The Bioplastic Solution for Food Packaging with TIPA’s Daphna Nissenbaum

Plastic food packaging is accumulating at an astounding rate. However, bioplastic can help cut the waste as a biodegradable alternative.

John Shegerian: Welcome back to Green Is Good, and we are so honored to have with us today from Israel Daphna Nissenbaum. She is the CEO and co-founder of TIPA Corp. Welcome to Green Is Good and thank you for joining from your offices in Israel today, Daphna. Daphna Nissenbaum: Thank you for giving us the opportunity to be interviewed today. John Shegerian: We’re honored to have you. And for our listeners out there that want to follow along with this interview with Daphna, please go to her great website – I’m on it right now – it’s www.TIPA-Corp.com. I’m on your website. It’s a beautiful website. Before we get talking about all the great things you’re doing at TIPA, I want you to please share the Daphna Nissenbaum story about your green journey, leading up to co-founding this wonderful and important company. Daphna Nissenbaum: OK. So, actually, by profession, I am a software engineer and I also was a CEO of a research center on Capital Markets in one of the universities in Israel. John Shegerian: OK. Daphna Nissenbaum: And one day I had an argument with one of my kids about his plastic bottle. They used to throw it into the waste bin in school and I said, “Please bring it back home because we have to reuse, we have to reduce, we have to recycle. You cannot just throw it away as you want.” John Shegerian: Right. Daphna Nissenbaum: And after a few arguments like this, I understood that I hear this all the time around me. And I told them there must be another way. We must think differently on how we handle the packages. And the first thing I thought about was actually an orange peel. Why won’t we create a package that is like the orange peel that would behave like an orange peel that we can treat it as an orange peel? A biodegradable package that once we eat or drink the content and then we treat the package as an organic waste. And there was the original idea. John Shegerian: Got you. And how many years ago did you found your company TIPA? Daphna Nissenbaum: That was five-and-a-half years ago. John Shegerian: Wow. Daphna Nissenbaum: When we started TIPA. Actually I had the idea. I met my partner and we started developing cool designs for cool packages and searching for the right materials. Because I am not a polymers expert and so we hired two bioplastic experts to find the right material for us for flexible packaging, for biodegradable packaging. And after six months when they both came to us separately and said, “Well, there is no such solution, just come back in a few years,” we said, “No way.” No way. We have landed on the moon; now, how come we cannot have biodegradable flexible packaging? And this is how we started developing this solution. And that was five-and-a-half years ago. John Shegerian: Got it. So that was approximately 2010 or so. Daphna Nissenbaum: Right. John Shegerian: OK. So now, today, if I met you on an elevator in your office building or some other apartment building and I said, “What do you do, Daphna?” explain what TIPA does to our listeners. What is TIPA overall? Daphna Nissenbaum: We developed packaging that is like the orange peel. You can just drink or eat the content and treat the package as an organic waste. We give a bioplastic solution that actually looks and feels and gives the same properties as conventional plastic in one hand, but at the other end – post-consumption – it just degrades biologically. It actually becomes a fertilizer that can be used to fertilize the soils again, and this is the natural recycling process that exists in nature so we imitate it. So this is what we offer. John Shegerian: So you offer this. Now, I know how you got your epiphany. I know how you got your idea. When you were creating the products that you now sell and market, did it exist anywhere in the world before you created it? Daphna Nissenbaum: Well, bioplastic has been existing in the market for a few years. John Shegerian: OK. Daphna Nissenbaum: Let’s say for 15 years. John Shegerian: OK. Daphna Nissenbaum: But it has been used for very specific uses like for agriculture or for waste bags, etc. We came with the need to create food packaging. John Shegerian: OK. Daphna Nissenbaum: Why? Because the food industry is the No. 1 contributor for plastic waste. John Shegerian: Wow. Daphna Nissenbaum: And there is no solution in this space – the space of the food and beverage packaging. John Shegerian: Got you. That’s so fascinating. So, now, you took what was already invented for other applications and you then took it to the food industry. Daphna Nissenbaum: Right. John Shegerian: Ah. Daphna Nissenbaum: But the technology was not ready because the materials are not like conventional plastic materials – tend to break easily and not as strong as conventional plastic – so we had to develop very specific formulations to become a solution. It actually took us five-and-a-half years to develop the first generation of materials, which is now being launched in the market. So it’s not that easy. Once we understood what the bigger problem was and that there was no solution, and we started the development soon enough, we understood that it’s [inaudible] there’s a good reason why we could not find the such solutions in the past. So we were focused on the food industry. We were focused on the food industry needs and the properties that the packaging needs, and this is what we developed. John Shegerian: So now you put