Startup Spotlight

Functional coffee brand Clevr sprouts onto Target shelves, readies rebrand

By Ryan Daily

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Coffee Instant coffee functional beverage startup spotlight

Functional coffee and tea brand Clevr Blends is taking a “deep, not wide” approach to growing beyond its direct-to-consumer (DTC) roots and into Target, brand founder and CEO, Hannah Mendoza, told FoodNavigator-USA during a Startup Spotlight video.

“Clevr, as it currently stands, is really focused on bringing that coffee-shop experience into people's homes with barista-quality instant drinks, like lattes and ... teas that are low in sugar, they're plant-based, and they have a ton of functional ingredients in them that have science-backed benefits for things like energy, stress, and sleep that are very necessary for our modern lifestyles.”

‘Target was such a good fit’ for Clevr Blends

Launched in 2019, Clevr offers a range of instant functional superfood lattes and teas​, including its Sleeptime SuperLatte, Matcha SuperLatte, Chai SuperLatte, Coffee SuperLatte, Mocha SuperLatte, Rose Cocoa SuperLatte, and others. The portfolio of products are formulated with Fair Trade coffee and include functional ingredients like reishi, ashwagandha, and Lion’s Mane. 

Last January, Target approached Clevr “to be one of the pioneer brands on-shelf to really push” into the functional coffee space, and from the start, it was a great fit for the brand, Mendoza explained. 

“Target was such a good fit because it would just allow us to reach this next segment of customers that we know have a lot of excitement for a product like ours but may not want to go online and buy direct-to-consumer, which is how we originally built the business .... We also really value the strides Target made to be progressive when it comes to supporting generally underrepresented founders.” 

Because Target was the brand's first big retail channel, Mendoza had to learn all protocols and processes Target required for selling in their stores. 

“One of the biggest learnings was just the operational lift that comes with ... how to fulfill orders [and] how to pack pallets. [It was] something we hadn't done before, and we have our fulfillment in-house. And so, we were really learning everything from the ground up.” 

Retail expansion: “Our priority is deep, not wide”

Clevr is taking a practical approach to expanding beyond DTC, focusing on specific accounts, as it rebrands and innovates to grow the brand, Mendoza said. 

“We are definitely focused on retail expansion, and our priority is deep, not wide. We're really focusing on a few key accounts and wanting to put all our effort and energy into those accounts and really proving ourselves and those accounts. So, we'll be bringing on a couple more partners, but definitely being very focused and targeted.” 

After almost five years with the same look, Clevr will launch a rebrand in April, which will roll out across its packaging and website in April, and the brand will continue to find new areas to innovate, Mendoza said. 

"Product innovation, that's my area that I'm very passionate about, and I lead it in-house here at Clevr. We do a lot of product dev in-house, and there's a lot more to come on that front this year. So very exciting year for us really, a flagship year of big changes in the business." 

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