Know Brainer Partners with Nestlé Through Accelerator Program

The brain-boosting butter coffee trend is growing, and Nestlé is testing the waters.

Know Brainer, a ketogenic creamer brand, has partnered with Nestlé via the Terra Food + Ag Tech Accelerator program to incubate the brand. The San Francisco-based program, operated by Rabobank and RocketSpace, began in October with an 8-week educational curriculum and will close an additional 8-week pilot period in February. In addition to Know Brainer, brands including Remedy Organics, Regrained, and Native State Foods are participating in the current Terra program.

Speaking with BevNET, Know Brainer founder Shari Leidich said the relationship between the two companies has been mutually beneficial: while Nestlé is able to explore the ketogenic product space, Know Brainer has gained access to its consumer insight and product development resources.

“[Nestlé is] so generous and so willing to share their resources,” Leidich said. “They respect the recipe that I have, and it’s been amazing.”

Leidich founded Know Brainer in 2016 after leaving her previous organic snack venture Two Moms in the Raw. The product is currently sold online and in natural product retailers in single-serve packets. The creamer’s formula includes medium-chain-triglycerides (MCTs) and organic grassfed butter, and comes in regular and casein & lactose free varieties.

“I’ve heard people say, ‘oh my gosh I can work all morning and not crash,’” she said. “Some moms I know are eying the product for their kids in high school and college. When people try it, they see positive results.”

Nestlé has made recent moves in the coffee category, acquiring Chameleon Cold-Brew and taking a majority stake in Blue Bottle Coffee, so surveying new innovations in creamers would be within the conglomerate’s wheelhouse.

“Nestlé sees a lot of promise in functional foods and beverages to solve a real consumer need,” said Ashlee Adams, Head of Open Innovation at Nestlé USA. “We had some early meetings with Shari and [COO Greg Leidich] and we were really impressed with them as people and as founders of the company they are building. We thought that this would be a good team with shared values that we could do pilot work with through Terra.”

According to Adams, Nestlé has taken a more hands-on approach to Know Brainer, helping with consumer insight and market research as well as providing guidance on product development.

Know Brainer, with Nestlé’s guidance, is developing a 10-serving 16 oz. multi-serve package set to debut at Natural Products Expo West 2018 in March. The new products will come in Full Dairy and Casein & Lactose Free varieties. Both SKUs will include added collagen protein for additional health benefits. Leidich said the goal is to go deeper in grocery with a refrigerated product.

Although Nestlé’s partnership involves no investment or equity claims, Adams said the door is open at the end of the Terra program for Nestlé and Know Brainer to continue to working together.

“Functional food is a growing market and an area we were interested in learning more about through working with an early stage brand,” Adams said. “We felt we could add a lot of value to Know Brainer given Nestlé’s strong R&D capabilities and portfolio in creamers and likewise gain a lot of value from the work Shari and Greg have done.”