out your first generation. Who is your potential client in terms of where did you go first with your packaging and where are you finding early adoption first? Daphna Nissenbaum: So we focused on the U.S. market because we found it early adopters. John Shegerian: Yes. Daphna Nissenbaum: And we can find early adopters in this market. We actually approached brand owners – the companies that pack the food, that sell the food – so we approach them because we realize that more and more companies are searching and seeking for sustainable solutions. They want to care about the environment as their clients care about the environment and they want to bring added value, so we approach those companies – the food banks that are sustainable companies that have the sustainability message in their general message. John Shegerian: Are there any brands that our listeners would have heard of before? Are these popular brands, or are these smaller brands so you can work with other entrepreneurs, or are these multinational global brands that you are approaching? Daphna Nissenbaum: Actually, we do both. We approach the multinational, the big companies, the big players in the market in one hand but we also talk to the smaller brands who tend to adapt to solutions more easily or quickly than the bigger brands. But we actually do both. We’re players in both bets. John Shegerian: And so your offices in the – you’re in Israel today at your offices, but where are your offices in the United States? Daphna Nissenbaum: We actually have an office in New Jersey. John Shegerian: OK. Daphna Nissenbaum: And we operate also from there. And we also have agents in Israel and in Europe. John Shegerian: Got it. So the product is already starting to go in the food companies on the packaging. How has it been received so far, and how is it working so far? Daphna Nissenbaum: So we just started sales, actually, this quarter. John Shegerian: OK. Daphna Nissenbaum: So we moved forward with a few companies in the U.S. and in Europe and the products are going to be soon on the shelves in both territories. It’s going pretty well. All the companies – the companies that we talked to – all of them understand the huge problem that the plastic creates and the need and the demand that comes from their clients. So this is the kind of discussion that we have with the food brands. John Shegerian: So this is five-and-a-half years in the making, and finally, you’re going to come to market. The product itself, after I take it off of the food item I want to use,the product itself, if it ended up in a landfill or if it ended up somewhere else, it just basically could become part of the compost, again. It could become part of the Earth, again. Is that correct? Daphna Nissenbaum: Right. So the best solution is a compost system, then the package decomposes within six months and becomes a fertilizer that can be used to fertilize the fields and then to grow. John Shegerian: What an amazing story. Daphna Nissenbaum: But if it ends not in compost, then it’s all – we have exactly as an organic waste. It’s all decomposed. Maybe slower. But nothing to compare with conventional plastic. John Shegerian: Right. Daphna Nissenbaum: So we’re not talking about hundreds of years but in a few years the package will disappear. John Shegerian: Right. For our listeners who just joined us, we’re so excited and honored to have with us today Daphna Nissenbaum. She is the CEO and cofounder of TIPA. You can find her great important company at www.TIPA-Corp.com. Daphna, talk a little bit about your journey as both an entrepreneur, ecopreneur but also a woman. You’re a part of Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In generation. You had a big idea. You had to put together not only a team, but you also had to put together major money, funds, capital to get your idea to today where you are. Talk a little bit about, has it gone the way you thought it would? Has it been slower? Has it been faster? And has it been more challenging as more people and organizations try to get in your way during this journey? Daphna Nissenbaum: OK. So, first of all, I have to say, it’s an amazing journey. It’s not easy, but it’s very challenging, very interesting. And I have to say one more thing, that once you know you’re doing the right thing, everything falls in place. John Shegerian: Yeah. Daphna Nissenbaum: So we started with this idea, and as long as we went through this journey, we understood more and more about the size of the problem, the size of the need and what we have to bring to the market. So this is one journey. Then you have to find the right people to join you. So, from the very first step, we hired people that have vast experience with the conventional plastic market so we knew how to approach the market, we knew what the market needs and how to process the materials. But, on the other hand, all the time we thought differently. We knew we had to think differently of what the market needs and what we want to bring to the market because we didn’t want to go through the same path as conventional companies go through. So this is a journey to go with hiring the right people, the new minds and the old minds in terms of knowing how the plastic market works on one hand and to raise money and to bring the right partners on board with us, people who really can appreciate what we do and understand the problem and have the patience to go through this journey. But I have to say that – as I said in the beginning – if you do the right thing then everything falls in place. So we found – and maybe they found us – the right