Coffee So Good Blooms From Midwest Roots, Real Ingredient Focus

Four years ago Minneapolis-based entrepreneurs Rita Katona and Eric Hall saw the options for high-quality, cold-pressed juice as lacking in their local market. To fill the perceived gap in their city, the pair launched Juice So Good, a small cafe that sells freshly made cold-pressed juices, smoothies, juice shots and raw foods. The store attracted a vibrant following and spurred the creation of a wholesale line of organic, cold-pressed juices that are sold at stores throughout the Midwest, including Whole Foods, Target and a bevy of independent grocers.

The company later added a cold brew coffee blended with cashew milk to the line, a product that Katona described as quickly gaining “a cult-like following” among its customers. The coffee’s popularity gave way to a new sub-brand of organic, dairy-free coffee and cashew milk drinks that the company called Coffee So Good. Launched in 2016, the coffees are formulated with whole, clean label ingredients and come in five varieties, including Lavender Nutte and Cashew Mocha. The coffees, packaged in 10 oz. bottles, are sold at many of the same retailers that carry Juice So Good and priced at $3.99-4.99, depending on retail channel.

Cold-pressed juice remains the foundation for the company, which is now called So Good So You. But Katona, a former retail executive with various senior roles in merchandising and sourcing at Target, is aware that it operates amid booming demand for cold brew coffee and an increasingly saturated and commoditized market for cold-pressed juice.

“There’s just less and less white space for distribution growth in the juice category,” she told BevNET. “Ultimately not everyone is going to be a consumer of cold-pressed juices, because some people, no matter what you tell them, is not going to spend $7 on a cold-pressed juice. A lot of those consumers are already comfortable with spending five, six or seven dollars on a crafted coffee beverage. And our product is absolutely at a level that can respond in taste and quality with made-to-order, crafted coffee beverages while also offering the benefits of it being certified organic, dairy-free and real ingredients.”

Katona noted that the learning curve for Coffee So Good has been shorter than that of the company’s juice line, particularly in the Midwest. Most consumers “understand that the primary proposition is energy,” she said, but its taste profile and ingredient list that truly sets the products apart.

“Ultimately, once consumers taste our product, they love our product, and then it easy to talk to them about these differences,” Katona said. “All of the ingredients are real food. That’s the major point of differentiation. There are nuts, herbs and spices and all of the ingredients are listed on the front of the bottle. We believe in 100 percent transparency for our customers.”

Hall concurred, and described the company’s commitment to using real ingredients in all of its products as “unparalleled.”

“Yes, that comes at a cost but it is a commitment that we feel strongly about and has resonation with the consumer,” he said. “And when a consumer looks at any of our products across any of our lines and they see the ingredients, which are ones that they would find in their own cupboard. I think there is a strong point there that people appreciate and that people value.”

So Good So You manufactures its products, which also include probiotic-infused lemonades and juice shots and a line of refrigerated baby food, at a company-owned facility in Minneapolis. Although Hall believes the cost to build the plant was a necessary hurdle — he noted the lack of viable co-packing options in the Midwest that existed four years ago that could produce products up to standard — he feels strongly that it’s given the company an advantage over competing brands.

“We’re firm believers that if you’re going to do something right you’re going to do it yourself,” Hall said. “And what that gives us is unparalleled control over quality, food safety and the ability to continually innovate.”

“Both Rita and I share a passion and a commitment to healthy options for people,” he continued. “It’s to help people get real food in a way that’s very convenient for them [and] food that tastes delicious, but also that they feel good about and feel good from when they consume. And that was — and continues to be — the foundation for the company.”