Finding the right manufacturer

Designing a sustainable, recyclable product

It was 2019, Cupple had been designed. A 3D printed prototype showed us that it worked and was exactly as we had hoped.  Cupple was always going to be made of stainless steel.  It’s clean industrial lines, lightweight, durable, toxic/BPA-free, taste-free, fully and widely recycled, and part of the circular-economy it ticked all the boxes for us. We both felt strongly that we didn’t want to just create another thing to throw away. Cupple had to be a life-long product and if ever damaged or no longer wanted, can be put back into the system for a second life.

Trying to support local

So now we needed to find a factory to make Cupple. We thought that would be pretty simple.  We wanted Cupple to not only be UK designed but also ‘Made in the UK’.  It was very important to us, not only from a sustainability and environmental point of view ensuring low transportation costs but also to support our country’s economy.

We contacted local workshops that made steel parts for machines and engines but pulled a blank, we contacted the British Steel Association who told us bluntly that the UK did not have the ability to produce stainless steel drink and food ware cheaply or extensively.  We could find artisans who could knock one out in a few weeks for £70 a go! 

We started to investigate options in Europe, but again pulled a blank.  Everyone was telling us the only place to get high quality, stainless steel bottles and cups made was in China or the Far East.  A quick trip to a local John Lewis department store confirmed the case, every stainless-steel bottle we picked up and turned over was ‘Made in China’.  Chilly’s, S’well, Sistema, Bodum, Thermos, Ocean Bottle, even KeepCup’s new steel insulated cups.  All of these sustainable, eco-conscious brands have been to China to get their products made.  This was a turning point for us. 

Choosing the factory 

The design team introduced us to a company in China who work with several different factories. We chose the factory who are already producing beautiful bottles for other brands, they have also been fully audited by amfori/BSCI - The Business Social Compliance Initiative supports businesses to trade with purpose by improving social performance in their supply chain, and through the Sedex Members Ethical Trade Audit reporting system. Sedex is a membership organisation that provides one of the world’s leading online platforms for companies to manage and improve working conditions in global supply chains.

As we explored further, and we learnt more, the brands we most admire are producing high-quality stainless-steel products at affordable prices.  If we want Cupple available worldwide so it can make a real impact on reducing the packaging used in the take-away drinks sector, then this was the answer.

How Covid changed the way we worked

At the end of 2019 we booked our trip to China for January 2020, flights and hotels in Shanghai were booked. We went to the Chinese embassy in London to get our Visas. We were ready and plans were made to visit three factories.  I even started thinking about delicious food and tourist hotspots to visit! 

But slowly the news of Covid-19 started to spread and as it marched across China and then the world. We realised that our factories were 500 miles from Wuhan and so we had to cancel.

It was devastating at the time but we quickly switched to Zoom and emails, and for the last year communication between the Cupple team and China has been seamless. Tools have been made, prototypes sent over, changes made, tweaks tweaked, packaging designed and leaflets printed. Like the rest of the world, we adapted quickly and easily.

And so here we are, December 2020 and Cupple has gone into production.  Although we hoped to get them ready for Christmas, it wasn’t meant to be, lockdowns here and there have just stalled the speed we could get everything done.  Cupple’s year is 2021.  And we couldn’t be more ready or more excited.


18th December 2020