Coffee Flour CEO: Food service gives us ‘street credibility’ but branded multinationals are the goal

By Kacey Culliney

- Last updated on GMT

Coffee Flour CEO on the challenges around launching a new ingredient
Coffee Flour Global’s ground coffee pulp is proving fruitful in retail bakeries and food service but traction has been slower in consumer packaged goods, its CEO says.

The ingredient - made from the often-discarded byproduct of coffee bean harvesting (coffee fruit pulp) - is gluten-free, high in fiber and can be used in a variety of products, from baked goods to beverages.

While it is a fruit powder, it is quite low in sugar, and can help in sugar reduction strategies as its fruity flavor imparts a perceived sweetness.

Dan Belliveau, CEO and founder of Coffee Flour Global, said the ingredient had huge potential that had yet to be truly realized because work with food manufactures had been slow.

“For us, [it’s been] way too slow. But that is the nature of introducing something new,” ​he told FoodNavigator-USA.

Customer acceptance of ‘new’, he said, had been the primary concern among manufacturers considering the coffee flour.

Carole Widmayer, VP of marketing at Coffee Flour Global, agreed that scaling up had definitely taken longer than anticipated.

“This is a relatively brand new ingredient; we had to introduce the product into the market place and create a whole new category,” ​she said.

“Right now, we’re trying to make an impact… The opportunity we have is to look at large companies who can adopt this. It just takes a while.”

The ‘street cred’ is there…

Since launching onto the market two to three years ago, Belliveau said Coffee Flour Global had supplied into a number of retail bakers and food service outlets, including Alvarado Street Bakery, Seattle Chocolates and Earnest Eats, as well as Sprouts' bakery products and bulk foods section.

Coffee Flour Cookies

“The restaurants and food service sectors give us ‘street credibility’ and help us get the word out,” ​he said. However, focus now had to be on securing business with suppliers and manufacturers.

The goal? To be working with two or three multinational consumer packaged goods manufacturers within five years, he said.

“The multinationals are the key to selling the large volumes of product, which is key to achieving our goals of increasing farmer revenues, environmental protection, origin jobs and delivering an all-natural ingredient to the market that was once just discarded.”

Widmayer said part of this success would rely on a strong product message.

Coffee Flour is available in fine grind and coarse grind varieties. It tastes like roasted fruits, dates, and figs with floral and citrus notes. 

So, what is the message? How do you explain coffee flour?

She said: “People think two things: that it’s flour and that it tastes like coffee, and we know it’s almost neither of those."

Texture and functionality was closer to cocoa powder, for example, and taste more like dried fruits than coffee.

“So, we tend to do a lot of education and we continue to do that through PR; explaining how it’s used in recipes; and talking about it broadly to try to gain consumer interest.”

She said there were four key focuses with product communication – taste, nutrition, functionality and sustainability.

Coffee Flour Brownies

From a functional standpoint, she said it enabled manufacturers to reduce sugar content in certain chocolate products, as well as retain moisture and add structure to some baked goods. From a nutritional standpoint, she said the high fiber content meant manufacturers could also consider making nutritional claims

“We look at it as a future food because it combines the function and nutrition with an impact story.”

Coffee flour as a standalone tea?

Belliveau said the coffee flour, when used in the right products after overcoming the “nuances of working with an unfamiliar ingredient”, ​performed best in three core categories – bakery, chocolate and beverage.

“We have found that we have some real benefits in each of the categories. In baking, we are now focusing on fiber and gluten-free; in chocolate we help enhance cocoa flavor and can reduce sugar; and in beverage we have spent more time exploring the use of coffee flour as a standalone tea.”

The CEO said this stretch across categories was great in one way, as it lowered the “risk of being a one-trick pony” ​but in another way, it made the coffee flour ‘story’ harder to tell. 

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