Designing Cool Ice Cream Business Models for the Circular Economy

Dutch qualification event for the Nespresso MBA Sustainability Challenge
Designing Cool Ice Cream Business Models for the Circular Economy Designing Cool Ice Cream Business Models for the Circular Economy
Publ. date 19 Jan 2017
Early 2017 TIAS Business School in Tilburg hosted a case challenge event to select its representative for the Nespresso MBA Sustainability Challenge. Jan van der Kaaij, Managing Partner of Finch & Beak, took seat in the jury to select the best team for competition in the challenge. Nespresso has been organizing the Nespresso Sustainability MBA Challenge as a means of stimulating sustainable innovation. Previous challenges included sustainability related topics such as brand image and integrated supply chains.

Over the past years, the Nespresso Sustainability MBA Challenge has grown considerably to become a unique and inspiring event where students compete for the H.-Joachim Richter Award. In 2015, 86 universities from 28 countries competed in the challenge, and the three finalists were invited to present their final proposals in Lausanne, Switzerland.

Business design thinking: Ben & Jerry’s

At the preliminary event, TIAS Business School selected its representative for the Challenge from four participating teams. During this event, students worked on a small case about Ben & Jerry’s, part of the ice cream division of Unilever. Each group was given 90 minutes to identify a top 3 of circular economy innovation opportunities on the basis of life cycle and materiality analysis using a two-page data sheet which was provided.

Teams were requested to pitch their ideas and the rationale behind them in a 10-minute slot. To come to the final result, students were graded on the basis of their ideas, argumentation, presentation, discussion (Q&A). The motivational letter that the teams were requested to write before entering the preliminary event was also taken into account. Eric Dooms (Academic Director of MBAs at TIAS), Bart Dierynck (Associate Professor of Accounting at Tilburg University) and Finch & Beak’s Jan van der Kaaij together formed the jury.

Stirring solutions from the pressure cooker

In a short time frame, the students came up with surprising innovative and well-designed ideas relating to circularity. Solutions presented included an app where customers gained points in order to plant trees, redesigns of packaging to reduce waste and improvements of the processing of the dairy products to reduce emissions and save water.

The winning team, consisting of Shohre Azari, Constance Lin, Shinichiro Sakai and Jin Lui, proposed an expansion in emerging markets focusing on local production and education to ensure enough milk is produced at the quality Ben & Jerry’s desires. The aim of this approach is to reduce the carbon footprint and enhance the livelihood of local communities.

Secondly, this team opted for a healthier substitute for sugar, Stevia. This is a natural sweetener with a similar taste of sugar. Compared to sugar, Stevia consists of a lower amount of calories and leads to a lower blood pressure. As a last opportunity, the team opted for new packaging design by making the cups (partly) edible. This will reduce waste and can be cost effective in the long term, but imposes the risk of quality reduction since ice-cream is a very sensitive product. The jury praised the winning team for its innovative thinking and for its solutions to sustainably expand in new markets using the concept of circularity.

Is your team looking to get “unstuck” on sustainable innovations?

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