investors. John Shegerian: Yeah. Daphna Nissenbaum: And we have great partners. We have a wonderful team. We are 25 people. Each one is an expert in a different field but all together we make a great team that moves very fast and forward, and we’re focused. All the time we have to be focused on what you do, what you want to bring to the market. And it’s not easy because the opportunities are all over the place but you have to stay focused. And our focus is on the food industry – on soft packaging for the food industry – and once you focus and you’re going on the right way and it’s – we’re making a great team, great company and now we also have the ready-for-sale solution and we move forward and fast. John Shegerian: What kind of products, Daphna, do you offer? Like in this first generation of what you’re putting out in the marketplace and that we’re all excited to see our food in so that we don’t pollute the world anymore – what are the original products that you’re putting out there right now in the next six months to a year? Daphna Nissenbaum: OK. So yeah, this is a very important question, of course. We concentrated the first generation on dry food. So we offer packaging – for example – for fresh produce, for potato chips, for granola bars. For dry food and chilled food this is the first generation, and of course, we’re going to come soon with this next generation for other food segments. If you just think about today when you go to the supermarket and you go through the aisles- John Shegerian: Yeah. Daphna Nissenbaum: Everything is packed. Almost everything is packed – small portions, big portions, etc. – and a big segment is the segment of the dry food. So we concentrated there in the first generation. John Shegerian: Perfect. Wow. And so are there any brands that you can mention now that we’ll be seeing your packaging on in the next six months that our listeners can look out for and support because they want to support your kind of sustainable packaging? Daphna Nissenbaum: I hope that during our next interview I’ll be able to say the names. John Shegerian: OK. Good. We want that. We want you to come back on and say the names and promote your brand with the great brands that are going to be adopting your brand. That is the whole key. That is what we want. Daphna Nissenbaum: Right. John Shegerian: That’s wonderful. Daphna Nissenbaum: I think that is very – sorry. John Shegerian: No go ahead. Daphna Nissenbaum: I think that the companies would like to adopt this solution as well because it puts them in a different place, in a place where they say, “OK. We know there is a huge problem and we’re going to take care of it.” John Shegerian: Yeah. That’s right. Daphna Nissenbaum: We’re going to be the leaders in taking care of a growing huge problem of flexible packaging, of plastic, of current plastic. John Shegerian: Yeah. Daphna Nissenbaum: And we offer a solution that is outstanding, it’s a new technology and you can actually look at a packaging from now on as an organic packaging. John Shegerian: Yeah. Daphna Nissenbaum: And it just integrates in our life without any changes. John Shegerian: It’s amazing. Daphna Nissenbaum: So we give the same properties and feel as conventional plastic on one hand and the on the second hand we say, “OK, just think about it as an organic waste and treat it as an organic waste.” Whatever you do with your organic waste, you can do with our packages. And organic waste is 30 percent of our solid waste. John Shegerian: That’s amazing. Daphna Nissenbaum: And it’s going to stay here forever. Even in 200 years time, we’re still going to have organic waste and we have to take care of our organic waste so we can just integrate the plastic packaging into the organic waste. John Shegerian: Daphna, we’re down to the last two to three minutes unfortunately but can you share – you’ve been doing this five-and-a-half years. You’re just a rocket ship ready to go to the moon now as you launch your products. Where do you see TIPA in the next five and 10 years? What is your goal? What is your vision? When you go to sleep at night and you lay down where is your vision to take this in the next five to 10 years? Daphna Nissenbaum: TIPA is going to lead the biodegradable compostable bio-based solutions in the food packaging industry. We’re going to bring more and more sophisticated and advanced solutions to this market. This is a market of $73 billion in 2013 and was growing. We’re going to be the leader in the new packaging way of this market. John Shegerian: Wow. That’s amazing. And any last words of wisdom in the last 60 seconds for other young entrepreneurs, ecopreneurs that want to be the next Daphna Nissenbaum? Daphna Nissenbaum: First of all, be yourself. Believe in what you do. Do the right things and all the rest will happen. Don’t stop dreaming. Don’t stop aiming far and high. And just do what you believe you have to do and the rest will follow. If you believe in yourself, all the surrounding believes in you. John Shegerian: I love it. Daphna Nissenbaum: The investors, the company, everyone. Just do whatever you believe. If it is the right thing, it will succeed. John Shegerian: That is wonderful advice. Daphna, we’re going to have you back on to talk about the brands that have adopted TIPA’s great products in the future. And thank you for spending time with us today. For our listeners out there that want to learn more about Daphna’s great products, please go to www.TIPA-Corp.com. Thank you for making the world a better and more sustainable place, Daphna. You are truly living proof that Green Is Good.