IRWINDALE, CALIF. — Waka Coffee, a direct-to-consumer instant coffee brand, has added a former Starbucks executive as an adviser and is charting its expansion into grocery retail.
Founded in 2018, Waka Coffee sources premium Arabica beans that are freeze-dried to preserve the coffee’s aroma and depth of flavor, said founder and chief executive officer David Kovalevski. He developed the concept while juggling college courses and a full-time job in New York. Visiting coffee shops regularly became expensive, and brewing a cup at home required time and equipment in an already-cramped kitchen. Traditional instant coffee, he had discovered, is often produced using Robusta beans that are roasted in large spray-dried batches, which compromises taste, he said.
Waka Coffee offers an assortment of instant coffee, including light and medium roasts, Colombian and Indian origins and caffeinated and decaffeinated options. Additionally, the company has added instant Kenyan black tea and Japanese matcha to its lineup. Future product development may include flavored instant coffee, with such offerings as light mocha, dark chocolate, lavender vanilla, salted caramel and butter pecan, Mr. Kovalevski said.
Products are packaged in recyclable packets, bags and boxes, and the startup donates a portion of sales proceeds to support clean and safe drinking water initiatives. Waka Coffee also is working on obtaining fair trade and organic certifications for its products.
Instant coffee sales in the United States advanced 30% last year to $940 million, according to Nielsen data, and Generation Z consumers are more likely to use the format.
Earlier this year, Waka Coffee was one of seven startups selected to participate in the SKU accelerator program for emerging consumer products companies.
Joe Canterbury, who has held various leadership roles with Starbucks Coffee International, joins the Waka Coffee team as an adviser. Mr. Canterbury offers extensive experience in business development, operations and global expansion, early-stage investing, fundraising and scaling.
Additionally, Waka Coffee is launching its Colombian medium roast, Indian light roast and Colombian decaffeinated single-serve instant coffee at all Central Market stores throughout the Texas area.