Founded in 2015, took some time to get into the ready-to-drink business. Yet after launching with a single cold brew product last year, the company is eager to catch up this summer by rolling out new flavors, a new pack size and a new design aimed at expanding both its customer audience and retail footprint.
The brainchild of James Beard Award-winning chef Craig Shelton, King’s Brew built its specialty coffee business mainly on sales of its whole bean blends. Last June, the brand introduced its first RTD product — a nitrogen-infused unflavored cold brew — at 38 Whole Foods stores in New England. Positioned on the premium end of the category, King’s Brew is now available at more than 100 retailers in the region, but CEO Sam Sabky told BevNET the product’s potency and price, in addition to a lack of variety, were limiting its growth.
“The three most common things we heard was that it was too expensive, there was too much caffeine, and there was not enough variety,” he said.
In seeking to branch out into different coffee need states and use occasions, according to Sabky, the challenge for King’s Brew was to “toe the line between innovative and mass appeal” products. After ruling out lattes, the brand homed in on what it saw as a dearth of low calorie, low sugar, flavored cold brews, and the resulting flavor lineup of refrigerated products reflects that theme. New SKUs include Bourbon & Butter (which Sabky described as “guilt free indulgence”), Decaf Cappuccino, and the function-forward Mushroom Mocha, made with Chaga and Lion’s Mane extract. Each of the new flavors contains one gram of organic cane sugar, 5 calories and 188 mg of caffeine per 7.5 oz can.
Perhaps the brand’s biggest innovation is its maple water cold brew, which is launching in 12 oz. cans in Whole Foods North Atlantic in addition to rolling out in other markets in the 7.5 oz format. Though Massachusetts-based Loco Coffee produces a flavor blended with maple water, King’s Brew is being marketed as the first cold brew to actually be brewed in organic maple water, which is sourced from Vermont-based company Drink Simple. The product contains between 18 and 30 calories, depending on the size, and no added sugar.
Drink Simple co-founder Kate Weiler told BevNET she had already kicked the tires on a potential maple water cold brew coffee prior to connecting with Sabky. Beyond the harmony between the two flavors, she noted that maple water’s nutritional profile — which includes antioxidants, polyphenols, and minerals — gives the drink a further dimension.
“It’s really adding a little bit of flavor and a lot of functionality to the coffee,” Weiler said. “For us, it was really important that it was a healthy hydration (product) and not just a sweetened cold brew.”
The new flavors have also given King’s Brew an opportunity to modernize its package design. The black cold brew still features a regal purple and gold aesthetic, but the crown logo has been simplified and minimized, giving way to a large callout for “Nitro” on the front label. Each new SKU is color coded to enhance shelf presence; meanwhile, the maple water flavor uses Drink Simple’s blue and white coloring as well as the brand’s logo and copy indicating sourcing on the back.
In executing the product revamp, King’s Brew has also stratified its growth strategy along two different paths. While its 12 oz. black and maple water varieties will be limited to stores in New England, the brand is launching all its other new flavors in 7.5 oz. cans in conventional chains outside of that region. In the smaller package, caffeine drops from 300 mg to 188 mg per can and price from $4.49 to anywhere from $2.99 to $3.49 each.
The new cans will give King’s Brew an opportunity to plant a flag for the brand in new territories and at new retailers, including Central Market in Dallas, Festival Foods in Wisconsin and Market District stores in Indiana and Pennsylvania, among others.
“The plan is and will be to succeed first in New England and grow cautiously,” Sabky said.