The Silicon Review
In the fast-paced world we live in, most people tend to twist off a bottle cap, or pop open a can several times a day. Most of these bottles have liquid packed in them, which in turn makes it expensive to move it from one location to another. It is important for most producers to choose the right closure method to ensure that the product integrity and freshness is maintained. Today, rapid innovation in the closure technology segment has paved the way for producers to differentiate their products in the marketplace. The popularity of global closure markets is on the rise due to the increase in demand for better closure solutions in various packaging oriented businesses like pharmaceuticals and beauty care. There are various innovators focused on developing better closure solutions, but one that stands out from the rest is Vessl™.
Vessl™ is a patented, pressurized dosing and dispensing system in the form of a closure or bottle cap, that automatically propels and instantly mixes concentrate into a base container. Many consumer products that are packaged in bottles, such as beverages, have water as their primary ingredient. By storing the concentrated active ingredients in the Vessl™ closure, these same products can be sold in environmental and ecommerce-friendly multipacks, consisting of a single reusable bottle and multiple Vessl™ refills. Once the initial bottle has been used, simply refill it with water and reuse the bottle by twisting on another Vessl™. Vessl provides every service a customer needs to adopt its technology and be successful. Closure solutions from Vessl™ also can be adapted for different needs, sizes, and ingredients. Vessl™ works with its customers to test formulas and help create brands, based on its history of creating its own brands and working with others. Vessl™ also will provide everything a customer needs in order to manufacture their product, including proprietary equipment specially adapted to fill and pressurize the Vessl closure, expertise on setting up the equipment, and assistance integrating Vessl™’s closure with the manufacturing of a customer’s product. Vessl™ was founded in 2011, and it is based in Tempe, Arizona.
In conversation with Walter Apodaca, CEO and Founder of Vessl™
Q. Tell about the successful journey of your company in a short story.
We believe our journey is just beginning, and we will not be satisfied until we have achieved our goal of significantly reducing plastic waste by eliminating the need for disposable plastic bottles. People generally are afraid of change and afraid of taking risks. Changing an entire paradigm, such as eliminating disposable plastic bottles and totally changing supply chains, is even harder to accomplish. In order to demonstrate our revolutionary technology and help others overcome the fear of change and risk-aversion to adopting innovative technology, we decided to demonstrate the proof of concept and develop our own brand first. Given my background in the beverage industry, we created a bottled iced tea beverage called Tea of A Kind and introduced it to the market in 2012. Tea of A Kind is now sold in 27 states across the USA and throughout Canada. We have since created other brands and have customers in other industries and applications in addition to beverage. Still, Tea of A Kind helped demonstrate our technology’s viability, the efficacy of storing active ingredients under pressure, and the “wow” factor that propels every use and excites every customer.
Q. What motivated you to reinvent packaging and containers industry?
Once we saw the technology, we immediately recognized the huge opportunity to revolutionize the way consumer goods are delivered and consumed. We also saw the opportunity to help our planet by eliminating the disposable bottle paradigm and drastically reduce plastic waste. It’s rare to discover an opportunity to do one or the other, never mind both. That is hugely motivating and exciting at the same time.
Q. Trust is a difficult attribute to measure and a delicate dynamic to maintain. How do you maintain this with your customers?
We maintain trust by being true to our mission and honest with our customers. That’s easy to say, but sometimes difficult to do. Our leadership team holds each other accountable for doing what it takes to make our customers successful, because it’s the right thing to do and because we know that’s what will make us successful in the long run. We do not have any illusions about the difficulty of creating a new industry category and adopting innovative technology to new and different applications. We know there may be some trial and error with new technology. If the problem is on our end, we fix it. We keep our customers informed with open and honest communication. If the problem is on the customer’s end, we work with them using our expertise, background, and engineers to help them solve the problem. We are not afraid to critique our customers’ ideas. We are always on the lookout for “irrational optimism” because it can be a project’s death. Our honest and candid feedback regarding the feasibility and potential outcome of a project has helped us build trust with our customers.
