Laura Gispert: “Who said sustainability is boring? We have to be responsible”

What would it be like to eat outdoors without having to generate plastics or other waste? From this year 2021 onwards, food, design and sustainability become still more compatible thanks to the “Voilà” project.

The young graphic designer Laura Gispert (Sant Cugat, 1994) has replaced the concept of “disposability” (use and discard) with that of “consumability” (use and eat). And she has done so with a new project that is sustainable, efficient, innovative and healthy, and moreover gives the consumer a new gastronomic experience.  

Gispert, a graduate from the Barcelona University Design and Engineering School (ELISAVA) hit on the Voilà idea while preparing her end-of-course project. During conversations with her course tutor there emerged the conception of edible cutlery, the perfect alternative to disposable plastic utensils. They are totally sustainable items made of different types of flour and especially rice which do not alter the taste of the food being eaten. They are edible, gluten-free and lactose-free and suitable for vegans. They are also biodegradable: if the user decides not to eat them, the package decomposes in 30 days.

Laura Gispert’s project has recently been awarded the first prize of Innofood 2020, an initiative of Barcelona Activa and Mercabarna aimed at promoting the creation of innovative companies that will improve any part of the value chain of the foodstuffs sector.

In today’s context of restrictions in the hostelry sector and increased outdoor activities, Laura Gispert’s edible cutlery has arrived at just the right time.

What does Voilà consist of?

The project aims to solve a modern-day problem: plastic cutlery has to disappear. Bioplastic and wood continue to generate waste, and consumers often find their touch and texture unpleasant. Voilà eliminates these problems completely, since the items are 100% biodegradable and 100% edible. They also offer added value by improving the consumer experience. This is a fun product that seeks to leave a better future for the coming generations.

Is it a totally sustainable project?

Yes. Voilà is 360º BIO. The entire production and packaging process is sustainable. We don’t use any plastics or environmentally harmful materials. The ingredients of the mixture of the recipe are ecological and locally sourced. We don’t use any ingredients of animal origin.

The idea of creating edible cutlery is very curious. What message do you want to communicate with this project?

Who said that sustainability is boring? We have to be responsible. Respecting the environment can sometimes feel like a sacrifice. Eating your cutlery is fun, it’s innovative, it’s delicious, it’s healthy and, what’s more, something as banal as cutlery takes on new connotations, for example emotional feelings. If I offer you an edible Voilà spoon for your dessert, it’s very different from offering you a typical wooden spoon.

This project has won the Innofood prize. What does that mean for you?

Innofood has given us great support during these months of developing the product. With the help of the programme and the advice of all of its professionals, I’ve been able to put together all the pieces to begin to create my start-up.

The final panel that selected my project as the winner gave me extra motivation to see that this was something real, and that I have devote all my efforts to generating this new industry of edible cutlery.

How did you get the idea of making sustainable cutlery?

It was during my end-of-course project, with my tutor, Mariana Eidler, who I’m still great friends with. During a brainstorming session, swapping funny stories and ideas, it occurred to us how much fun it would be to eat your cutlery – and even to make it in all kinds of flavours. In fact, the project is based on the concept of “food design”.

I conceived a set of single-use edible cutlery, and I developed the branding and began to design it to be ZERO-WASTE and edible. After I finished my studies I poured all my energy into developing this edible cutlery and creating a company that could mass-produce them to make them marketable.

Your edible cutlery comes in several forms: knife, fork, spoon, teaspoon ... Where will be able to find them?

We want to sell them in large retail establishments and also in indirect consumer channels. The idea is for you to find them in all the places plastic utensils are now used: ice cream shops, cafés, large chain stores, and so on.

And what will be the next step for this project?

We have a large market for introducing the products, and we want to go step by step, to continue working on R&D and listening carefully to consumers to adapt to their needs and achieve constant improvement of the product. Voilà is based on the criterion of excellence and on being the first. The next steps involve working very hard to make this a reality.

What other projects do you have under way?

At the moment I’m devoted to getting Voilà off the ground. I wouldn’t have time for anything else right now. What’s more, this project stimulates me and makes me very happy.

The market of disposable products is in constant evolution. How do you think it will evolve?

I think the present trend is to continue promoting a circular economy. I’m sure that five years from now edible cutlery will be very common in the single-use cutlery sector. In some markets, reusable cutlery is neither convenient nor hygienic.

Nowadays, design and sustainability go hand-in-hand. How does that affect your project development? How do you combine the criteria of design and sustainability?

Design constantly seeks to solve present-day problems. Sustainability is a constant struggle. We designers wrack our brains to think of products, designs or processes that will be sustainable. Today’s mentality is to preserve the environment and attempt to repair the enormous damage we’ve done to our planet.  

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