Steam CC is now expanding in the European market with its Ripple Maker coffee print provider. Backers of the project include Landa. What’s so special about this Israeli start-up’s niche application?
Print was not the focus of dmexco 2017, obviously. And there was absolutely no printing at the exhibition, or was there? Of course, there was! The award-winning start-up Steam CC introduced the Ripple Maker at the dmexco show, as it currently wants to persuade the European market of the merits of its coffee print system as well. I sat down with Steam CC CEO, Yossi Meshulam, at the Taboola booth and conducted a short interview with him over a cappuccino, which I naturally wish to share with beyond-print.de readers.
Bernd Zipper: Mr. Meshulam – when was the Ripple Maker idea born and how has the market responded to the system?
Yossi Meshulam: We had been developing the technology for some time, but Ripples was fully established in 2014. Our first customer was the airline Lufthansa, who installed Ripple Makers in their First and Business-Class lounges in 2015. The Ripple Maker went on to win the ‘Last Gadget Standing’ Online competition at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2016. Since then, we’ve had an incredible feedback from many global brands who have employed Ripples for their events, including Twitter, Match.com, IBM, as well as hotel chains Marco Polo Hotels, Shangri-La and The Four Seasons. Our customers have been delighted with the response that a rippled coffee generates, and it has proven very successful in generating media coverage, social media traffic and brand loyalty.
Bernd Zipper: How did you get the idea to combine print or digital printing and coffee?
Yossi Meshulam: Our two original founders, Eyal Eliav and Danny Lavie, spent a lot of time in coffee shops thinking about new start-up ideas, and this is where the idea was born. They realised that the milk foam on top of a cappuccino or latte is like a blank page, so why not use it to communicate with your customers and share something more? The Ripple Maker was designed to create beautiful images or inspiring messages, known as ripples. When the coffee is served to a customer, they are often surprised, and it always makes them smile; ripples transform a coffee break into a memorable experience that also builds positive associations with your brand.
“I think the idea of using flexible inkjet print on more unusual substrates is a great one, but the marketing principle behind it also needs to be extended to other applications or beverages in future, in order to serve the market more broadly.” – Bernd Zipper
Bernd Zipper: At what resolution can this print system produce images?
Yossi Meshulam: The Ripple Maker is capable of printing at 600dpi but the quality of the printed image actually depends on the size of the bubbles you are printing on to. Micro bubbles that create a fine, smooth surface are best for high resolution and long-lasting ripples. Milk that has been heated and frothed with a steam nozzle, or nitro-brewed coffee is perfect for this.
Bernd Zipper: How does the combination of inkjet and 3D printing in the Ripple Maker work in detail?
Yossi Meshulam: The Ripple Maker uses a tiny amount of coffee extract as ink, which means that the inkjet-style printing head dispenses a very fine spray of targeted ink. Like 3D printing, the printed image is made up of very fine layers of the coffee extract, which are built up to define the areas of light and dark in the image. As with both technologies, the original image is computer generated – users either choose from the Ripples library installed on the machine, or upload an image via the Coffee Ripples smartphone app. Our customers can easily create their own ripples for their business such as brand logos and icons, or even promotional messages.
Bernd Zipper: What procurement costs are involved in acquiring the Ripple Maker? How much does a company have to invest if it wants to use the Ripple Maker to make and maintain contact with its customers?
Yossi Meshulam: The recommended pricing for the Ripple Maker is 2,000 Euro plus 1,200 Euro for the first-year subscription plan. The plan includes supply of Ripple Pods, access to the Ripples content library and customer training and support throughout the first year; subscription plans can then be customized for each customer depending on how many ripples they need to produce. However, local pricing will be adjusted as regional partners are announced.
Bernd Zipper: Landa Ventures is one of your investors. In the printing business Landa Ventures is a technology driver in many ways – what role does Landa play in the production and marketing of the ripple maker?
Yossi Meshulam: Ripples is a privately-owned VC-funded start-up, with Landa Ventures as the major shareholder. We are of course hugely inspired by the innovation and influence that Landa has had on the printing industry and honoured that Mr. Landa is our Chairman of Board. Due to our relations with Landa Ventures, we also enjoy having access to the best talent in the global printing industry.
Bernd Zipper: What are your goals with the Ripple Maker over the next three years? Are further steps planned? Other systems?
Yossi Meshulam: We have just launched Ripples in Europe and we are working on bringing the technology to customers in Germany, the UK, Turkey, Cyprus and Russia, with more territories to be opened up by the end of this year. The Ripple Maker technology can be applied to a wide range of beverages – we already offer applications for nitro coffee, hot chocolates, milkshakes and smoothies, and we are going to launch other applications in the near future.
My Take: To date the Ripple Maker has only had coffee print applications. And anybody that wants to utilize the system, which has an ink reservoir capacity of up to 600 beverages, needs the corresponding sales volumes at that given service price. Steam CC’s CEO is also well aware of the fact that the concept of beverage personalization using print has even more potential. Once the inks for subsequent applications are ready to go, then adaptation of the existing system is expected to happen fast, because it has already been sufficiently field-tested, especially by major customers. I wonder when the first print-personalized beverages will be available in cafés, ice cream parlors and restaurants here in these parts.