Startup Spotlight

[Watch] How Zend Coffee is building its functional coffee business

By Deniz Ataman

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Coffee functional beverage startup spotlight

Fusing together adaptogens with single-origin coffee, subscription-based Zend Coffee features functional coffee blends that support skin, cognitive, immunity and emotional health using responsibly sourced coffee beans – a blurred category that the company’s founder and CEO, Ben Hewitt, is planning to grow beyond DTC in this episode of Startup Spotlight.

Hewitt is no stranger to starting up a CPG business (he is also chairman and founder of Corkcicle, maker of insulated tumblers, coffee mugs and more), and Zend’s portfolio of adaptogen-infused coffee blends was an opportunity to tap into the functional beverage market and differentiate itself within the $9.2bn competitive coffee market​.

With functional coffee blends like Serenity, Recovery, Beauty and the newly launched, Pure Harmony, Hewitt explained that the company focused on identifying the types of health benefits consumers were adding to their daily beverage rituals.

“We looked at things that the market was looking for, mainly our persona. Our persona is a female that is 25 to 65. And what are they looking for? And are they putting something in their [drink] … [and] we can give them something that's in their coffee, if they're coffee drinkers, because there's a massive amount of people that drink coffee at home,” he explained.

The half-caffeinated blend, Pure Harmony, launched in late February, as the newest addition to Zend’s lineup. Infused with adaptogens, aminos and vitamins, Pure Harmony’s beans are a 50/50 blend of organic decaf beans via Swiss Water Process and organic caffeinated beans in a medium roast.

Each bag of Zend's functional blends provides the coffee beans' origins on the front of pack. Hewitt explained that Zend works with International Coffee Trading, a broker group based in California, to source specialty single-origin beans for each functional blend (apart from Pure Harmony) from Mexico, Tanzania and Guatemala.

Expanding beyond the DTC subscription business

While Zend will continue its subscription DTC model, Hewitt said that the company will move into wholesale to expand brand awareness in larger retailers and specialty stores, in addition to a flagship store in Florida.

“From a wholesale standpoint, we're working with a couple of rep groups that are looking to take us into some larger retailers … all quality retailers, we're not going to do anything that devalues the brand. And then another rep group has taken us primarily into specialty foods. And then our next kind of land will be … doing our own retail store. It'll be a flagship. From a branding standpoint, it just makes sense,” he elaborated.                                                                                                               

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