BevNET TV: An Interview with Serge Freund of RealBeanz

Due to Starbucks’ long and absolute dominance in the space, the ready-to-drink iced coffee category has been one of the most difficult segments for beverage companies to find success. The industry is littered with failed coffee brands ranging from Planet Java and Cinnabon Lattes to Godiva Belgian Blends and the notorious Wolfgang Puck Self Heating Lattes. Nevertheless, RealBeanz, a Brooklyn-based coffee company, is betting that its unique blend of all-natural ingredients and functional benefits will give it an edge that has eluded so many other companies in an effort to become a legitimate contender to Starbucks.

Founded by partners Avi Blau and Serge Freund, RealBeanz Iced Coffee is brewed with premium coffee beans and artificial growth hormone-free reduced-fat milk. The coffee is all-natural and kosher, and comes in five flavor varieties, each infused with (and named for) a specific set of functional ingredients. For example: Energize is a cappuccino blended with with ginseng and vitamin B12;  Focus is a caramel-flavored coffee made with with ginkgo biloba and eluthero root extract; and Trim & Fit is a diet cappuccino flavor made with erythritol and a stevia-based sweetener.

In a recent interview with BevNET CEO John Craven at RealBeanz headquarters, Freund explained his belief that in an increasingly health-conscious society, the infusion of functional ingredients into iced coffee gives his brand a significant advantage against its competitors, and a key point of differentiation from the ubiquitous Frappuccino.

“[In today’s society], people do want to have vitamins and do want to have some other elements inside the drink to make them feel better,” Freund said. “You don’t want to be just a generic drink, especially since you’re competing with Starbucks. You have to pull out every single weapon out of your arsenal to stand alongside them, and to succeed.”

RealBeanz found initial success through distribution within the kosher-food channel and extended its reach in the Tri-State area through Preferred Distributing, a New York-based DSD house. RealBeanz is working with Cascadia Managing Brands for a full-scale rollout, and Freund said that company is in the midst of negotiations with a number of new DSD partners, including some Coca-Cola distributors.

“We’re looking for solid DSD distributors across the country,” Freund said. “We want distributors who appreciate our brand and to make our brand their number one drink.”

In this video interview, Freund discusses RealBeanz functionality in further detail and offers his take on other coffee/energy blends like Java Monster, as well as the RTD coffee category as a whole. Freund also explains why RealBeanz’ packaging is key to its marketing strategy, and how the company plans to develop a nationwide DSD network.