4WKS is a family-run coffee start-up from Cape Town taking on a majorly flawed system and mediocre coffee at the same time.
In 2019, the year that 4WKS was launched, Caffeine Magazine reported that globally 39,000 coffee capsules are produced every minute, and 29,000 end up in a landfill. Brothers Daniel and Oliver Pretorius and their cousin brand strategist Lulu Larché wanted to do something about this. Self-confessed coffee snobs, they also refused to believe pods couldn’t pack local, artisanal and freshly roasted coffee. They launched with their first prototype, a home-compostable pod made from bagasse (sugarcane waste). Their current design has been further refined but is still 100% home-compostable and carries the coffee of five (soon to be six!) local micro-roasters without losing any of the convenience of a fresh cuppa, at home, at the press of a button.
Getting fellow sceptical coffee lovers to believe great coffee could come from a pod was their first challenge. The second was to introduce pod lovers to new options. “It’s been a privilege to showcase some of South Africa’s best, locally roasted coffees and to shine a light on what different roasts, beans, blends or single estates can taste like,” Lulu says.
It’s been a privilege to showcase some of South Africa’s best, locally roasted coffees.
Sustainability is not a straight line.
Developing a pod that has zero impact on the planet and also delivers a delicious shot of coffee has been an ambitious mission for the tight 4WKS team. “We have met challenges in terms of materials that can achieve both our aims—protecting the coffee and protecting the planet—as well as the lack of availability of these materials (and the machinery to produce them) locally,” Lulu says. “This has taught us that sustainability is not a straight line but something that is evolutionary, and with small steps forward, one can travel far!”
The rewards are great, and they still get a thrill every time a customer returns for more. “Not only are they buying into our vision and into our community, but with every purchase of 4WKS, they’re replacing plastic/aluminium capsules!”
Most recently, 4WKS has initiated seven compost collection points in the Western Cape where people can drop off their used pods to be collected for composting. “We’re also currently working on an innovative ‘closed-loop’ solution through our refill packaging that challenges our ‘grab-go-throw’ culture in South Africa (and beyond) and draws attention to how, together, we can do things in a bold new way—and shift the planet!”
As a purpose-led business, the ultimate goal for 4WKS is to replace every single plastic and aluminium capsule with a compostable pod. “Something that, essentially, shifts and fixes a broken system,” Lulu says. “We’re also passionate to showcase and highlight the art and craft of exceptional micro-roasters, in South Africa and abroad, by curating and collaborating with the best in each city. We want to address sustainability throughout the coffee chain—from farmer to cup to compost.”
We can do things in a bold new way—and shift the planet!