Q. Innovative containers and packaging comes with an expensive price tag. How do you maintain your profitability and product affordability?
We have been, through a lot of hard work and some good fortune, lucky to meet enough people who share our vision and “get it.” They understand the huge opportunity presented by our technology and also embrace the chance to reduce plastic waste and eliminate the use of disposable plastic bottles. Thus far, we’ve not taken in any institutional capital, we have been funded by friends and family who share our vision. We work with our suppliers and our vendors to refine our technology continually, including squeezing cost savings wherever possible. We believe we can accelerate this process the more our technology is adopted. Obviously, increases in volume lead to economies of scale, but we also have new generations of our technology that reduce the amount of plastic in our closure by 60% and provide +270% greater storage capacity for active ingredients. We intend to pass along our cost savings to our customers, which we hope in turn spurs greater adoption. We’ve had some setbacks along the way, the latest being the pain inflicted not just on us but on the entire world economy, by the COVID-19 pandemic. With every setback comes opportunity, and this setback also has demonstrated the viability, even the necessity, of adapting to the revolution of e-commerce.
Why ship water? It’s available at home, at work, and on the go. Vessl™ allows us to eliminate these products’ unnecessary transport and their associated single-use bottle waste. One of the benefits of Vessl™ is replacing traditional bottled products with Vessl™ pods filled with concentrate for use on reusable bottles. This eliminates single-use plastic bottle waste. We also eliminate the associated freight for inbound empty bottles, the delivery of those bottles to the consumer, and packaging materials for these heavy and bulky items. Vessl™ is the optimal solution to deliver these end-to-end supply chain savings, including fuel, freight, and the associated carbon emissions. By storing the concentrated active ingredients in the Vessl™ closure, any consumer product with water as its primary ingredient can be sold in environmental and ecommerce-friendly multipacks for use with a single reusable bottle. Simply refill a reusable bottle with water and twist on another Vessl™.
Q. Please talk about your design, durability, and technology expertise.
We have multiple patents on multiple different designs that are suitable for many different applications and industries. Our experience with using our closure in the market for over eight years now has proven its durability. We have expanded our expertise by working with different companies in different industries. We consistently have been able to help our customers refine their products to adapt our technology. We likely have the expertise in-house, but if we don’t, our suppliers are some of the most accomplished at what they do in the world, and they certainly have the expertise to solve almost any technology hurdle.
Q. Do you have any new services ready to be launched?
We can customize the Vessl closure for different sizes and shapes and adapt it to store two different types of liquids in separate chambers, or even a liquid and a powder. This allows Vessl to be used on a virtually unlimited number of applications. The Vessl closure is ideal for anything requiring the final mixing of ingredients at the point of use, to applications requiring the preservation of natural ingredients without the use of artificial preservatives, to environmentally friendly applications that eliminate the disposable bottle paradigm, or any combination of the above. Vessl aims to disrupt industries and eCommerce in the most virtuous ways. We see Vessl being used across product categories in everyone’s home. Vessl transforms the household, whether in beverage, household cleaning, personal care and beauty, baby products, and much more.
Meet the leader behind the success of Vessl™
Walter Apodaca, CEO and Founder, started his career on the ground floor of the beverage industry with a job loading trucks at night while in college. Since then, Mr. Apodaca has served in various positions for several global industry leaders, and has been responsible for turnarounds in R&D, supply chain, general management, and sales and marketing departments. Prior to founding Vessl, Mr. Apodaca served as Vice President National Accounts, MillerCoors; Vice President & General Manager, Coors Brewing Company; Market Unit Vice President, Coca-Cola; and Division Supply Chain Vice President, Coca-Cola. Mr. Apodaca, along with his co-founders and team of entrepreneurs, have successfully commercialized Vessl™ which is now used on a variety of brands and products in over 49 countries worldwide.