Class of 2022
29 / Copenhagen, Denmark
The Colombian entrepreneur who upcycles coffee for a better future
As the co-founder and CEO of the Danish bioscience company Kaffe Bueno, Juan Pablo Medina and his co-founders Alejandro Franco and Camilo Fernández are on a mission to help the planet while improving Colombian coffee farmers’ livelihoods. They believe the life of a coffee bean needn’t end after we drink it – most coffee grounds go to waste, often ending up in landfill, generating methane that has harmful effects on the environment. Instead, Kaffe Bueno upcycles spent coffee grounds from hotels and other businesses into cosmetics and nutraceuticals like Kaffoil, an active oil for hair care, skin repair and anti-ageing products, and Kaffibre, a product rich in protein, potassium and dietary fibre that can be used for baking and confectionery.
The idea was born after the three Colombians met while studying in London. Hanging out with their Scandinavian friends, they realised how much coffee – often from their home country – was consumed in Europe. In their final year of university in 2016, the coffee industry was going through a crisis where it cost more to farm than to buy, with the price of a cup of coffee completely out of whack with what farmers were being paid. Aided by an entrepreneurship course, the three friends applied for a Danish start-up visa and developed a concept of using green chemistry and biotechnology to leverage the healthy properties in coffee to make functional foods and personal care products.
Five years into their project, they are working on new products and have received funding for the world’s first coffee bio-refinery focused on the wellness industry, which they hope to launch by 2023. While Kaffe Bueno is achieving its aim to minimise harmful emissions and maximise the use of coffee by-products, Juan Pablo is making headway on a personal goal to have a positive impact not only on farmers in his home country, but also on people and in places far beyond. “Present times are harder and more volatile than ever, but this is also the moment when good people must rise to the challenge,” he says.
“There is room to be good to the planet and the environment as well as providing value for you and your shareholders. Long-lasting change occurs this way.” – Juan Pablo Medina