Within months of trying the hard-to-find coffee made from barely roasted beans while visiting the Pacific Northwest in 2018, Nowlin said he hired the former chief operating officer of Cuvee Coffee and together they “invented the gold roast,” which is prepared and tastes like tea, but has the same caffeinated kick as coffee.
With the launch earlier this year of Golden Ratio, Nowlin’s “golden coffee” is now available direct-to-consumer online and as part of a winter display at Nordstrom retail stores to offer coffee lovers who coffee doesn’t love back a better version of the beverage.
“The main difference between our coffee and other coffee is we are beans without the burn,” Nowlin told FoodNavigator-USA. “We don’t burn our coffee beans … which means we don’t get the bitterness flavor-wise, and we don’t get the acidity. And so what we are finding is, it is a much easier coffee for people to drink because it is smoother on their bodies and smoother on their taste buds.”
Nowlin explained that what he is coining as ‘gold’ coffee comes from beans that sit between green, unroasted beans, and lightly roasted blonde beans, which are lighter than “light,” “medium,” and “dark” roasts. The resulting beverage has a striking golden hue that stands apart from the dark brown and black liquid most people associate with coffee.
In addition, while the claims of less acidity and smoother flavor profile that allow more consumers to skip sugar and whiteners are similar to those made by increasingly popular cold brew coffee, Nowlin notes that gold coffee stands out from the competition because it is ten times less acidity than regular coffee – “no matter how you brew it.”
It also is easier to make, he said. The coffee comes in large sachets that, like tea, can simply be dropped into a steaming mug of water or soaked overnight in unheated water for a cold brew version that will be ready by morning.
Launching in a pandemic was a blessing in disguise
Golden Ratio leveraged the beverage’s unique appearance, convenience and gentleness on the body to gain consumer awareness after it launched during the pandemic, which stymied many of what would have been the startup’s go-to-market strategies.
Nowlin explained that Golden Ratio originally planned to launch this year in cafés and coffee shops where consumers could try their product and learn about it from experienced baristas before investing in a pack of seven servings to make at home or on the go for $14.99.
“Like many companies, we had to change our plans this year when the pandemic hit,” and many coffee shops and cafes closed for safety reasons, Nowlin said.
But rather than wait to launch after the pandemic, he said the company pushed ahead with its launch online as a direct-to-consumer business. This decision turned out to be a “blessing,” Nowlin said, because it allowed the company to get to know their consumers better and have a direct relationship with them.
Creating “moments of curiosity”
To raise awareness of the brand, the company sent glass mugs emblazoned with the company name and Golden Ratio coffee to influencers and loyal fans to enjoy and show off on social media, such as Instagram and Facebook.
“We made it very simple for them to create moments of curiosity among people who follow them. Just by posting a picture of a gold liquid in a clear mug and saying, ‘Hey, this is coffee,’ they created engagement because it was not what people expected coffee to look like,” Nowlin said.
In addition, the company launched a variety pack of its three core flavors: Chai Spiced, Original Gold and Vanilla Coconut.
“The variety pack is like a buffet of all our flavors that have helped get people to buy our product. It has been a big seller,” Nowlin said.
To keep consumers engaged and continue to reach new shoppers, the company plans to launch a new flavor every quarter, Nowlin said. But for the holidays, Golden Ratio launched three seasonal offerings, which are available individually or in a variety pack, of Chocolate Mint, Spiced Cookie and Pumpkin Spice.
Expanding into high-end retail
Within months of launching, Golden Ratio caught the eye of a buyer with Nordstrom who included it in one of the department store’s winter campaigns.
Golden Ratio’s move into a high-end retail was not one of mere opportunity, but part of a larger plan to appeal to slightly older consumers who appreciate premium products and have more discretionary income, Nowlin said, noting the price difference of Golden Ratio and most mainstream coffee beans and ground coffee would make competing at grocery difficult.
However, he said, the company may one day expand into grocery – but only after it more fully expands its direct-to-consumer business and its play in high-end retail.
“Given we have brought a new coffee to the world and we are taking coffee where it has never been before flavor-wise, we are eager to collaborate and find people who will love these new places we are taking coffee,” he added.