LiquiGlide, a startup out of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, found international fame back in 2014 when a video of its startlingly simple innovation when viral: The founders had created a thin, slippery coating for the inside of containers that allows viscous products like ketchup to slide out of bottles — no tapping, banging, or knives required.
This week, the Cambridge-based startup, led by co-founders Dave Smith and Kripa Varanasi, announced it has raised $13.5 million, bringing its total funding to $50 million. The announcement was coupled with the news that LiquiGlide has partnered with consumer-goods company Colgate and the Swiss cosmetic and pharmaceutical company Mibelle Group. LiquiGlide said it will also work with industrial designer Yves Béhar to develop sustainable “zero waste” packaging solutions.
LiquiGlide wants to fix one of life’s longstanding frustrations: trying to squeeze out the end of a toothpaste tube. Since it’s often difficult to empty out sticky pastes, gels, and creams, hundreds of millions of dollars worth of those substances are discarded annually, still stuck to the insides of their containers. That’s also a reason why the packaging for these products is incredibly difficult to recycle.
“There are 40 billion or so packages of which stuff doesn’t come out of, and 5 to 25 percent of product loss” results from each container, said Varanasi, the company’s chairman.
As part of its partnership with Colgate, LiquiGlide has developed a toothpaste tube made of recyclable PET plastic. The coating on the inside allows a user to squeeze out the paste without rolling the end of the tube, and the clear container lets them see exactly how much is still inside. The tube is being introduced in Europe.
“A lot of consumer products companies really want to differentiate their products and provide a better experience, and they saw LiquiGlide as an opportunity,” said Smith, the startup’s CEO. It helps, he said, that the transparent container also lets Colgate “show off their toothpaste and let people see how much they’re actually getting through.”
Beyond packaging solutions, LiquiGlide is also working with Mibelle to apply its coatings to the inside of manufacturing equipment. Which means the huge tubs used to produce face creams or lotions, when treated with LiquiGlide’s coatings, will be easily drained of the products.
“Normally when they empty these tanks there’s products left all over the walls, and one tank can have anywhere from 20, to 30, to 40 kilograms of product left behind,” said Smith. “It’s a significant amount of loss, and an expense to them.” After partnering with LiquiGlide, Mibelle was able to reduce its yield loss by 99 percent, Smith said.
And that is a huge cost incentive to companies, Varanasi said, potentially saving them billions of dollars in wasted product, cleaning, and wastewater costs, as well as time and labor. LiquiGlide is also working with biomedical companies to help with the delivery of viscous drugs and reduce device-related infections.
LiquiGlide’s partnership with Yves Béhar, meanwhile, has the potential to transform the approach to certain packaged goods that are difficult to dispense in recyclable containers, Smith said. Thick, sticky creams and conditioners must be diluted in order for consumers to get them out of their packaging. But with the new coatings, that is less of an issue, and there’s a “huge sustainability benefit,” Smith said.
With LiquiGlide, you could remove 75 percent of the water from a bottle of conditioner, allowing for a company to sell a much more concentrated product.
“It’s a smaller package with less plastic, and with way less energy and shipping costs,” Smith said. “It’s a huge opportunity.”