Food and beverage conglomerate WhiteWave Foods has waded into the fast-growing cold-brew coffee category with the launch of STōK, a new line of RTD iced coffees. The company soft-launched the brand in March, leading with two multi-serve offerings that are distributed in select U.S. markets. WhiteWave recently debuted three single-serve varieties and is planning for a national rollout of all five products and a big media push in June.
The introduction of STōK comes amid a rapidly expanding market for cold-brew coffee, a segment that expected to grow 149 percent by 2018, equaling $23 million in sales, according to WhiteWave, which sourced the data from market research firm Nielsen. Surging consumer demand for the drinks has elicited a boom in new brands and products, including the upcoming launch of Starbucks’ bottled cold-brew coffee.
Managed by WhiteWave’s Away from Home division, STōK was developed by the company’s “resident coffee nerds,” according to brand manager Matt Keller. The beverages are produced using a proprietary blend of Arabica coffee beans that are brewed with room temperature water for a minimum of 10 hours; the company markets the process as “low & slow.”
STōK’s 48 oz. multi-serve bottles come in Un-Sweet and Not Too Sweet varieties, each with a suggested retail price of $4.99. STōK’s single-serve 13.7 oz. glass bottles are available in Mocha, Vanilla (both made with reduced-fat milk and cane sugar) and Not Too Sweet Black (made with cane sugar) flavors, each of which retail for $3.39. STōK’s multi-serve package is distributed nationally, with largest placement in Target, Shop-Rite and Kroger. The single-serve products are rolling out nationally and available now in Boston, Denver, New York City and San Diego via distribution partnerships with Polar Beverages, New Age Beverages, Big Geyser, and John Lenore.
In a call with BevNET, Keller discussed WhiteWave’s foray into cold-brew coffee and why the company views STōK as a brand that can stand out within an increasingly crowded category.
The following interview has been condensed and edited.
BevNET Managing Editor Ray Latif: Why is WhiteWave getting into cold-brew coffee?
WhiteWave Brand Manager Matt Keller: We talk about the third-wave of coffee that’s taking place and how the third-wave is about method. And consumers are really looking for and searching out innovation in this space. For them, it’s about ‘how is the coffee made?’ and ‘what is the quality and craft and ingredients of the coffee?’ As we looked at that opportunity, we knew we could take what had been developed internally and meet that consumer demand.
RL: What demographic is STōK targeting?
MK: Consumers, and especially millennial consumers, tend to enter into this space with heavily creamed, heavily milked, heavily sugared coffee. As they mature, they begin to move toward a more coffee-forward profile. But they don’t want to entirely walk away from that sweetness. So this profile that we developed really meets that need.
RL: How does WhiteWave view STōK as differentiated from other cold brew coffee brands?
MK: Everything that we talk about at this point and what we’ll be communicating to consumers is about that “low & slow.” It’s about the low temperature. It’s about steeping it for 10 hours. It’s talking about the Arabica profile that we have. Consumers are becoming more aware about cold brew and savvy about it, and what STōK has to offer them is that smooth, bold, hint of sweetness flavor profile that they’re really looking for. So we feel really confident talking about how we’re talking about it.
RL: Why launch STōK in a multi-serve format?
MK: In the chilled beverage aisle, you have a huge category, dominant player with juice that’s declining. And then you have summer seasonality and flat household penetration with iced coffee. With this third-wave of coffee that’s taking place, in those sets, we feel like the need wasn’t being met for consumers.