Royal Cup Coffee & Tea will launch its inaugural line of ready-to-drink cold brew coffees on April 2, marking the company’s first entry into the ready-to-drink (RTD) space.
Available in three varieties — an unsweetened and a lightly sweetened French Roast, as well Rain Forest Bold — the cold brew line will be distributed nationwide with a suggested retail price of $3.50-$4.00 per 12 oz. bottle. Royal Cup told BevNET that individual retailers will be announcing placements for the product in the coming days and weeks.
Birmingham, Ala.-based Royal Cup, founded in 1896, has operated mainly as a B2B supplier of packaged whole bean coffee and loose leaf tea, cold brew concentrate, creamers and sweeteners to food service, convenience and hospitality accounts. But after seeing the expanding popularity of cold brew, CEO Bill Smith said he recognized an opportunity for the company to move into the ready-to-drink market.
“We’re seeing a lot of growth in coffee and especially with the new format of cold brew,” Smith told BevNET. ”So it is our motivation to make sure we respond to the changing consumer trends and create the product formats that our customers are looking for.”
The product development process began last August, when Royal Cup acquired Richgood Gourmet LLC, the manufacturer and distributor of Icebox Coffee, to serve as its liquid manufacturing facility. Bebe Goodrich, the founder and former president of Icebox Coffee, joined Royal Cup as the Director of Liquid Product Innovation and now leads the company’s liquid manufacturing operations.
“Liquid was not a means of manufacturing for Royal Cup historically,” said Smith. “And so it was a very deliberate and very strategic move to make that acquisition because of the trends that we’re seeing in consumers wanting to have coffee in liquid format versus traditional roasted grounds coffee.”
Prior to the launch, Royal Cup put multiple versions of coffee — each with different sources and taste profiles — in front of taste panels to fine-tune their formula.
“We put our product against a major national retailer as well to make sure our product was different but ultimately preferred across those consumer panels,” said Anne Pritz, Chief Marketing Officer at Royal Cup. “And our product won hands down for taste, for quality and for likelihood to purchase.”
The unsweetened French Roast and Rain Forest Bold flavors each have 15 calories, 216 mg of caffeine and 0 grams of sugar. The lightly sweetened French Roast flavor contains 80 calories, 252 mg of caffeine and 18 grams of sugar.
The three-SKU line is shelf-stable and is made from 100 percent Arabica coffee beans from Central and South America that are cold steeped in triple filtered water. The Rain Forest Bold flavor is a Rainforest Alliance (RFA) Certified cold brew, meaning the product meets standards of environmental, social, and economic sustainability outlined by the non-profit organization.
“Our product can be delivered and not take up the valuable refrigerator space that is highly competitive,” said Pritz. “So we find that to be a big benefit.”
As part of its digital marketing campaign, Royal Cup has purchased advertising space on various social media platforms.
“The target consumer for cold brew is really an 18-35 coffee connoisseur who understands the quality and craftsmanship that goes into cold brew,” said Pritz. “And they are highly sophisticated and love to post on social media feeds.”
In the coming days, Royal Cup will also be debuting a line of shelf-stable, ready-to-drink iced teas, available in sweetened, unsweetened and peach flavors.