Jeannine Davison with edible cups. Images courtesy of Amai Earth Cups.

Imagine enjoying ice cream in a cup at the end of the day and then not having to think about washing a dish or disposing of trash. Instead, eat the cup, turn off the lights, and float off to bed. In the morning, grab another of these slightly sweet cups for your coffee, yogurt, cereal, or berries. Munch on the nutty flavor and pat yourself on the back because you’re helping to keep brewers’ spent grains like barley, wheat, and oats (waste from beer making) out of landfills, potentially reducing global warming.

As more and more consumers choose products aligning with their climate consciousness, the long-range vision of Amai Earth Cups based in Carlsbad is to supply not only edible cups but also plates, trays, and other food service items. With early success in their new business, they’re planning to expand into a major production facility to fill growing orders.

The New York Times announced as we went into 2022 that “edible containers are a food revolution.” Upcycling (treating food byproducts for human consumption) is key, and spent grains should be a major focus according to a report this year by international peer-reviewed scientific journal, Foods: “Harnessing this byproduct and developing sustainable processes is an urgent need in the food industry.” While most spent grain has gone into animal food, the report notes that it’s valuable for human consumption “because it increases the protein, fiber, vitamin, and mineral contents while decreasing the starch and caloric content in grain-based products.” The byproduct has benefits known to work against obesity, diabetes, colitis, neurodegenerative diseases, certain cancers, and cardiovascular diseases.

The Amai business idea came to owners Jeannine and Sven Davison in the form of a photo from Norway sent by a vacationing friend in 2020. It showed an edible cup at a coffee house. The Davisons thought, “Why don’t we have them here?”

Armed with experience from backgrounds in manufacturing and executive operations (in film and media), they made a successful proposal to the cup manufacturer in Bulgaria and became the US importer and distributor. Later, realizing the opportunity to generate the cups locally, they presented a plan to produce the cups in the US. “It didn’t align with the Bulgarians’ growth strategy,” says Jeannine Davison. The Davisons decided to begin making them here themselves. They made prototypes on their home waffle iron before raising $700,000 for production equipment and a test facility in Vista, where they can make up to 10,000 cups a month. Now, with large orders from major companies in food service, they are on a mission to raise $4.5 million to grow to scale and keep the test facility for research and development.

They are seeking assistance from the County of San Diego and various investment groups. “The spent grain recovery equipment could be on the back end of a brewery or the front end of our facility, or it could be a hub where all the spent grain goes,” Davison says. The byproduct has to be dried and milled before use.

Amai Earth Cups are tolerant to heat and moisture, so they can be used for soup, lattes, gelato, dips, snacks, salads, and more. The Davisons have a recipe patent pending for the cup. To learn more about Amai Earth Cups, check out their website, Facebook, and Instagram


This article was originally published in issue 71.

Cover image by Haley Hazell for Edible San Diego.
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