Written by Laura Woodroffe

Flat pints of beer, or any drink for that matter, is money down the drain for pubs and bars. Spark awardee, Gary Smith’s glass dryer and chiller will solve that problem. After completing Design Council Spark, he was chosen by the investment panel to receive more funding, and he’s on his way to getting it to market next year.

The ability to create the fresh, crisp fizz of a perfectly poured pint is dependent on the glass it is poured into. In a bar at busy times, glassware doesn't have the time to cool and dry properly after washing. The result is poor quality pints, complaining customers, and wastage. According to ‘The Beer Quality Report 2017’ compiled by Vianet and Cask Marque, the UK industry could save up to £206 million per year reducing waste, just by serving better quality beer. The potential is even greater when you consider that all sparkling drinks suffer from the same problem.

This problem is particularly stark for licenced establishments near sporting, entertainment, or transport hubs with heavy footfall at particular times. During his research, Gary came across managers who were forced to buy in vast quantities of glassware. Others would stop serving whole sections of their food menu in order to clear the fridges at busy times. Some simply gave up and got the plastic glasses out, prompting more complaints from customers.

Many years ago Gary, now an IT consultant, worked in a busy bar. He saw first-hand the need for something that could cool and dry glasses correctly, on demand. He started designing seriously in 2016.

“The Spark programme helped me to work out that I wasn't quite as far along as I thought”

Gary Smith, Inventor, Dryphoon

His ambition was to create a bartop unit, on which staff would push individual glasses as they needed them. Glasses are chilled to the right temperature with water, then blasted with cold air to dry them.  He immediately patented the idea, then started experimenting in his kitchen with a borrowed compressor. He started his experiments with beer, but in the long-term, he aims to produce units that can tackle other sparkling drinks, non-alcoholic included. “It was a ‘hands dirty’ situation,” he says. “I had a kitchen full of tubing and nozzles, and all the different types of glasses I could find.”

Those first tests were successful, so Gary booked a stand at the Bar and Pub Show. There, to his great surprise, his kitchen-built prototype, the newly-named ‘Dryphoon’, won the ‘Great New Idea 2017’. 

“That was a vindication that I was onto something,” he says, “but I was turning down sales at the show because I knew the unit wasn’t ready.”

Enter Design Council Spark. The product design accelerator presented the perfect environment to propel Gary forward.

“I’m a stubborn person, and at that point, I was a bit stuck,” says Gary. He couldn’t find the technology to make the nozzle work the way he wanted. He was also neglecting a crucial part of any new product. “I had no idea how important the design and branding was,” he says. “I thought it could take a backseat.”

Dryphoon Version 3 and Version 4

Gary benefitted from advice from product designers he met during Spark. They convinced him that his search for a nozzle which seamlessly swapped between air and water was fruitless. “As soon as I gave up on that dream and redesigned the unit with two nozzles, everything leapt forward,” he says.

“I had no idea how important the design and branding side was before the programme”

Gary Smith, Inventor, Dryphoon

Gary has put his share of the Spark investment fund to good use. He brought onboard product designer Clive Goodwin from Jam Sandwich. “The advice I received on the programme was that the product needed a bit more theatre to it,” says Gary. “The unit sits on valuable bar real estate, so it needs to add something and look good.” His new design will elegantly allow customers to see some of its workings, as it prepares their glass. In response to feedback, he has also developed two versions of Dryphoon, one that just dries and a premium version that both cools and dries.

Dryphoon Version 5

Gary has also engaged a design agency to work on the branding and copywriting agency Blackad. The website is being overhauled to reflect the quality image the brand needs. “I put together the original site myself,” says Gary. “But now I realise that isn’t good enough. People pointed out that it didn’t explain how Dryphoon worked, or show what it looked like. Our amazing copywriter solved that in three words, ‘Push. Pour. Serve’, our new strapline.”

He has also been industrious on the business front, advancing things with a big player in the alcohol industry. Dryphoon is now well positioned to trial the units with them. All being well on the design front Gary hopes to start selling units next year.

The Spark programme helped Gary to step back and opened him up to the possibility of changing his ideas. He embraced this enthusiastically, and the results are a product with massive potential in its market. The flat pint may soon be a thing of the past.

Design Council Spark is an innovation support and funding programme designed to help you turn your bright idea into a commercially successful product. Register your interest to be first to hear about next year's programme.

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