Cold-brew, cascara and citrus flavors were among trends visible at bustling NY Coffee Festival over weekend, showcasing wild degree of innovation over 3 floors of city’s Metropolitan Pavilion. Many of entries are small and local, but they signal multitude of directions coffee culture has been taking, often via new or pending RTD formats. These are beyond range of ideas we showcased from iced coffee competition in NY just this summer (BBI, Aug 4). We don’t know where it’s all goin’, but degree of invention seems unprecedented to our experience, echoing what we’ve seen in recent years over on craft beer and distilling sides. Certainly, with tickets not cheap, bustle at Met Pavilion attested to ample consumer interest, at least in high-energy foodie hub like NY.
Also interesting was another sign that traditionally technology-oriented capital and accelerator outfits are taking increasing interest in food/bev side: Portland, Ore-based MatchaFul green tea matcha player said it’s become first CPG brand to win a spot at traditionally tech-oriented accelerator Tech Stars NY. (Details below.)
During BBI stop-by on Sat afternoon, 3-day fest organized by Allegra Events featured nearly frenzied crowds at booths of 100+ roasters, equipment makers and other exhibitors, particularly on main floor, even as experts held workshops and tastings and singer-songwriters competing in Coffee Music Project played on stage. Also featured in event were Latte Art Live and Coffee Cocktail Bar, attesting to ways ingredient is infiltrating diverse range of activities (see story below). Exhibitors ranged from mainstream roasters like Starbucks (flying its 3d-wave-style Reserve flag) and dairy-alternative pioneer Califia Farms to indie players with cult following, like Devocion, and stalwart NY chains like Joe Coffee, Café Grumpy and Irving Farm, which was offering same coffee processed 4 different ways (sort of like Starbucks flights in Reserve stores). Startling proportion of exhibitors were either offering RTD versions or in advanced stages of planning one. Show wasn’t slavish in adherence to coffee theme, showcasing brands like Bruce Cost Ginger Ale, which debuted a new product there, and tea players like Teapigs, Matchaful and Chalo. Here’s rundown on some of the action:
Red Bull Vet Jelderks Offers Shelf-Stable Sparkling Cascara Entry Called Caskai Vet of Red Bull’s early days in US is looking to ride interest in cascara with elegant-looking glass-bottle sparkling entry conjured up with his wife, who operates the Austria-based coffee importer Panama Varietals. Joel Jelderks, who’d helped build Red Bull around his Seattle home base in early days, around 1999, has tapped 9.3-oz clear longneck bottle for brand called Caskai Sparkling Cascara Infusion, lightly sweetened with organic cane sugar to tune of 11 g (44 calories) per bottle. It’s made from dried husk of coffee fruit sourced from highlands of Panama and Nicaragua along with spring water from Austrian Alps. Pasteurized item has 12-month shelf life and goes out at $2.50-2.79 at retail. “Nature’s silent power” proclaims label in nod at ingredient’s high antioxidant content. Item also mixes particularly well with gin, so Jelderks may seek promo partner in that realm.
Speaking at crowded booth, Joel told BBI that duo had been bringing in cascara since 2011 to serve ingredient’s growing use in Austria, Germany and UK as component of chocolate or simple syrup. In fact, they’d intended to launch RTD brand in Europe, but ingredient isn’t yet recognized by regulators and co has begun what could prove arduous path thru application process. So they hit SEND to US. To help buildout here, Jelderks has brought aboard former Red Bull colleague Jim Gunning, Davidson, NC-based exec who’d most recently been consulting for Rescue Water. Co initially will focus on NY, Seattle and Charlotte, where Gunning has gotten it into Summit Coffee chain that includes college store and services Lowe’s hq via shop called Sky Mountain Coffee. Jelderks, long familiar with US DSD system tho based in Austria now, said brand will go out at $32 per case, offering wholesale partners an $8-10 markup. Caskai also will launch in Panama, where key investor is based and which has become regional food hotbed. Also in product mix, but not receiving emphasis yet in US, are raw cascara teas in Nicaragua Catuai, Panama Caturra and Panama Geisha varieties.
