NEW YORK — Califia Farms’ new line of nitrogen-infused cold brew lattes is the first of its kind. Slated to ship in July, the dairy-free beverages combine almond and macadamia nut milks with the brand’s signature cold brewed coffee. A blast of nitrogen adds a silky foam, similar to that of a dark draft beer, and enhances the coffee’s natural sweetness.
Packaged in sleek white aluminum bottles, Califia Farms Nitro Cold Brew will debut with three varieties: latte, mocha and New Orleans. The Los Angeles-based company unveiled the product line at the Summer Fancy Food Show, held June 26-28 in New York.
|Greg Steltenpohl, co-founder and c.e.o. of Califia Farms|
“We approved (the concept) and gave it the green light at the end of January of this year,” said Greg Steltenpohl, co-founder and chief executive officer of Califia Farms, during an interview with Food Business News. “We had to build a plant to bottle this thing because there was nobody who knew how to do it. We’re talking about milks, coffee and nitrogen in an aluminum beer bottle.”
Five months later, the product is hitting shelves, serving as a quintessential example of the company’s approach to innovation, said Mr. Steltenpohl, who co-founded the brand with a farmer’s co-operative in San Joaquin Valley in 2010. Califia Farms, whose portfolio of plant-based beverages includes fruit juices, almond milks, ready-to-drink coffee and dairy-free creamers, is guided in product development by a set of parameters. All of the brand’s beverages are dairy-free, free of bioengineered ingredients and lower in sugar than many other options on the market, Mr. Steltenpohl said.
“The first and foremost strategy that all of those products have to fit into is what we call ‘something different, something better,’” Mr. Steltenpohl said. “We use that both as a communication phrase for our consumers but also to our product development team. That’s the first hurdle it has to cross.”
He added: “We’re not always first, but we try to make something that’s going to take the category to the next level.”
The company’s revenues doubled last year, and distribution has increased to more than 27,000 retail outlets. Sales of the brand’s almond milks have experienced triple-digit growth year over year, and Califia Farms’ refrigerated ready-to-drink coffee beverages are the top selling brand in the natural channel and second only to Starbucks in the category, Mr. Steltenpohl said.
“Our formulations are focused on the accessibility of the price point but also this taste profile that brings in people and introduces them to lower sugar formulations,” he said. “But we still work at the different ways that the whole experience gives them all the pleasure they used to get from sugar.”
For the nitro cold brew line, the company’s research and development team developed a proprietary process for cold brewing and nitrogenizing the coffee.
“We have extremely intense product development cycles, and we have a very small team,” Mr. Steltenpohl said. “We have four people in product development, and we’re competing with multi-billion dollar companies.”
Other ready-to-drink innovations launched this year include Full Shot, a vegan protein coffee drink with a boost of MCT oil; Black & White, an unsweetened blend of almond milk and coffee; and a pair of almond milk blends in matcha green tea and turmeric ginger varieties. The latter beverages premiered in Whole Foods Market, developed with a natural consumer in mind, but have since drawn interest from the likes of Target and other conventional retailers, Mr. Steltenpohl said.
“I think we’re part of a unique breed of something that’s scalable, something that can serve a function in the greater food system and not just be a novelty item in a special channel for $10 a bottle,” he said.
At the Summer Fancy Food Show, Mr. Steltenpohl was inducted into the 2016 Specialty Food Hall of Fame for his achievements in specialty beverage innovation. Prior to Califia Farms, he was the founder and c.e.o. of Odwalla juices, which was later acquired by the Coca-Cola Co. Under his leadership, Califia Farms has become one of the fastest growing natural beverage companies in the United States.“It’s a big honor,” Mr. Steltenpohl said. “I’m a little embarrassed by it. It’s awesome to have a brand get recognition for the role it’s playing. Our whole team is totally behind this vision. It’s an adventure that’s unfolding, and I think the food industry deserves to get shaken up a bit, so if somebody recognizes it, that’s probably a good thing.”