But as the competition increases, the co-founders of Verve Coffee Roasters realized offering cold brew at its 12 boutique retail cafes and through its draft keg coffee service was no longer enough to help it stand out. They needed something new. And not just new to the category, but new to the world.
They achieved this ambitious goal with the launch of a trio of canned cold coffees they’ve dubbed Flash Brew, which is a first-of-its-kind selection of cold coffee that his brewed hot and then flash-chilled and infused with nitrogen to keep it fresh and give it a creamy mouthfeel without dairy or sweeteners.
In this episode of FoodNavigator-USA’s Soup-To-Nuts Podcast, Verve Coffee Roasters co-founders Colby Barr and Ryan O’Donovan talk about how their new take on cold coffee is offers consumers, in their opinion, a higher quality, better tasting coffee experience, and offers the cold coffee segment a new avenue for growth.
‘The HD version of cold brew’
When Barr and O’Donovan first founded Verve Coffee Roasters in 2007 it was with a mission to offer world class coffees that they sourced at “arm level” by visiting farms and selecting beans that once roasted according to their precise standards would offer vibrant and layered flavors.
Unfortunately, Barr said, when it came to cold brewing coffee many of the flavor notes that attracted him and O’Donovan to the beans were lost. He explained this prompted them to look for a new way of creating a more flavorful cold brew by developing flash brew.
“Cold brew is notoriously casual and traditionally involves a toddy bucket or lots of bucks and it is sort of just this idea of like a sun tea approach to coffee brewing and just that ambient temperature and you let it sit there,” and the end result can be quiet stale, Barr said. “We thought when we entered this category, why don’t we do more? Why don’t we apply the same attention to detail that we do in brewing all of our coffee, which is we measure the temperature to a 10th of the degree and water and coffee to a 10th of a gram. Why don’t we take that same approach to cold coffee?”
And so they did. Barr explains that the company carefully hot brews the coffee, flash chills it and puts it in a can with nitro, which is oxygen free, to preserve all the flavors and nuances of the coffee.
Verve launched its first flash brew ready-to-drink coffee in November, and Expo West it added two more: a decaf option and a single origin option. Barr explains what makes each unique, starting with the decaf, which he says most people approach as an afterthought but which Verve gave a great deal of thought to crafting.
He explains that the decaf beans are carefully sourced and then sent to “the world’s most premium natural decaf initiation facility that has proprietary methods using no chemicals.”
O’Donovan added that Verve is trying to overcome some of the negative perceptions that consumers have about decaf coffee by creating one that is flavorful and can stand up to milk or be enjoyed on its own for its single varietal characteristics.
The first single origin option from Verve comes from Kenya, which Colby explains offers an “amazingly dynamic, complex finish with notes that are herbal and layered and grapefruit and things we look for in our coffee, such as clean, sweet and vibrant with complexity and a nice finish.”
The company’s original flash brew, which launched in November, uses beans from Ethiopia, which Colby explains is another point of differentiation from many of the other cold coffees on the market.
A focused go-to-market strategy
The duo realize that the idea of flash brew will take time for consumers to grasp, which is why Colby explained their go-to-market strategy is a deep and narrow approach with a heavy helping of grassroots consumer education.
“We are not trying to blast into thousands and thousands of stores across the country. We are cold chain. So we are really focused in the markets in the Bay area and Los Angeles and working with … some premium distributors to get into more premium natural food channels,” Barr said.
He also noted that the brand will play heavily online as a way to get to people beyond its cafes and distribution range.
Braced for competition
While the products are still new, O’Donovan predicts that they will pave the way for a new style of cold coffee that will catch on quickly.
But the potential of competition from other players doesn’t scare O’Donovan or Colby, because as Colby notes, Verve has several layers of protection and no one will be able to replicate their coffee exactly.
Looking forward, Verve plans on offering a broader variety of ready-to-drink flash brew coffees, including four coffee beverages with plant-based milk alternatives and sweetened only with dates. These will include a Classic Latte, Chaga Maca Cacao, Golden Mylk and a Matcha Latte.