This Chilean startup, whose name is Spanish for “by the gram,” was established in 2013 by then–engineering student José Manuel Moller. Moller launched Algramo with the goal of addressing the “poverty tax” on lower-income families, who tend to pay more per ounce for nonperishable staples sold in the smaller sizes that they can afford. Algramo established vending machines in neighborhood shops in the poorer outskirts of Santiago: The dispensers offer bulk purchasing, with reusable containers that enable consumers to buy exactly the amount they want. This helps drive down the cost of packaging, which can be as much as 40% of a product’s cost.
Algramo’s business model also helps address the issue of single-use plastic waste. Consumer giant Unilever noticed, and it partnered with Algramo to develop a mobile refill system for liquid laundry detergent. Consumers can place their orders via an app and get products delivered to their doorstep. Algramo uses radio-frequency identification (RFID) tagged containers and internet of things (IoT) technology to deliver the products. The reusable container has a unique ID which allows the consumer to attach it to their account and build a digital wallet to process discounts and credits for future purchases. Algramo now has partnerships in place with Nestlé’s Purina, Colgate-Palmolive, and Walmart, to help them drive the refill revolution for products including pet food and household-cleaning staples. The company today boasts over 2,000 locations in Chile and has expanded its services to Jakarta and New York City. In July, it secured $8.5 million in funding, led by Mexico’s Dalus Capital, to help expand its footprint and enter the beverage industry.