Cold Brew Coffee Finds its Mojo in Mass

photo 2Ann Brainard is an unabashed champion of New Orleans. A native of the city, Brainard grew up on its definitive cuisine. Now a resident of Massachusetts’ North Shore, Brainard has long been an advocate for Louisiana classics like jambalaya; an article earlier this year published in The Boston Globe featured a profile of Brainard and her two daughters preparing the dish.

Now, she’s got a coffee that, in the words of one of its famous chefs, can really “kick it up a notch.”

In speaking with her, it’s clear that New Orleans-style cold brewed coffee is Brainard’s foremost passion. In 2011, she founded Mojo, a company which produces a cold brew coffee made with locally roasted fair trade Arabica coffee beans that are steeped in cold water for 13 hours. Blended with low-fat milk and cane sugar, Mojo, like many new brands, first appeared at local farmers’ markets. A year after its debut, Brainard, who calls herself “the Mojo Mama,” began packaging the coffee in mason jars and selling it to local retailers. The brand has made some headway since and the coffee, now filled in 32 oz. vintage-style glass bottles, Mojo is sold in approximately 25 independent and specialty retailers in Massachusetts.

“People are looking for cold brew products,” Brainard said during a recent visit with BevNET, noting her thoughts that a significant rise in awareness from larger brands that has paved the way for a recent surge in demand for cold-brew coffee.

In an increasingly crowded field for cold brew coffee, Mojo is a super-premium offering that Brainard views as differentiated by its taste — she compares it to “melted coffee ice cream” — and formulation, which utilizes a recipe cultivated by her New Orleans restaurateur family. Perhaps the most notable aspect of the beverage, however, is its powerful caffeine kick: the coffee contains 170 mg of caffeine per 8 oz. serving. The back label offers “a word of advice” to consumers to “drink responsibly” and notes that “although you might want to chug the whole jar at once, please don’t.” “Sips not gulps,” the label counsels.

Brainard operates out of a 5,000 sq. ft. kitchen facility in Essex, Mass. that Mojo shares with a company called Lark Fine Foods, which produces a line of cookies intended for adult consumers. Brainard and her team — a chief operating officer and two production employees — create a coffee extract at the facility and then deliver the concentrated liquid to Puleo’s Dairy, a local dairy bottler that blends and packages the coffee.

Mojo recently secured its first major distribution deal with Seacrest Foods, a speciality foods wholesaler that also carries Spindrift sparkling drinks in its portfolio. Seacrest has opened distribution lines to a number of the retailers that currently carry Mojo, and Brainard expects the wholesaler to be pivotal in terms of new placement for the coffee, which sells for $10-13 per bottle.

Brainard worked for nine years on the trading floor at Lehman Brothers; now, evangelizing consumers one-by-one at product demonstrations is her favorite part of the part of job. And while her company title of “chief blending officer” gives her a primary role when it comes to innovation (unsweetened, black and single-serve varieties are in the pipeline), she is the most vocal proponent of the brand, calling consumers to its trademarked tagline of “Mojo Cold Brewed Liquid Love – Get Some.”