When cold brew coffee first entered the RTD beverage market in earnest, Texas-based Kohana Coffee seemed poised to take an early lead in the category, emerging in the grocery channel as one of the serious competitors from the first wave of coffee cold brewers.
Now the company is making a play to deliver on that promise, making 2017 a reinventive year behind the scenes, with a new sales team, an ambitious innovation pipeline, and a plan for a production facility expansion that will allow Kohana to produce its ready-to-drink coffees in-house with enough extra canning and retort space to rent out capacity to an outside co-packer.
Following the departure of Joe Browne as vice president of sales in April, Kohana has brought on an all-new sales staff under new president of sales Michael Hoare. Hoare, an industry veteran, joined the company as a senior advisor in January, and agreed to the sales leadership role on the condition he could build his own team.
“I’d been down this road too many times and I knew one man couldn’t do it all,” Hoare told BevNET.
Hoare built a team of fellow industry veterans, including Ryan Youngman as senior vice president of sales, Mike Murray to run the West Coast, Robin Allin to run the Midwest and Southwest, and Andy Stallone, who is running the East Coast through his own Florida-based company, SAS Consulting.
“They’ve done a great job building the brand through the grocery channel and the private channel, but they now really want to get it on the shelves in the natural channel and more conventional accounts,” Stallone said.
Since he joined the company, Hoare said things were still early but sales were going “extremely well,” citing rollouts in Walmart, Safeway, branded and private label with Kroger’s, and numerous regional chain pickups.
Stallone said SAS has been setting up meetings withl chains throughout the East Coast and has already secured placement for several smaller Florida chains.
With the quick growth, Kohana is now looking to expand its team further, focusing on demos and field marketing.
“It’s completely changed from what we were doing before,” Hoare said. “What’s happened before is we didn’t really have enough historical data to know what sold best so they were putting a lot of the RTD out there, and we also had a 16 oz. concentrate. But it was like leading with your left foot, there’s a complete change in how we’re going to market. Our 32 oz. concentrate is our best-seller, it’s about 80 percent of our sales.”
Now, Kohana is breaking ground on an expansion for its Richmond, California production facility, which will be operational in Q4. The new equipment will allow the company to can and retort their ready-to-drink line in-house, a major boon after retort at Dairy Farmers of America reached capacity last year, Hoare said. The additions will allow Kohana to produce approximately 3,000 cases per shift.
As well, the expansion will include extra space to sell to other companies. Currently, Hoare said, Kohana is working to make a deal with a single large co-packer to use the extra space and is in close talks with one company but is still considering several options.
With the facility on track to open this year, Kohana is also looking to close out the year with new products. A line of cold brew coffee shots and a bean bag cold brew “Buzz Pack” kit are both on the horizon for Q4. The shots, Hoare said, will be shelf-stable for checkout counter placement.