Its distribution deal with Walmart has brought the brand’s store count up to more than 50,000 locations in the US.
“Our retail partners see the value in selling FORTO in the coffee aisle, where consumers are increasingly looking for portable coffee,” founder and CEO Neel Premkumar said.
FORTO single-serve coffee shots are riding the premium ready-to-drink coffee boom but with a micro version of convenient single-source caffeine energy. The company has been valued at $100m signaling that American consumers are responding to the coffee shot concept, according to Premkumar.
“FORTO becoming available in Walmart's coffee aisle is proof that Americans’ coffee buying and drinking habits are changing, and that convenience and portability are every bit as important as quality and taste,” Premkumar told FoodNavigator-USA.
“As a next generation coffee brand, we want to sell side-by-side with established coffee options, so that we can invite American coffee lovers to add FORTO to their daily regimen,” he added.
As an entrepreneur and time-crunched coffee lover, Premkumar enjoyed the taste of a cup of coffee but wanted to drink far less of it while still getting the same caffeine buzz. He admired the size and format of energy shots but not the preservatives and ingredients in them.
Therefore, he set out to create a coffee drink that provided intense flavor without any acidity and a high caffeine concentration using cold brewing techniques in his home kitchen.
Over the course of three years, Premkumar went through hundreds of trials and commercialization tests backed by his entire life savings as well as
financial backing from his father-in-law, (who he has since paid back, Premkumar noted).
The product range FORTO launched in the market uses USDA-Organic certified 100% Arabica bends from family-owned farms in Colombia that are cold brewed for 20 hours to intensify the caffeine concentration while delivering a light and smooth flavor profile.
Sold individually or in packs of four, FORTO coffee shots are packaged in what look like mini to-go coffee shop cups available in two strengths, 100 mg and 200mg of caffeine (a Starbucks espresso shot and latte have roughly 75mg and 150mg of caffeine, respectively).
“We always emphasize moderation in our marketing and sampling,” Premkumar said. “Each 2-ounce shot is like drinking a large cup of coffee.”
Who’s drinking FORTO?
Premkumar utilized his professional background as a marketing executive for Nestlé to position the product to target an audience he calls the “all-dayer” or individuals who value an extra ten minutes in their day-to-day.
“The culture and dynamics of American coffee consumption are changing dramatically,” Premkumar said. “Convenience and quality are starting to trump the traditional ritual of making coffee at home or ordering it in a shop. Our product’s popularity is early proof of this growing shift in consumer behavior.”
According to Mintel, RTD coffee held around a 20% share of the US coffee market in 2017 and is predicted to grow 67% over the next five years driven by new product innovations.
More than half (56%) of new RTD coffee launches in the US were cold brew products in 2017, up from 38% the previous year with roughly 68% of 18-34-year-olds reporting they consume single-serve RTD coffee compared to 43% of older adults.
Premkumar noted that millennial women have been early and strong adopters of the FORTO coffee shot concept embracing its size, design, and “wholesome” energy proposition.
“As we continue to expand distribution, we expect the men to catch up!”