At the beginning of the year, Richmond, Va.-based nitro-infused craft cold brew coffee maker Confluence Coffee celebrated its move to a new production facility.
At the beginning of next year, they’ll do it all over again.
Less than 12 months after scaling up operations by moving into a 1,600 square foot facility, Confluence, makers of canned nitro-infused cold brew coffees, will be adding nearly five times the space when they relocate to a new 10,450 square foot warehouse in mid-December.
The move marks another milestone in Confluence’s prodigious growth. Co-founders Terry Darcy and Mike Woitech launched the company in 2015 out of two shared kitchen spaces in Washington, D.C. In an interview with BevNET, Darcy explained how the company’s rapid growth quickly surpassed the limitations of their existing production space after only a few months.
“We had moved into there in February and by June we already knew that we had to start looking [for a new space],” Darcy said. “It’s just grown way quicker than we could have originally foreseen. We were moving more product than we could physically produce in our old spot.”
The new warehouse and distribution facility addresses that issue; Darcy said he expects production capacity to increase to 90 barrels of coffee per week, up from about 45 barrels every two weeks at their existing plant. He said the company worked with a commercial beer equipment manufacturer to customize brewing tanks for its specific needs, designing a system in which additional brewing shifts and tanks can be plugged in as needed to expand capacity.
Confluence has made its name as a specialist in foamy, nitrogen-infused cold coffees, and the company plans to drive innovation around the use of gas. Darcy confirmed that the new facility would include a new piece of equipment, developed through internal research and development, that will be able to aid the amount of nitrogen that can dissolve in the liquid, helping create more cascade and a full, frothy head.
Otherwise, said Darcy, the brand feels confident in the formula it has spent two years crafting.
“At each stage we are continually re-tweaking the formula just to make sure we are consistent,” he said. “We played around with going the concentrate and rehydration route, but we wanted to keep our identity as a true cold brew. We still do a 24-hour extraction, that’s what we found to be the best for our roast profile. We’re still doing it the same way on that craft level just a slightly larger scale.”
Outside of cans, the brand is looking to increase its keg operations, which currently comprise around 20 percent of total business. To mark the opening of the new facility, Confluence will also launch a fourth SKU, Maple Toasted Coconut, to go with its existing House, Mocha and Citron flavors. A can redesign that Darcy described as a “more streamlined and approachable look then what we had done in the past” is also upcoming.
One thing Confluence doesn’t have, however, is more space. Darcy said the move to a new home, which coincides with the company’s growth from six to 10 full-time employees, didn’t include enough room to include a retail area open for the public, but that it would selectively collaborate on live events to be hosted by nearby coffee company Blanchard’s, which roasts its beans.
While welcoming the upgrades, Darcy underscored the importance of maintaining a balance between growing the company and staying true to the brand’s craft roots.
“It changes some and doesn’t change other aspects,” Darcy said of the new plant’s impact on Confluence’s sales and distribution strategy. The brand, sold regionally through Whole Foods, is currently in around 100 retail locations. “We’ve always considered ourselves a craft brand and as such we have sales effort that focuses on our locality in the Virginia/Mid-Atlantic area. We’ll continue to focus on that, but we now have strategies in place and some deals in the pipeline that will open us up to farther reaches. Excited about two-pronged approach, sell further but maintain a core identity.”