Sandwiched in between Expo West and Expo East, the annual Summer Fancy Food Show could easily fall into the shadow of those two larger events. However, this June 23-26 inside the Javits Center in New York City, there was plenty of beverage innovation to go around.
In the last few years, much of the innovation in ready-to-drink coffee has come in the form of new flavors and line extensions. However, the tide may be starting to turn, as a number of prominent cold brew coffee brands exhibiting at Summer Fancy Food Show 2019 shifted their respective focus to form factor, rather than flavor.
For RISE Brewing Co., that shift is happening right now. The company shared that it is discontinuing its pair of citrus-infused cold brews — in lemonade and blood orange varieties — that it introduced in 2017. As it leaves citrus behind, the company is pushing further ahead with oat milk. RISE’s line of shelf-stable oat milk lattes recently landed in Walmart in 7 oz. cans, which will be the new size for all the brand’s products. The company is also preparing to launch its oat milk as a standalone product, though Co-Founder Justin Weinstein said the product would initially start in food service before making the transition into retail, similar to how Oatly entered the market. He also noted that the brand’s rapid expansion on the West Coast — where it has added accounts like Erewhon, Ralph’s and Gelson’s in Los Angeles — could open the gates for RISE to explore co-packing options in the region. The retail growth has coincided with an expansion of staff: Abbey Redick, formerly of Health-Ade, has joined as the company’s new director of sales.
Wandering Bear Cold Brew is also making the step up in format size. The company is launching a new shelf-stable bag-in-box tap in 72 oz. ($19.99 for 12 servings) and 96 oz. sizes and in two new flavors: vanilla and hazelnut. Company founder Matt Bachmann said that the company is focused on the “huge” opportunity to emphasize its price-per-cup savings compared to cold brew from a cafe, as well how ambient shipping can help it expand in e-commerce. The 72 oz. BIB is currently in trial at Fresh Market as well, but Bachmann also shared some details of an even bigger project: a five gallon BIB format that dispenses through an electric pump. He said the format provides 20-30% cost savings over keg cold brew, and has 180 day shelf life.
Meanwhile, first time exhibitor Back Bay Roasters isn’t limiting itself to a single format or even just coffee. The Boston-based company is an offshoot of fresh food kiosk system LeanBox; it roasts, brews and packages hot and cold coffee at its own production facility in Wilmington, Mass. For its RTD products, which debuted at Boston-area stores six months ago, Back Bay features three SKUs in 16 oz. PET bottles: unsweetened black, vanilla latte and a half-and-half lemonade and cold brew tea. Each is cold pressure pasteurized, as is its large format 101 oz. bag-in-box variety. The brand is able to offer the line at a price point of around $2.99-$3.29 thanks to a patented process that provides a higher yield per bean, and it already has a clear plan to where to direct that supply.
For Long Island-based brand Regatta, the Fancy Food Show served as the platform for its transition from behind the bar to store shelves. The brand had been primarily an on-premise play in squat cans, but is now launching a full line of premium craft mixer products in 8.45 oz. slim cans as its first foray into retail. The line will feature six SKUs: Classic Bermuda Ginger Beer, Dry Citrus Sparkling Tonic, Royal Oak Ginger Ale, Light Ginger Beer, and Pacific Sea Salt Club Soda.
Texas-based Crafted Cocktail Co. has been in retail for some time already, but curiously not with a tonic water product — until now. Brand president Felicia Vieira shared a look at the new line, which includes a Regular (35 calories), Sea Salt and Diet (sweetened with stevia) varieties all in 12 oz. glass bottles. The product will have a suggested retail price of $5.99 for a 4-pack and $1.25 for single bottle, but Vieira said she is already looking ahead to next year, where Crafted will begin shipping 15-packs to Walmart.
Finally, while it’s not strictly a mixer brand, craft soda maker Grown Up Soda (GuS) is also changing up its approach with its first canned product: a three-SKU line of reduced calorie ginger ales in Original Dry, Raspberry and Peach flavors. Each contains 30 calories and 6 grams of sugar (compared to 22 grams in the original formulation), using monk fruit and stevia as the sweeteners.