Home » Austrian makes suitcases out of beans – recyclable and very light

Austrian makes suitcases out of beans – recyclable and very light

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Austrian makes suitcases out of beans – recyclable and very light

Excess baggage costs up to 15 euros per kilo at the airport. That’s why this founder wants to produce the “lightest suitcase in the world” – from beans.

In Piedmont, Bazza founder Michael Kogelnik and his team produce products from beans. Bazza, collage by Zoe-Melody Janser

After I unfortunately had to decline a personal visit to the factory in northern Italy, I arranged to have a video call with Michael Kogelnik, founder of Bazza. The native Austrian dialed in right on time. From his cell phone, in the middle of the factory. It was loud in the background. The machines in which the molds for Bazza products are pressed were in operation. Maybe not the ideal place for an interview, but authentic. Kogelnik is proud of the production of its sustainable products and wanted to show me the machines. Bazza sells card holders in six different colors via an online shop. The real heart of the company will be a suitcase called Superleggera, Italian for super light.

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“We can’t afford waste”

The card holders are made from beans in the factory in Piedmont. The suitcase will also be made from the material. The beans come from arid areas and are “not a competitor to food production,” says Kogelnik. The beans that Bazza processes need little water and are not the beans that we eat. He came across the beans in his search for the “lightest and most durable” material. So the original motivation was not sustainability. “It’s a nice-to-have, but we didn’t come at it from an environmental perspective,” says Kogelnik. Because eco-materials are usually more fragile than other materials. “And then it’s no longer sustainable,” explains Kogelnik. But the beans are more robust than other organic materials.

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That’s why it’s easy for Bazza to focus on sustainability. The products are 100 percent recyclable because Kogelnik and his team do not use any glue, plastics or cardboard. All components are made from the same material, beans. Even if the machine fails, the defective product can be processed again. There would be no waste in the entire factory.

Kogelnik takes a few steps through the factory, takes me on his cell phone and shows me a large container of missed shots. “In a traditional factory, this would be waste, but we grind up the parts and put them back in the machine,” he explains. This could result in new, perfect products. “We cannot afford to produce waste because the material is very expensive. Therefore, everything is reused,” he adds. Customers can also return the products if they no longer want them. They are pulped and then reused. “It remains an eternal cycle,” says the Bazza founder.

From aspiring investment banker to suitcase designer

Kogelnik has a degree in business administration and a degree in engineering. Bazza is not the first company he has built. He started his career as an aspiring investment banker in London, where he “wore suits all the time,” he says. This experience gave rise to his first business idea, the luggage company Vocier. “How can you design a suitcase in which the suits don’t crumple?” is how Kogelnik describes his vision for Vocier. Twelve years after the company was founded, he “got the chance” to build something new in Italy. “And I took advantage of the opportunity,” said Kogelnik. In 2021, he started developing the “lightest suitcase in the world,” according to the Bazza founder.

He bought the factory in Piedmont and the machines, built a team and finalized the production of materials from beans. However, developing the suitcase took longer than planned. However, the team didn’t want to sit around. “We had time during this time and then designed the card holders. Made of the same material,” explains Kogelnik. Customers have been able to purchase the card holders for 19 euros each since November 2023. According to the company’s own information, the daily turnover is 8,000 euros. The high demand was “very surprising”. Two and a half years after the company was founded, the development of the suitcase has now been completed. Sales are scheduled to start in May.

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Five minutes of working time per suitcase

The Carry-On hard-shell case does not have a zipper, “because they break quickly, are expensive because they have to be sewn in, and are not recyclable,” explains Kogelnik. Similar to the card holders, the individual parts of the case are simply hooked together. Kogelnik turns the camera on his cell phone and, with one hand as he holds the cell phone in the other, shows me how to put the pieces of the card holder together. The hard outer shell of the card holder and the interior, into which individual cards can be sorted, are simply connected using a click mechanism. The two hard shells of the suitcase should also be able to be clicked together easily. “Five minutes of working time per suitcase,” he says.

This is also one of the reasons why Bazza can offer its hand luggage cases cheaper than competitors, even though the material is more expensive than conventional case materials. According to Kogelnik, the Superleggera case weighs 1.4 kilos and should cost around 150 euros. A comparable carry-on hard case from Samsonite weighs 1.9 kilograms and costs more than twice as much. The Berlin suitcase startup Horizn Studios has recently been advertising “the lightest high-end luggage in the world.” This means a suitcase weighing 2.1 kilograms for 250 euros. The lightest Rimowa classic, which is comparable to Superleggera, even weighs 3.1 kilograms. And costs almost five times as much.

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Big vision with small products

Bazza is Italian and stands for lightness. “We don’t promise that we will give people ease with our products,” says Kogelnik. But if Kogelnik has his way, the products should remind customers to appreciate and consciously perceive small moments of happiness and lightness. At least Kogelnik has been doing so since he moved to Italy with his family a few years ago. “The little moments are very much lived in Italy,” he describes.

He has big visions for his company, which currently consists of a team of four. Backpacks should come after the suitcases. And he also talks about expansion in Europe and then into the USA. His dream is that, thanks to the jobs in the factory, 100 families in the region will be able to make a good living from Bazza production.

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