Case Study: How erthos™ Successfully Partnered with AB InBev Through the 100+ Sustainability Accelerator Program
erthos™ (formerly known as EcoPackers) creates plant powered alternatives to traditional plastics. Single use plastics made with erthos™ solutions are 100% compostable, and compatible with existing plastic technology, making plant powered plastics the natural choice. Established as a Canadian green technology company in 2018, erthos™ currently operates in Toronto and Shenzhen to build solutions at a global scale.
The company was founded by Nuha Saddiqui, Chang Dong and Krytika Tyagi, three graduate students from the University of Toronto that initially were exploring eco-friendly alternatives to styrofoam.
erthos™ developed a styrofoam alternative, but then realized they wanted to make an even bigger impact. According to the World Economic Forum, 8 million tonnes of plastics leak into the ocean every year, and erthos™ wanted to replace more of that plastic waste.
The team moved to China, where 85% of the plastic that ultimately finds its way into the ocean or landfills is produced, and do a deep dive into the plastic industry. Within the first three months, erthos™ secured a pilot with a plastic manufacturer, which helped the team learn a great deal about the industry. The company developed a natural, non-toxic, 100% home compostable eco-resin that serves as a direct replacement for traditional plastic inputs, making it easy to use by any plastic manufacturer.
And while they had early traction piloting their technology with plastic manufacturers, they learned quickly that they needed to move up the supply chain, and get closer to the brands that were looking for effective, sustainable solutions to bring to market.
This is in part what led the company to the AB InBev 100+ Accelerator.
About 100+ Accelerator
AB InBev’s 100+ Accelerator is dedicated to working with startups that have innovative solutions to four key challenges: climate action, circular packaging, smart agriculture and water stewardship. The goal of the program is to execute startup pilots within a 6-month period, and make immediate and future impact on AB InBev’s 2025 sustainability goals.
Highline Beta helped design the 100+ Accelerator using its pilot program accelerator framework. In the first cohort, AB InBev partnered with 21 startups, and in the second cohort, they worked with 15 startups, one of which was erthos™.
Case Study: How AB InBev developed an award-winning Accelerator program
erthos™ Joins 100+ Accelerator
Part of Highline Beta’s role in supporting the 100+ Accelerator is identifying and sourcing startups. Our team had seen the company earlier, when it’s focus was on replacing styrofoam, and kept track of their progress. When applications for the second cohort were open, Highline Beta reached out to erthos™ and suggested they apply. The timing was perfect, erthos™ had been testing its eco-resin in other pilot engagements and was looking to work more closely with a large, corporate partner.
Throughout the application and vetting process, AB InBev and erthos™, with Highline Beta’s support, explored potential pilot opportunities. And once erthos™ was accepted, everyone got to work quickly.
“We were blown away by the commitment shown by the 100+ Accelerator team in validating our technology. It’s a unique accelerator program that’s very results focused. It wasn’t a side project for their team, it was a clear priority for everyone involved, which helped accelerate our validation targets.”– Nuha Saddiqui, CEO of erthos
Partnering early stage startups with corporates can be challenging. It’s difficult to understand how to navigate the relationship and ensure both sides are successful. This is where the program design and effort by everyone involved is so important.
“Working with a global partner can be intimidating, but having Highline Beta’s support helped a great deal,” said Nuha. “The 100+ Accelerator team gave us the experience and credibility that we needed in a short amount of time, to help us expand to other industries.”
While the 100+ Accelerator focuses on executing a pilot quickly with AB InBev, the program also provides additional value. AB InBev employees and Highline Beta provided mentorship and guidance for erthos™ that went beyond the pilot. This additional value helped erthos™ expand their business while simultaneously delivering on the pilot plan with AB InBev.
“Highline Beta and AB InBev were always looking beyond just the validation of our technology; they took the time to learn about our business and provide advice and meaningful connections. These introductions transformed into real opportunities that will have a significant impact on our company’s growth,” said Nuha.
The erthos™ – AB InBev Pilot
After exploring numerous options for a pilot, erthos™ and AB InBev decided on two products that they wanted to produce using erthos™ eco-resin: keg caps and 6-pack rings.
Despite the COVID-19 global pandemic, the companies were able to find ways to work together, and erthos™ produced the first ever 100% compostable keg cap. The 6-pack rings are currently in development.
By replacing just these two products, in one year alone they will be able to reduce CO2 by 5.2 million kg, save 150 litres of water and divert 3000 tonnes of plastic (equivalent to 350 million plastic bottles.) This is the power of scale and finding the best technologies out there to make a better world.
Becoming erthos™ – Same Product, New Brand, New Strategy
Joining the 100+ Accelerator made a difference for the brand, product and business model of erthos™. Through working with AB InBev, they finally understood the potential of their technology. The company also realized it could serve other industries beyond packaging, broadening the scope of single-use plastic products that could be replaced. They are now exploring the fashion, agriculture and personal care industries with potential partners, and putting together a complete solution from the manufacturer, distribution and reporting.
When the company started as EcoPackers, the founders were focused on replacing styrofoam packaging. With broader potential to replace a great deal of single use plastics with their compostable eco-resin, it was time to re-brand. As a result, erthos™ was born. Today, the company has 20+ employees globally in their innovation headquarters in Canada, and pilot location in China.
Nuha articulates the vision of erthos™ as, “a belief in the production of better materials that are putting our Earth first. It goes beyond one product and one solution; we are the new Plant-Powered-Plastic.”
Going Global is Possible with the Right Partners
It’s not always easy for an early-stage startup (or even a later stage startup) to think globally. Joining an accelerator program with a corporate partner such as AB InBev, with its global reach and mandate, has been key to erthos™’s current growth.
“I would urge founders to take the leap and go global as long as it makes sense for your business or product. Having the right partners is key. AB InBev’s global footprint allowed us to explore opportunities in several places around the world and then execute a pilot quickly. The relationship we’ve built with AB InBev is an incredible one that we believe will continue for many years to come. Too often startups don’t look far enough beyond their borders to where they could make a real impact,” said Nuha.
Additionally, Nuha and the erthos™ team recognize the important role Highline Beta played in their journey.
We wouldn’t have joined the 100+ Accelerator if Highline Beta hadn’t encouraged us to apply and participate. Their experience as investors and venture builders helped us throughout the program.”– Nuha Siddiqui, CEO of erthos
Highline Beta has always believed in the power of successfully connecting big companies with startups to unlock value on both sides. Our pilot program accelerator model is one way we’ve been able to help companies such as AB InBev work with incredibly innovative startups.
We are in the business of connecting dots. The opportunity to work with AB InBev and erthos™ (along with the other startups in the 100+ Accelerator) is incredible. Highline Beta’s pilot program accelerator model creates the infrastructure and system by which big companies and startups can successfully work together. We help put the pieces together and do whatever we can to add value throughout.
Highline Beta continues to support the 100+ Accelerator program as it evolves and expands, working towards helping AB InBev achieve its 2025 sustainability goals.