Three years ago, Giancarlo Chersich purchased nitro-infused cold brew coffee brand Lucky Jack alongside celebrity fitness trainer Jillian Michaels, with a game plan to use Michaels as a megaphone to raise brand awareness in order to increase retail presence in key markets.
In 2019, that strategy has begun to bear fruit. The reach of Lucky Jack’s RTD cold brew products has expanded from the West Coast to nationwide, with IRI reporting a sales increase of 85.8 percent since last February. Meanwhile, with the introduction of concentrates and on-premise kegs, the brand has also broadened its horizons and found new ways to both compete in the increasingly crowded cold brew market.
Speaking with BevNET this week, Lucky Jack director of marketing Ryan Sowards said the company has “expanded tremendously” since the 2016 acquisition, particularly in retail. The brand had an early partnership with Costco in San Diego, and has since branched out through Los Angeles, the Bay Area and Seattle with regional rotations in Illinois and Texas. It has also had success expanding in Whole Foods, aiming at hitting the four corners of the US with distribution in Florida, New York, Rocky Mountains and Southern California, its strongest market. The brand has also expanded to Sprouts nationwide, Kroeger enterprise-wide, Fred Meyer, QFC, Target in Las Vegas, Arizona and Southern California, Jewel-Osco in the Midwest and several others.
Lucky Jack’s direct store delivery business has also been expanding, with partnerships in New York and Los Angeles with natural distributors such as UNFI, KeHe and DPI.
The brand has recently been focusing on building distribution for its four newly released 32 oz. concentrate SKUs, which produce 10 cups of cold brew when diluted with water. Lucky Jack has launched the products in Ralph’s and Publix with a suggested retail price of $11.99. Though yet to be formally announced, Chersich told BevNET that Lucky Jack has just been approved at Walmart, though it has the retailer has yet to decide which products it will carry.
While RTD cold brew is an “involved unit to develop,” Chersich claimed, the concentrates — available in caramel, mocha, vanilla and traditional — are more efficient and require less labor to produce, making more of the product available to consumers at a better value. These create a greater margin, which Chersich said also allows the brand to give back to the consumer through discount campaigns.
Over the last six months, kegs have also emerged as a growing segment of Lucky Jack’s business.
The company is offering draft keg service on premise at hotels, restaurants and alternative health food markets with partner Kombucha on Tap in San Diego and Los Angeles. The brand is also working with keg distributors in New York to gain placements at offices and workplaces.
“I think that’s probably one of the best ways to try our product,” said Sowards. “Being able to replicate that in the bottle is what really sets us apart from the competition, where you can get that nitro foam head in the on-the-go environment and ready to drink.”
While Chersich believes ready-to-drink cold brew is an essential aspect of the business, he noted that a broader product portfolio affords the brand more opportunities to grow.
“There’s only so much you can charge a customer,” he said. “As costs increase, like the cost of freight or beans, there’s less and less margin available in that product. That’s why we offer various formats, whether it’s kegs, ready-to-drink, [or] concentrates to satisfy the blend of the business altogether.”
Lucky Jack operates its own certified organic facility, and Sowards said it’s important for the brand to be an affordable organic option in the cold brew space.
“Health and wellness and better-for-you brands and products shouldn’t be limited to a demographic, they should be available to everyone at a great price,” Sowards said.
Chersich told BevNET in 2016 that Lucky Jack planned to utilize Michaels’ platform to promote the brand, and initially did so through placement in her reality show Just Jillian. Since then, Michaels has advocated for the company in various ways, such as hosting Coffee 101 activations in retail locations like Jewel-Osco in Chicago and speaking directly to Ralph’s corporate management in Southern California about the product. Sowards said he foresees Lucky Jack hosting more of these activations and activities in the future to continue sharing the brand with new audiences.
Chersich said the brand has chosen to avoid using dairy or creamers in its products, allowing consumers to dress up their drinks on their own. Though the brand previously released a hemp milk SKU called Mary Jane, the product has since been eliminated from the portfolio. The brand does offer some sweetened options, including a limited release mocha flavor set to return soon, but Chersich believes Lucky Jack will be best served by allowing the coffee “live on its own,” and allowing its quality room to shine.
“All of these beverage brands struggle for the same thing: trial,” Chersich said. “How do you get people to try your product? I believe that we’ve been fortunate enough in this very competing space with companies that have a hell of a lot more resources than we do to be able to sit on the shelf next to them and have the buyer say ‘Yes, we want your product’ and have the customer pull it off the shelf, simply by them trying our product and seeing the difference.”