Royal Cup, a business-to-business coffee and loose leaf tea importer and distributor, has been in operation for more than a century. Now, in a move that will put Royal Cup on store shelves with a vastly expanded RTD product line, the Alabama-based company has acquired Goodrich Gourmet, the maker of the Icebox brand of cold brew coffee and concentrates.
In a press release last week, Royal Cup announced the closure of the acquisition, which included both the Icebox brand trademark and the New Orleans company’s production facilities. Icebox founder and president Bebe Goodrich has joined Royal Cup as director of liquid product innovation, overseeing the newly formed ready-to-drink arm. All of Icebox’s full-time employees have been retained.
Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.
Icebox has crafted a distribution footprint that largely entails the South and also conducts a large amount of its sales through private label agreements. Before founding Icebox in 2012, Goodrich got her start in the coffee business with Royal Cup as a member of the company’s product development team researching marketing trends. Under former CEO Hatton Smith, whom she called a mentor, Goodrich built Icebox while working at Royal Cup using seed money invested by the company. Speaking to BevNET, Goodrich said the company was supportive of employees independent ventures and was open to providing resources, which for Icebox included acting as a supplier.
“We have been in the coffee business for more than 120 years, so at our core we are experts of coffee,” Anne Pritz, Royal Cup chief marketing officer, told BevNET Monday. “When you witness something like a cold brew coffee product coming into the marketplace, it’s critical that we pay attention to the decisions of consumers.”
Royal Cup has traditionally acted as a business-to-business company servicing clients in food service, hospitality, convenience, and offices. With the acquisition, Icebox’s concentrate line will be integrated into Royal Cup’s traditional business model, but the deal also opens the door for Royal Cup to move further into retail, Pritz said.
In the past few years, Royal Cup has gone through structural changes, shaking up leadership and enhancing the capacity of its campus production facilities to allow for roasting of more than 80 million pounds of coffee beans a year.
“I grew up on this product, my grandmother made it,” Goodrich said. “But how do you take that charming thing my grandmother made and make it a mass market opportunity that people can afford and approach. By joining the Royal Cup team we have the outlet, now we need to build the product and keep serving their customers well.”
Icebox currently offers two RTD cold brew coffee SKUs — New Orleans Style and Madagascar Vanilla — and four concentrate varieties. Coffee innovation will be a significant part of Goodrich’s new role, but it’s not the only category that she’ll be exploring. According to Goodrich, RTD tea is now in the product innovation pipeline with options open to produce other types of functional beverages.
“There’s a lot of consumables, a lot of liquids and different types of beverages that can come in an RTD,” Pritz said. “Things like tea, things like juices, flavored or enhanced water beverages, so there will be a lot of innovation.”