VIBES Award: Micro Business


Creativity and innovation are key elements of Vegware. A large element of what Vegware does is entrepreneurial. Their business involves making links between various businesses so that, when their resources are partnered, a new innovative product can be created.

Sponsored by: Stagecoach Group

Vegware develops, manufactures and distributes compostable food packaging and catering disposables. All Vegware products are made from renewable or recycled materials and are fully compostable.

Vegware’ core ethos of providing environmentally friendly disposable packaging has enabled them to grow into a profitable company over a relatively short period of time. Their approach to dealing with problems associated with conventional packaging has resulted in a number of effective working partnerships being created to allow them to produce 100% compostable packaging. Vegware is the only business that can claim that their products are 100% compostable and completely free of oil-based plastics. Vegware offer a closed loop system to their customers to ensure that their products are composted after use by putting their clients in contact with a local composting provider. For example, the business has formed a successful partnership with Keenan Recycling to offer customers in Aberdeenshire a closed loop service.

Keenans also promote Vegware products to all of their food uplift service customers, ensuring that the partnership agreement works in both directions.

‘Eco Stats’ are provided to all customers on their monthly invoices and include the amount of carbon saved, virgin pulp saved and the potential weight of material diverted from landfill. During the first half of 2010, Vegware reduced the footprint of the UK catering industry by over 30,000kg of carbon and saved over 35,000kg of virgin materials from being used.

There is no cost increase to clients in using Vegware products instead of their standard disposable items. Vegware can typically put together a package for their customer that is cost neutral, which is a key benefit. In addition, with the closed loop system on offer, customers save on landfill costs by sending materials for composting.

Some Vegware products are made outside the UK; for example in China. The business audits their non-UK manufacturing sites in person, and on an annual basis, to ensure that they offer good working environments. Other social benefits resulting from Vegware include the Vegware Community Fund which was set up to provide finance (£20-200 per month) to organisations to help them to grow.

Vegware has also created employment opportunities both in the UK (e.g. within Vegware itself) and internationally. For example, their coffee cup manufacturing partner in Ireland has had to take on extra staff to keep up with demand for the product.

Creativity and innovation are key elements of Vegware. A large element of what Vegware does is entrepreneurial. Their business involves making links between various businesses so that, when their resources are partnered, a new innovative product can be created. For example, a fully compostable double walled cup was created by linking an Irish cup converter company (with a commercial print background), a Finnish manufacturer of FSC accredited bio-coated board, and the existing Vegware award winning compostable starch coffee cup lids. The cup has:

  • 100% recycled board on the outer wrap
  • Sustainably sourced European board, with a GM-free compostable lining on the inner wall
  • A corresponding compostable lid

The business has recently been acknowledged to be a significant force in the packaging sector through their nomination for membership of the Food Packaging Association (FPA).

Vegware’s innovative approaches and efforts to provide a closed loop system for their packaging were key elements in the judges’ decision to give the 2010 Best Micro Business Award to the company.

Vegware Sales Director Dominic Marjoram, said: “We are delighted to win such a prestigious environmental award. It is great recognition for the hard work and innovation that’s gone into becoming the UK’s first and only completely compostable packaging firm.

Our rapid growth shows that it pays to stick to your green ethos – with less than 10 employees we are classed as a micro business but our turnover is close to £2m and we have successfully secured distribution outside the UK.

Winning this award celebrates our environmental and business achievements and shows that Scotland has home grown talent that’s punching well above our weight in terms of growth and innovation.

The 2010 Best Micro Business Award was sponsored by international transport operator Stagecoach Group, winner of the Process Award in 2009. Steven Stewart, Director of Corporate Communications at international transport operator Stagecoach Group said: “Our business is about providing people with greener, smarter travel and being a more sustainable community partner. It is very encouraging to see that not it’s just the country’s higher profile corporate brands, but many micro businesses that are leading the way in helping Scotland meet its stretching carbon reduction targets. They understand that being green is good for business. Even in today’s tough economic environment, there are great examples of businesses working together to maximise the commercial opportunities from being a sustainable business.