Devocion, of Colombia and Brooklyn, Creates Stir with Fresh-Fruit-Based Cascara Bev Unusual take on cascara from decade-old Colombian roaster Devocion Botica de Cafe, which operates cafes in Bogota and Brooklyn. It’s claiming breakthrough via patent-pending process that allows it to conjure up cascara bev just from the fresh coffee fruit and water, yielding elixir with antioxidant count of a pomegranate and offering sweetened taste profile without need for any sugar. That’s in contrast to dry husks used by other cascara bev marketers. Certainly item was creating a clamor at Coffee Fest, with founder Steven Sutton saying product goes from dry-milling in Colombia to table in just 10 days, not months as with most other versions. He’s planning to have RTD version available in 6 months, tho initially he says he’ll offer it only to customers of Devocion’s coffee.
Bruce Cost Ginger Ale Adds Mixer-Size Bottles Among non-coffee exhibitors, Brooklyn-based Bruce Cost Ginger Ale showed brand-new line of mixer-size 7-oz glass bottles due in Nov at price still to be determined. Subline will be offered in Traditional, Earl Grey, Lemon Lime and Mango flavors. Line is so new that it wasn’t ready for prime time at Natural Products Expo East just a coupla weeks ago, said finance exec Randy Bresil, who was energetically working packed booth. More in keeping with coffee theme of event, he said brand had had “coffee-ologist” by the prior day demonstrating cocktails that can be blended with Bruce Cost Extra Spicy entry.
Toby’s Estate RTD Cold-Brew Likely to Move Beyond Its Own Stores Next Summer Aussie roaster Toby’s Estate, which has been expanding quickly in NY since establishing a beachhead there 5 years ago, has been selling RTD version of its cold-brew in its stores so far and is anticipating that it will go out to other retailers next summer. Line is packed in 12-oz square-footprint bottles in Original, Decaf, Black & White Coffee with Milk and Hint of Mint flavors, all sporting slogan “Roasted & brewed in Brooklyn.”
Rise Brewing Sets Jan Date for Shelf-Stable Launch in Pac NW Rise Brewing, recent winner of BevNet Showdown competition that’s created wave of interest in its canned cold-brewed coffee, has set Jan as date for launch of its first shelf-stable entries, in Pacific NW region via DSD powerhouse Columbia Distributing, said coo Melissa Kalimov. As reported, Rise to date has offered only a refrigerated entry in NY and other early markets.
Upruit Sparkling Coffee Aims to Make Coffee Refreshing via Flavors like Ginger Hibiscus Upruit Sparkling Coffee aims to make coffee refreshing, per its motto. Launched 2 years ago by former architect Mache Barwinski, refrigerated line packed in colorful 12-oz cans is offered in sparkling renditions in unusual flavor combos: Ginger Hibiscus, Mint Grapefruit and Meyer Lemonade, in part helping popularize coffee-and-citrus combos that popped up all over Expo East last month. Brand also keeps things fresh with season entries, including Cherry flavor that is set to return soon. So far brand is self-produced in city’s Long Island City nabe and self-distributed, tho Barwinski is starting to talk to potential distribution partners now.
Teas: Matchaful Enters Tech Stars Accelerator; Chalo India Chai Latte Mixes Arrive Matchaful launched in Brooklyn, then relocated to Portland, Ore, but its team is back in NY thanks to having been first CPG co to be accepted by Techstars accelerator located in city’s Flatiron District, said founder Hannah Habes. Tho Techstars NY has focused on more overtly tech-geared cos like ClassPass, Plated and Timehop, it liked founder and plan and decided to bring in Matchaful, she said. In that, it joins growing ranks of tech-oriented players getting involved in food/bev plays like Soylent, Ripple and recently shuttered Juicero. Matchaful has teamed with Japanese organic grower called Kuni (which uses solar panels to shade matcha during harvest while powering nearby villages) to create Matchaful’s Single Origin Matcha, powdered item that so far is being sold as biz-to-biz play in NY, LA, SF and Portland. Hannah, who’d had stints early in career at PepsiCo and Clif Bar, told us she discovered matcha about 5 years ago and decided to dive in, looking to make highest-grade matcha more accessible to American consumers. Eschewing fanciful flavors of other matcha popularizers like Matchabar and MatChaCha, Matchaful offers unflavored café-grade Jade for use as an ingredient and ceremonial-grade Emerald for use as traditional tea. She’s partnering with meditation studios and dieticians to get word out.
After 2 years in Europe, where its’s available in 20 countries now, Chalo Indian Chai Latte mixes hit NY last week, offering “a hug in a mug” via flavor combos like Masala, Lemongrass, Vanilla and Cardamom. They all use black tea base, along with herb blend, bit of sugar and milk. They just set up NY office.