“Small companies in general recognize the need not only to have a product that makes sense for consumers, but there is also kind of the other side of the story, and a lot of times that revolves around sustainability,” John Richards, CEO of Kishr Tea, told FoodNavigator-USA at the Good Food Festival in Chicago.
For Kishr, he explained, the sustainability story revolves around using the coffee cherry, or the red fruit around the bean, that historically has been thrown away, to create a beverage packed with health benefits.
“The coffee cherry [has] lots of antioxidants, lots of brain health benefits, no real coffee taste, much lower caffeine levels than coffee,” as well as “this whole sustainability story that we weren’t really telling,” Richards said.
The Starbucks effect
At the same time that Kishr was fine-tuning its story about the coffee cherry, Starbucks launched the Cascara Latte, which also uses the coffee cherry. The launch helped validate the notion of drinking coffee cherry-based beverages and gave a substantial marketing boost to all the players in the space, including Kirshr.
“Like with anything else at Starbucks, when Starbucks does it, everybody automatically starts to recognize the space. So, what you have seen in the last 12 months is this preponderance of drinks that have come out using the coffee cherry,” Richards said.
In particular, he noted, several ready-to-drink coffee cherry products have started to hit store shelves – opening the door for Kishr to a potentially much larger market.
“We are looking at a ready-to-drink tea as well that will use a lot of the branding elements of Kishr, but quite honestly, the ready-to-drink tea business is a much bigger business than the bag business, so we see a lot of upside there,” Richards said.
He also noted the brand is exploring ways to use the coffee cherry beyond tea drinks, such as in bars and better-for-you bakery items.
“We think there are so many different ways you can go with the coffee fruit, and to tell the sustainability story at the same time, because it does matter to people – you are taking a product that for a thousand years has sat in a landfill, and now all of a sudden these farmers can start to sell this as an ingredient,” Richards said.