Wandering Bear Coffee rolls out cold brew line nationwide in Target stores

By Mary Ellen Shoup

- Last updated on GMT

National distribution with Target "is our first truly national calling card of where our products can be found," said Wandering Bear Coffee co-founder Matt Bachmann.
National distribution with Target "is our first truly national calling card of where our products can be found," said Wandering Bear Coffee co-founder Matt Bachmann.

Related tags Cold brew coffee

Cold brew coffee, once a trendy coffee shop menu item or made at-home in mason jars by enthusiasts, has been teetering on the brink of mainstream acceptance with scores of brands introducing on-the-go products at major retail chains, such as Wandering Bear Coffee's recent national roll-out to Target stores.

Wandering Bear Coffee’s 11-ounce on-the-go cold brew coffee line will be available at more 1,200 Target stores within the next week along with regional distribution at Kroger’s Fred Meyer banner.

“We feel very fortunate to have this opportunity to drive trial and awareness for the brand on such a big stage. It is our first truly national calling card of where our products can be found,”​ co-founder Matt Bachmann told FoodNavigator-USA.

From office and home to on-the-go

Wandering Bear launched its single-serve cold brew coffee line just over a year ago, but founders Bachmann and Ben Gordon, started the company as a direct-to-office  and –home business model in 2014 with multi-serve bag-in-box packaging.

“One of the initial insights we had was that no one was really focusing on the at-home or at-office occasion very well so we wanted to put coffee on tap in any refrigerator,”​ Bachmann said.

“That today is still a really big part of our business.”

As the popularity of its bag-in-box business grew, Bachmann and Gordon started to receive customer requests for a format they could take on-the-go, which led to the launch of its 11-ounce Tetra Pak cold brew line. 

What lies ahead for cold brew coffee

The cold brew category is positioned for long-term growth because of its reputation as a natural energy source and smooth flavor profile, according to Euromonitor analyst Matthew Barry.

“Many coffee drinkers tried cold brew for the first time out of curiosity or desire for novelty, discovering that cold brew was easier on their stomachs and that they liked the less acidic taste, thus becoming long-term drinkers,”​ Barry said.

“Most importantly though will be cold brew’s ability to function as a clean and natural source of energy.”

Wandering Bear Coffee cold brews its coffee for 16 to 18 hours, which results in a smoother taste compared to hot brewed coffee.

Even its pure black coffee product (launched in September 2017) draws in coffee drinkers who are used to dousing their coffee with cream and sugar.

“The first thing anyway ever told us about our coffee was ‘oh my gosh this is so smooth, I can drink it black’,” ​Bachmann said.

According to Bachmann, the addition of its on-the-go format has given the company buy in with different types of consumers.

“Our consumer is a habitual coffee drinker (drinking coffee multiple times a day). Those tend to be more convenience driven consumers. They love their coffee but they’re after it more for function​ . They’re not so deeply into flavor nuances,”​ Bachmann said, adding that young, busy parents have been a huge audience for the company.

According to Bachmann, its sensory profile using high-quality ingredients including organic coffee beans from Central Peru has also captured coffee enthusiasts.

“I think we do replace that coffee shop experience for many,”​ he said.

“If you use really, really good ingredients, you don’t need all the other stuff – sugar in particular, but also gums and stabilizers,”​ Bachmann continued.

The brand’s two other single-serve products mocha coconut and vanilla coconut both contain less than 20 calories per package and four ingredients (filtered water, organic coffee, organic coconut cream, and organic cocoa or vanilla extract), sold for an SRP of $3.99 per carton.

Building out its subscription offering 

While the company is able to target more consumers with its on-the-go cold brew line, its bag-in-box products will remain a core focus for the brand. 

The company’s bag-in-box cold brew comes in 96-ounce and 36-ounce sizes and is available either as a one-time purchase or as a re-occurring subscription with scheduled deliveries every one – four weeks, which has seen strong customer retention rates partly because the habitual nature of coffee consumption, according to Bachmann.

“It’s a behavior that’s really proved itself to be very sticky over the four years that we’ve been doing it,”​ Bachmann noted.

“We do see a pretty strong retention even if volumes fluctuate. People are more likely to skip an order than out right cancel.”

Starting in 2019, Wandering Bear will be setting up warehouses throughout the US to better support its bag-in-box business.

“We’ve had the ability to ship to all markets but now we’ll have the warehouses to do so efficiently and really improve the customer experience and the lead time,”​ Bachmann said.

The company will also be introducing seasonal flavors of its bag-in-box products during the holiday season this year, added Bachmann.

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