Guilt free, Keurig compatible pods for OCS – a classic underdog story

April 14, 2021

For Michael Sands, being the underdog is a familiar role that has worked out well for him in the past. As cofounder of Smile Coffee Werks, Sands is relying on his previous underdog experience, with Snapple, Ben & Jerry’s, Pirate’s Booty and Balance Bar, to propel his latest product to success.

Sands sees office coffee service operators and their roasters as key components in his effort to build momentum for his guilt free Keurig compatible coffee pods.

Environmental Motivation

“We offer operators an incredibly powerful product that will open the door to some valuable new business,” Sands said.

“Our Keurig compatible coffee pods eliminate 100% of the guilt associated with single-cup pods. For many potential clients, eliminating that environmental issue is an absolute “deal maker,” he added. “Working with Smile Coffee Werks will say volumes about your company. It is proof that as an operator, you respect the environmental goals of your clients and that will translate to opportunity.”

100% Green

Sands and his team located, licensed and refined the technology to produce a Keurig compatible pod that is completely “green,” from the pod, to the filter, to the lid, to the ink – all 100% certified as commercially compostable.

Plant-based – an easy choice

“Our Keurig compatible coffee pod is plant based. While the traditional Keurig coffee pod will sit in a landfill for hundreds of years, our pod will be gone in 12 weeks,” Sands explained. “While there are others making claims about their biodegradable coffee pods, ours will break down at 72 degrees and do not need to be processed at high temperatures in a commercial composting facility.”

“Let’s face the facts,” Sands said, “most of the Keurig compatible pods end up in the trash. We make it easy for a business or individual consumer to make a very positive environmental choice.”

Step 1 – the product selection

Smile Coffee Werks is currently offering three different Keurig compatible coffee pods.

  • High Country – Light Roast
  • Werkday – Medium Roast
  • Woke Up – Dark Roast

The coffee pods are operator friendly, with a 12-month shelf life.

Sands and his business partner, Frankie Schuster, developed this product selection to give operators an opportunity to see the impact of offering clients a truly green, guilt free approach to Keurig-brewed coffee. “Like many office managers and HR directors, we love the Keurig brewing process - including the convenience and the quality,” he said. “Unfortunately, the terrible impact that plastic pods are having on the environment is the No. 1 reason why many clients and prospects want nothing to do with them. It goes against their green initiatives and it grates on the conscience of many consumers.”

The prime demographic

“Look at the size of the organic coffee market,” Sands noted. “The compound annual growth rate is over 12%. These are the people that we consider our target market, our prime demographic, and the opportunity is growing exponentially. These consumers are not price oriented. They are highly motivated to buy our product because they want Keurig convenience in their home and business, but more importantly, they want sustainability and authenticity. We are the answer.”

Sands also pointed out that today’s workplace is dominated by this prime demographic. “Gen Z and millennials are environmentally conscious, and they are making the decisions in today’s workplace.”

Step 2 – driven by consumer demand

“We hope operators will take this simple step to differentiate themselves – to see firsthand, the impact of selling this guilt free solution to existing clients and prospects,” Sands said. “It can open doors for operators and provide them with a true competitive advantage. We are confident that after an operator takes that first step and adds Smile Coffee Werks pods to their product menu, it will ultimately lead to an important second step, driven by customer demand.”

What is that second step? Sands and his team are focused on private labeling for operators. “If we can get operators to connect us with their roasters, we can use their own coffee to provide guilt free, Keurig compatible coffee pods,” he said.

High-exposure deals

Sands said that Smile Coffee Werks is on the verge of closing some major private-label deals in the hotel and retail channel. “As soon as our 100% carbon neutral, certified compostable Keurig compatible coffee pod begins to appear in major public venues, that will build momentum and drive consumer demand in other channels, such as OCS,” said Sands. “Those hotel and retail customers will be promoting the environmental benefits of our product in a big way.”

Underdog from the start

To add to the underdog story, Sands and his team incorporated their company in December of 2019 and began fundraising in January of 2020. “We were at the goal line with two major hotel chains – looking at about $10 million in sales right out of the gate,” Sands said. “Then COVID hit, and everything went on hold.”

To make matters worse, Sands was based in New York and was one of the unlucky first to get COVID, ending up in the hospital for six days. Additionally, their pod packaging machine was being made in Italy and with their COVID issues, did not arrive until November of 2020.

“We can relate to OCS operators,” said Sands. “We were hit hard by COVID, but we survived. New deals are coming together and like every OCS operator out there, we are very happy to have 2020 behind us.”

Try the guilt free Keurig experience

Smile Coffee Werks is happy to provide free samples of their guilt free Keurig compatible coffee pods to operators upon request. “I invite all operators to take that first step toward having a positive impact on your customers, your company’s growth and the environment – contact me for samples and to discuss the possibilities. Also – we offer guilt free Nespresso pods and that has generated quite a bit of interest from operators.”

Michael Sands, cofounder of Smile Coffee Werks, can be reached at (914) 552-0052 or [email protected].


Industry consultant and contributing editor Bob Tullio ( is a content specialist who advises operators in the convenience services industry on how to build a successful business from the ground up. Tullio recently launched a YouTube channel, b2b Perspective, designed to “elevate your business in two minutes” and is currently developing an online course, Leverage the power of LinkedIn to grow your business.

As he is a recognized industry expert in business development and sales, NAMA retained him to write and narrate the new online course, “Selling Convenience Services,” which is now available. Use discount code B2B10 for an instant discount and for free access to upcoming Q&A webinars from Tullio in the coming months. Here is a free sample of the course.

About the Author

Bob Tullio

Since selling his business in January of 2017, Bob Tullio has been an active industry consultant at focused on content creation, strategic planning, sales training and business development. In addition to serving a growing client base, he has written over 50 columns and features, providing operators and others with an inside look at how he helped build a successful business from the ground up. He can be reached at 818-261-1758 or [email protected].


[Photo: Smile Beverage Werks]
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