have numerous companies 3D printing meat, relatively recently emerged a project of 3D printed fish… But we rarely talk about how innovative technologies are affecting the beverage industry. Perhaps, one of the most famous players on this arena is Smart Cups, LLC. Founded in 2017, Smart Cups prints energy drinks: on the bottom of a biodegradable plastic cup there are tiny printed particles filled with a certain flavor. Once you pour water – or any other liquid – into the cup, it turns into an energy drink. This summer the California-based startup appeared in the news around the world when they announced collaboration with Mike Tyson’s The Ranch Companies to 3D print a more accurate dosage of cannabis, thus demonstrating that Smart Cups’ advanced technology has applications across a variety of industries — from beverage to pharmaceuticals, and potentially beyond! We were curious to discuss with the Founder & CEO of the company, Chris Kanik, to better understand his unique product and the cutting-edge technology behind it.

 

Can you introduce yourself and your company?

My name is Chris Kanik and I am the CEO and Founder of Smart Cups, LLC, the company responsible for creating the world’s first printed beverage. Smart Cups is a sustainability-driven technology company with a mission to provide a mindful path forward for the beverage industry and beyond.

How and when was Smart Cups launched?

The genesis for Smart Cups came while I was at a busy Taco Tuesday a few years ago. I had a glass of water at my table and was waiting for my waitress to bring the margarita I had ordered, which was taking longer than usual due to the volume of business at the moment. I looked at my glass of water and wondered why no one has created an instant margarita. That’s when the idea hit me. I took a pen and napkin and wrote out a protocol. The next day I took a bottle of Everclear and maltodextrin and went to work in my kitchen.

What technologies does Smart Cups use to print the beverages?

All manufacturing equipment that Smart Cups uses was actually created from scratch. Again, no one had ever ventured to do this before, so there is no “off-the-shelf” equipment that I could have gone out and purchased. Right now, we are working on scaling up, and further enhancing the complexity of our manufacturing process. Almost everything is novel.

Technically, Smart Cups doesn’t use 3D printing. Our method is usually referred to as 3D printing because nothing like what we do has ever existed before. It’s easier to call it 3D printing because it is the most relatable reference point for consumers and businesses. While there is indeed a three-dimensional print, what we do at Smart Cups is a unique microencapsulation process. We do not layer to create a solid.

smart cups

Smart Cups transforms a virtually empty plastic cup into a self-stirring energy drink once you add some water.

Can you tell us more about your collaboration with Mike Tyson’s The Ranch Companies?

Smart Cups technology has the ability to print precise dosages of active flavor materials on substrates. I was seeing a lot of news focus on the dosing issue within the cannabis industry. It appeared to me that this was a great avenue to prove the value of our technology, utilizing the marketing platform of The Ranch Companies.

They have proven to be a company committed to science, with FDA approved trials and studies by top research universities. I said to myself, “Smart Cups’ technology can solve the dosing issue that plagues the entire cannabis industry.” The Ranch Companies are currently engaged in R&D, and have acquired the global license for cannabis printing. The FDA is currently considering the rule on consumption, so until then we will not release any specific beverages.

What challenges does Smart Cups face?

The greatest challenge we face is consumer education. We have a technology that has never existed. Our inaugural product was a line of energy drinks printed in plant-based bioplastic cups. That being said, we are not a cup company, nor an energy drink company. We are a technology company with capabilities across a myriad of applications.

mike tyson 3D printing cannabis

The 3D printed capsules containing the flavor are placed on the bottom of a plastic cup.

Are Smart Cups’ beverages healthier than “conventional” energy drinks?

While we don’t specifically advertise as being “healthier,” we are often referred to as that due to the fact that we don’t have large amounts of sugar in our beverages. We also lack all of those questionable or controversial ingredients that exist in the more popular energy drink brands.

As we continue to expand our beverage categories, we will be looking at additional value propositions that stand out as healthier alternatives to traditional beverages. For example – we have been working on a line of beverages for children that is sugar free and fortified with Vitamin C, D as well as calcium.

What is your vision of 3D printing in food & beverage industry?

I think the possibilities are endless. My vision for Smart Cups is that we will be able to touch every category across various industries, in addition to forging key partnerships with established brands. I think if a company is truly committed to sustainability and the environment, they will adopt Smart Cups Technology. A reduction of storage and transportation requirements which will ultimately reduce our overall carbon footprint – saving our environment.

smart cups

Smart Cups’ initial 4 flavors, before relaunch in 2019 that introduced new flavors.

Any last words for our readers?

Be on the look-out for a lot of exciting innovations out of Smart Cups. We are capable of more than just energy drinks… Stay tuned.

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