From Heinz to eco-coffins: innovating in the undertaking business

Remarkable story: Marieke Havermans (37) used to work as a packaging innovation manager for ketchup giant Heinz, but she recently launched a company to sell an affordable “eco-coffin”. Priced at a modest € 500, it’s slightly more expensive than the cheapest wooden coffin, she says. The company says on its website that the coffins are ‘stylish, affordable and ecologically sustainable’.

Havermans says that she got the idea when working as an innovation manager at Heinz, where she worked a lot with bioplastics. The ecocoffin is in a bioplastic made from food and plant waste and will biodegrade in two years.

The only problem she faces now are the undertakers, she says, who seem reluctant to buy the coffin. “They say it’s a beautiful coffin, but it’s a very conservative industry,” she says in FD.

She needs about € 500 k to develop the moulds for the coffins, which she wants to raise via crowdfunding on Indiegogo or Symbid, a Dutch equity based crowdfunding platform. She will need to sell about 4000 coffins to break even, she says.

For the moment, she’s trapped in the classic startup Catch-22 of having a firm commitment for funding from a public funding agency, but on condition that she can show orders from customers.

A search on Google revealed that there’s already a few sustainable coffins on the market, most notably New Zealand’s ‘Return to Sender’ coffins, which have won a few design awards. They are not in bioplastics, though.


(Main image: I asked Havermans for a picture of her prototype via Twitter, but in the mean time this cardboard “goldfish coffin” from Flickr will have to do)

Via: FD, photo: Orin Zebest, Flickr

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Raf Weverbergh

Editor of whiteboard. Raf Weverbergh was a magazine journalist whose work appeared in magazines like Rolling Stone, Playboy, Mail on Sunday, Publico and South China Morning Post. He is the co-founder of FINN, a corporate communications agency where he advises startups and multinationals on their PR and Mustr, the easiest media database for PR professionals. You can contact him on Twitter, Linkedin or Skype (rafweverbergh).

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