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EIT FAN Stories: Air Up

17 September 2020 Central, Germany, News Plastic pollution has always been a relevant topic globally. The amount of drinks produced in plastic bottles worldwide is an ongoing concern. With that in mind, a team from Munich developed the air up drinking bottle because a sustainable and healthy beverage can also be the most attractive choice.

EIT FAN Stories: Air Up

An Interview with Lena Jüngst: co-founder of Air Up

How did the idea for Air Up come about?

It all started three years ago during my time at university where I studied Product Design. The idea came from the topic of my bachelor thesis "Neuroscience meets design". In this context, we dealt with “retronasal olfaction” which is the ability to perceive smell through the mouth. The concept is to have an easily refillable water bottle and scented pods on it which give the water a tasty flavour when released or aired-up.

Describe the process from turning a lab idea to a feasible product on the market.

We had lots of difficulties in terms of funding in the first few months. Afterwards we received money through investors and it took off from there. Our product was very new to the market and we faced negative feedback from early consumers about its usability. This is why we decided to include demo instructions in our starter set. We are constantly trying to improve and avoid miscommunication with customers.

What do you think makes you stand out?

Nothing is as sustainable as pure tap water. The common flavoured drinks you buy in the supermarket are full of artificial flavourings and produce fifty times more plastic. Our bottle is lightweight, easy to carry and sustainable. Our small fragrance pod can scent at least five litres of water which saves up to ten bottles therefore it can have a big impact on our environment. We are quite standalone with our concept, there is no direct competition which means we have a clear advantage on the market.

How did you get involved with the EIT Food Accelerator Network?

My colleague Fabian was the connecting point to EIT Food. We tried to receive funding for prototypes from the EIT FAN Programme in 2018 for mass production. There were two masters student teams helping us during the programme. They invested a lot of time and effort and we are still in contact with some of them to this day.

How did you benefit from the EIT FAN and would you recommend it?

It is useful in the beginning to receive funding for prototypes and for early stage start-ups. The possibilities of the programme are broad and interesting, you can take part in a lot of networking events which is important. As a start-up you have to focus on building your product and that is a time-consuming process. We specifically wanted to find people who had expertise in producing bottles. The Accelerator Programme you take part in cannot support you entirely in that but it can point you to the right direction.

What are some of the challenges you face as a food start-up?

A big challenge which you probably do not think about when creating a start-up is finding a trademark, a legal name for your company. It took us half a year to come up with our brand name. Eventually we found a name we agreed is unique and represents us perfectly. Another challenge is to continue your development despite obstacles such as finding the right people to help you, getting funding, having the patience because it takes time to grow. We are not just a food but also a lifestyle product.

Do you have any advice for early stage start-ups? How can you succeed as an entrepreneur?

Every start-up needs to face their problems independently. In the early stages there is a lot of discussion within the team, it is difficult because there are so many directions you can go. The initial lack of customer feedback can be tough and you have to take a risk when releasing a product to the market. We use a certain approach when it comes to it where we divide roles during our discussions. When you have clear objectives for every single person in your team, it makes it a lot easier to make important decisions.

How do you see your start-up developing over time?

We are thinking about expanding first into Europe, mainly Austria and Switzerland. Currently in production we have successfully sold over 100 000 starter sets. We are also considering to widen our product range according to our customers’ needs and feedback. You can purchase our product in sport and food retailers but we want to sell mostly online because we find our biggest target group there. Nowadays, more than ever, everything is shifting to the online world and that is definitely the easiest way to reach a wider audience.

Learn more about Air Up on their official website.

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