From French press and Chemex pour over sets to Nespresso and Keurig machines, consumers have a whole slew of contraptions to choose from to make their ritualistic morning cup of coffee at home.
However, the options for making a cup of coffee -- that isn't of the instant variety -- are much more limited when camping, hiking, or doing any extended outdoor activity, said Wildland Coffee founder Zach Frantz, who as an avid camper was surprised at the lack of convenient fresh coffee solutions.
"I would be bringing my French press or my pour over with me, and I just thought, there’s got to be a better way to do this. And then it dawned on me, why doesn’t someone just put coffee into a tea bag? It seems like the obvious solution for when you don’t want to use any other equipment," Frantz told FoodNavigator-USA.
Doing some research into the coffee tea bag concept, Frantz realized that the packaging format had been used in Asian markets for decades, but never made it into the American market in a major way.
Since the brand's soft launch in March 2021, Frantz said consumers immediately grasp the value proposition of coffee in a tea bag. He added in his years as an entrepreneur the most valuable lesson in marketing he has learned is that it's much better to be clear than clever.
"When I tell people it's coffee in a tea bag (vs. coffee in a bag), people immediately understand what the product is," said Frantz.
"I’ve also had a ton of people say that they wished someone had done this sooner."
The #1 thing I hear from our customers is, 'This is way better than I thought it was going to be'
Using sustainably sourced coffee beans from Cerrado, Brazil, ground finely and put into compostable tea bags and recyclable packaging, customers steep the bag in 8 ounces of boiling water for five to seven minutes or cold water for up to 12 hours for cold brew coffee.
"We grind it to a level where it’s fine enough where you’re going to extract a lot of coffee, but it’s not too fine that it’s going to get out of the bag," he said.
To safeguard against stale coffee, Frantz explained that after the coffee beans have been ground finely and put into the tea bags, the coffee undergoes "nitrogen-flushing" to remove any oxygen within the bag to preserve the coffee's freshness.
"The #1 thing I hear from our customers is, 'This is way better than I thought it was going to be. I thought it was going to taste like watered down coffee'," he said.
What is it up against?
At $7.50 for a package of five coffee tea bags ($1.50/bag), Wildland Coffee's price point puts it on par with instant Starbucks VIA instant coffee (SRP $14.99 for a 12-count package) and below more direct competitors including Golden Ratio Golden Coffee Pouches ($19.99 for a 10-count box) and Copper Cow Coffee which sells a variety of flavored coffee pour-over pouches paired with packets of sweetened condensed milk for $17.00 for a 5-count box.
Camping, hiking, van life...
The brand's initial target audience is the avid outdoor crowd, but Frantz says the simplicity of the product is an easy get for anyone looking for a convenient alternative to French press or pour-over coffee.
"There’s a ton of use cases. Given that I’m a camper, and that’s the market that I know, that’s what I’m really leaning into... camping, hiking, and 'van life'," he said, adding that the company has just shipped out its products to multiple influencers active in the outdoor scene.
Wildland Coffee is currently available in packs of five for $7.50 and can ship across the United States, Canada, Mexico, and Europe via its direct-to-consumer site.
"My biggest focus right now is building out our ambassador program. That’s really going to be our core growth driver, and in the next three to six months, launching some additional SKUs," added Frantz.