HeatGenie – which also counts former Whole Foods co-CEO Walter Robb as an investor - uses patented solid state technology (aluminum and silica), which takes up about a tenth of the can, and heats beverages up in two minutes.
To start the heating process, users twist the lid 90 degrees wait for the can to heat, and then push on the lid to open the can, which stays warm for around 30 minutes. The exterior of the can is protected by an insulated label to ensure that consumers' hands are protected.
Unlike previous approaches – which relied on ‘quicklime’ technology – and were bulky and time consuming, HeatGenie cans are recyclable, said CEO Mark Turner, who is licensing the technology to consumer brands that will integrate the technology into their packaging (the intel inside approach), which will be manufactured by authorized suppliers.
The morning commute
The patented technology might add a dollar to $1.50 to a beverage's price tag at retail, making it most suitable for premium products, he told FoodNavigator-USA: "We have had an incredibly positive response to our technology from CPG brands."
The demand has always been there for self-heating beverages, he claimed, but the execution - until now - has been sub-par, with heavy, slow-to-heat products whereby half the can was taken up by the heating element.
As for the early adopters, he said: "We think there's a big audience, but we're targeting Millennials, who are interested in convenience, innovation and portability. We also think this will really resonate with commuters. Some of our partners are looking at four-packs to take home, where you'd grab one as you leave the house to take with you to enjoy on the way to work, whether it's in the car or on the train."
The first products will have a 'thinner' texture with chunky soups and other thicker products to follow, he told FoodNavigator-USA: "Probably two-to three brands will launch products in the cans this year; we're talking to large and small companies making everything from coffee, tea, and bone broth to sake."
HeatGenie’s heating element uses a dry mixture of aluminum and silica, two benign materials. When the two substances are in an "intimately mixed powdered state, they undergo a chemical reaction to give off a large amount of heat," explains HeatGenie, which has been granted four patents for its technology with a further two under review.
The amount of heat generated and the rate that heat is released into the beverage can be precisely calibrated based on the mix of the fuel in the HeatGenie heater, which is important because the specific properties for a given beverage impact its heating characteristics, says the company.
"For example, coffee heats faster than soup, which has more and varied density."