Bold Brew Coffee targets space between energy drinks and RTD specialty coffee

By Elizabeth Crawford

- Last updated on GMT

At the intersection of the crowded cold-brew coffee category and the highly competitive energy drink segment, the founders of startup Bold Brew Coffee saw an opportunity to bring something new to each space.

“We saw a big white space in the action sports industry, which is largely dominated by unhealthy energy drinks,”​ to bring a clean, natural alternative, company co-founder Jack Doheny told FoodNavigator-USA earlier this month at BevNet Live where he participated in a pitch slam.

He explained that the company’s cold brew coffee and nitro cold brew were “a perfect substitute for something like Red Bull or a Monster”​ because it has a “high caffeine content, low acidity, no sugar and no dairy,”​ plus, “all of our friends were drinking coffee like crazy.”

At the same time, he said, Bold Brew Coffee stands out from competitors in the ready-to-drink coffee segment by focusing on the energy it provides, rather than origin or variety of bean.

That doesn’t mean the company skimped on the quality of the coffee, though. Doheny was quick to add Bold Brew Coffee still is made from “a really high quality bean” ​that is direct trade from a single estate in Columbia.

“We are in an interesting Venn diagram with how we are differentiating in the energy drink space. We are really differentiating with the no additives. It is just clean coffee and water. Natural, organic,”​ Doheny said.

“And then in the coffee space, we are really differentiating with the brand being a lot more in line with high energy as opposed to a lot of our competitors, which are kind of more marching in the specialty coffee space,”​ he added.

A big statement for a small can

The brand also stands out in the energy space by eschewing the traditional extra large and small slim cans in favor of a “squatty”​ 8-ounce can that both looks unique to the category and is functional.

“A lot of our competitors in the energy drink space typically are in the skinny cans, which we kind of see as a little bit contrived,” ​Doheny said. “We are able to actually really standout a lot with a short squat can, with really bright packaging, double stacked on a shelf as opposed to the single stacked 8 ounce”​ can.

The smaller can also is a healthier portion than offered by some competitors in larger cans, Doheny added.

“A lot of our competitors that are launching in traditional 12 ounce can size and that is just too much cold brew coffee because it is such a highly caffeinated beverage. So, the 8 ounce stubby cans not only differentiates us from a lot of other energy drinks that are typically in the skinny cans, but also as a more appropriate serving size from other cold brew coffees that are in the 12 ounce cans,”​ he explained.

The can also was clutch for appealing to Bold Brew’s key demographic of outdoor adventurers and action athletes.

“When we originally began production, we were hand bottling in glass bottles and that really didn’t fit the needs of our core consumers because you can’t bring glass to the skate park or on the beach or on the mountain. So, our consumers really needed a packaging that fit their lifestyle,”​ and aluminum cans were perfect, Doheny said.

Aluminum also won out over plastic because “a lot of our consumers are very ocean minded, especially on the coast of California, so people are actually aware of how much plastic ends up on the ocean. So, an aluminum can is 100% recyclable, so that fit the wants of our consumers as well,”​ he said.

While still relatively small, the brand has bold plans to go up against the leaders of the energy drink space with a marketing strategy that will focus on athletes.

“We really want to be making more of a splash in supporting the action sports athletic scene, sponsoring larger events,”​ Doheny said, adding, “basically, if you see a Monster or a Red Bull logo, we would want to have Bold Brew Coffee at the same level.”

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