The design-focused drinkware company used existing production channels to find a new path to market for would-be-wasted units from its B2B program.
If you head into your favorite independent coffee shop, there’s a good chance the store is selling some sort of custom drinkware as a souvenir for visitors and a reusable vessel to wean regulars off of disposable, paper cups. For a majority of those shops, there’s a good chance that drinkware comes from Seattle-based MiiR.
The 12-year-old company’s reputation is rooted in design-forward cups, canisters and more — all with a major focus on social and environmental responsibility. According to the brand’s VP of supply chain and sustainability, Josh Stinger, MiiR’s B2B custom program makes up most of its overall business — supplying shops and retailers (such as Patagonia) with product emblazoned with custom artwork of the customer’s choosing.
“However, there’s a small percentage of defects (in this program) that result in thousands of units piling up,” Stinger told Sustainable Brands™. “It kind of became a situation where our warehouse manager asked us, because this beast was growing and starting to impact our warehouse space.”
Stinger says that custom drinkware can be rejected for a number of reasons — whether that be the wrong artwork put on the product, improper positioning, or that the customer didn’t like the final piece. He estimates this happens in batches 1-2 times per month — and ultimately, those products are still perfectly usable, but not appropriate for traditional sales channels.
Start and stop
According to Stinger, the company understood for some time that there were potential opportunities with this rejected product; but the facilitation and launch of a viable program kept getting deprioritized.
“Now that the bandwidth has opened up, we said ‘we’ve gotta do this’,” he notes.
MiiR calls the program “Re:Claimed” — it essentially boils down to adding a “busy layer” over the existing illustration or design to cover up what’s there, then coming up with something new that meets the brand’s standards.
“This is a good way for us to collaborate with designers and bring product back to life again,” Stinger says.
A four-phase launch
MiiR has a four-phase plan for Re:Claimed, the first of which began with the first release earlier this year. Stinger says the initial sell-through was highly successful, with less than 5 percent of the inventory left. The company has plans to launch a second Re:Claimed product for this holiday season, then launch phase two of the plan early next year (Stinger declined to comment further about the full scope of each phase).
The program aims to be another way MiiR can put product out in the world for its intended use — and put something existing on the market rather than having to create something new. While the rejected product is ultimately a small piece of the company sales pie, it does serve to reduce the potential waste and footprint of all that custom product gone awry.
“It keeps us from having to go back to the well; and we can do something special,” Stinger says.