BALTIMORE — Cold brew coffee is gaining steam. Retail sales in the United States grew 115% in the past year, reaching $7.9 million, according to data from Mintel, Chicago. About a fourth of consumers drink store-bought cold brew coffee, with particular popularity among older millennials (55%) and men (30%).
Noted for a smoother taste and sweeter flavor, cold brew has more caffeine and fewer acids than traditional coffee.
“It’s a product people get pretty passionate about,” said Chris Campbell, co-founder and chief executive officer of Austin-based Chameleon Cold-Brew, in an interview with Food Business News at Natural Products Expo East, held Sept. 16-19 in Baltimore. “Coffee is a ritual for a lot of folks, so once we get to be a part of somebody’s life, it’s easy to stick around.”
Since its 2011 debut, Chameleon Cold-Brew has posted strong triple-digit sales growth each year, Mr. Campbell said. The company offers three varieties of coffee concentrates and six ready-to-drink coffee beverages. Flavors include mocha, vanilla, espresso, chicory, and Mexican, which is blended with cinnamon, almond and vanilla. The products are sold nationwide at Whole Foods Market and in select regions of Target, Kroger and H-E-B grocery stores.
Chameleon Cold-Brew sources organic, fair trade certified Arabica coffee from Central and South America. Beans are brewed for 16 hours with filtered aquifer spring-fed water.
|Chris Campbell, co-founder and c.e.o. of Chameleon Cold-Brew.|
“The way we roast everything, it’s kind of an artisanal way of doing it,” Mr. Campbell said. “There are cheaper and more efficient ways to do it, but we prefer the quality.”
Mr. Campbell co-founded the business with Steve Williams, the owner of a coffee shop in Austin. The two tinkered with various blends, brewing times and temperatures before concocting the flagship product, a black coffee concentrate that may be enjoyed hot, cold, straight or mixed with water or milk. In 2013, the brand expanded with single-serving ready-to-drink varieties.
“We were early,” Mr. Campbell said. “It’s everywhere now. It wasn’t then. I think we were the second brand into our Whole Foods region, the Southwest, and in a lot of Whole Foods regions we went into, we were the first.
“It’s grown a lot in the last two to three years, it’s where we’ve really seen a huge spike in growth.”
Still, cold brew represents a small portion of the ready-to-drink coffee segment at 0.4% of estimated sales in 2015, according to Mintel. Most cold brew coffee non-drinkers (58%) are uninterested in trying the product, and nearly half of consumers who have tried and disliked the product said it was because of the taste, Mintel said. For 9% of cold brew drinkers, the higher price point is a detractor.
At Expo East, at least a half dozen brands showcased cold brew coffee products. Coexist Coffee, Washington, displayed bottles of ready-to-drink cold brew coffee made from premium beans bought directly from Uganda. Kohana Coffee, Austin, which offers a line of organic shelf-stable cold brew concentrates, recently added four ready-to-drink varieties, including vanilla and salted caramel flavors. San Francisco-based Rebbl expanded its line of tonics with a Maca Cold-Brew variety, which blends high-pressure processed coffee and coconut milk, enhanced with maca and quillaja herbs. Califia Farms, L.P., Pasadena, Calif., unveiled a concentrated cold brew in a resealable carton. N.O. Brew Iced Coffee, Gretna, La., served samples of bottled New Orleans-style iced coffee in traditional, French vanilla, peppermint mocha and hazelnut flavors. Hiball Energy, San Francisco, unveiled three ready-to-drink beverages made with cold brew coffee, milk and sugar, plus a blend of organic guarana, ginseng and B vitamins.
Competition may be brewing for Chameleon, but Mr. Campbell said several attributes set his brand apart from others on the market.
“To date, we haven’t added any lighteners, so no soy milk, almond milk, dairy,” he said. “That may change at some point, but for now we haven’t done that. And we’re the only national brand that’s organic. We’re committed to staying that way.”
Why does he believe cold brew coffee is here to stay?
“Convenience,” he said. “It plays to the (popularity of) single-serve, where K-Cups and Keurig dominate, but this is essentially the same functionality.”
Consumers also enjoy the customization and extendibility of the product, he said. On Chameleon’s web site, consumers may find recipes for coffee cocktails, coffee-marinated steak fajitas, hazelnut pancakes, slow-cooker ancho chili short ribs and vegan brownies made with cold brew coffee.“(You can have it) hot in the morning, iced in the afternoon, mix it in cocktails at night and make food recipes in the day,” he said.