VU alumnus Stefan Wateler (26) started the company, Cupplement, with a childhood friend. The two are conquering the world with coffee capsules containing added vitamins and superfoods.
So, why coffee with vitamins and superfoods?
„Coffee is a short-term energy booster. Even if you just drink a couple of cups that short-term energy boost is followed by a caffeine crash. Our coffee capsules are enriched with guarana powder and MCT oil, which help your body slow down caffeine absorption. And if you’re having a coffee anyway it can’t hurt to up your vitamin B intake at the same time, can it? Vitamin B supports your energy metabolism and helps release energy from food. Vital for those days when you need to perform at your best."
How did you come up with the Cupplement idea?
„Florian (Fermin, ed.) and I used to drink litres of coffee when we were studying. We had to keep on drinking more and more coffee to get the same effect. Not to mention the huge caffeine crashes and heart palpitations. We could have replaced coffee with energy drinks but these contain huge amounts of sugar so they’re not very healthy. There must be another way, we thought."
„In our search we came across a concept that’s popular in the United States: Bulletproof coffee, which is coffee with added butter or coconut oil to slow down the release of caffeine. I remember immediately thinking, how awesome that you can upgrade a coffee product with additives. Can’t we do that ourselves?"
„At the end of such a test day we really had the shakes."
How did you get from idea to implementation?
„It was all a rather amateurish approach in our student rooms. Initially we added superfoods to existing capsules. That first batch was pretty bad. Later, we developed our own coffee blend and were filling some six hundred capsules a day by hand. And whenever we developed a new blend all those capsules needed testing. At the end of such a test day we really had the shakes."
Why do you think the product is catching on so well?
„The main reason is that coffee is simply popular anyway. After water, it’s the most consumed drink. So offering coffee with added vitamins is a win-win situation. We’re also seeing that a large proportion of our customers are people who want to perform at their best throughout the day. It’s a trend these days to make the most out of your day; take microdosing on mushrooms, for instance. But coffee is much more socially acceptable."
How did the Policy, Communications and Organisation Master help you when you started this adventure?
„We needed to do sound scientific research when developing the product. And, of course, that’s something I learned during the study programme. But what really helped is that we were allowed to use the VU Demonstrator Lab. We were introduced to people from the university who had a background in chemistry and they helped us fine tune the doses. And we were also allowed to use a laboratory, which was a huge upgrade after our student rooms. We certainly wouldn’t be here today without the Demonstrator Lab."
„At the start we were mainly selling to friends and family."
Three months after you started, you appeared on the popular television programme Dragons’ Den to pitch Cupplement. How was that?
„Very nerve-wracking. We thought in advance: let’s just try it and see what happens. In the end, we left with a bid of 300,000 euro. The plan was to use that amount to invest in capsules with added vitamins C and D. This unfortunately didn’t work out during the negotiations after the programme. But we still gained a lot from that broadcast. We were introduced to so many new people and the capsules are also selling out fast. At the start we were mainly selling to friends and family, but we’re really happy that we’re getting many other customers now.
And will you be producing those coffee capsules with vitamins C and D?
„Definitely. Chemistry students at VU are helping us by researching the correct ratios. It’s just taking a bit longer."
Cupplement is offering a discount code especially for VU Magazine readers. Enter the VU_Alumni15 code and you’ll receive a 15% discount on your order. The code is valid until 31 July.