Review: WhiteWave Takes Aim at Frappuccino with SToK Cold-Brew Coffee
Covers Products: Mocha Cold-Brew Coffee, Vanilla Cold-Brew Coffee
STōK Cold-Brew Coffee is a self-described “low & slow” cold-brew coffee that was crafted with the intention of creating a bold and smooth flavor. It’s available in three flavors (Black, Mocha, and Vanilla) and comes packaged in a single serve 13.7 oz. glass bottle as well as a 48 oz. offering that appears to go head to head with cold-brew concentrates.
Here we’re focused exclusively on the single serve offerings. These products are very reminiscent of Starbucks’ Frappuccino line of ready to drink coffee beverages, both in their packaging (which also has a slightly tapered neck) and flavor.
Compared to the rest of the cold-brew coffee category, this product unfortunately doesn’t really seem to be in the same ballpark as the entrepreneurial upstarts. The flavor is milk, rather than coffee, first, but both of the products nevertheless have a noticeably burnt note. Next, you taste the sweetener and flavoring (vanilla or mocha), and finally the coffee. This isn’t atypical for flavored coffee drinks, including cold-brew, but the milk flavor lingers as well, which is something we could do without. The bottom line is that we think there’s some work to do with the formulation.
On the packaging and positioning front, things are in a slightly better state. The packaging is bold and clean, with a design that’s appealing to the eye and easy to read. However, calling attention to a 10 hour brew might not be the best thing since this is less than many other products in the category. We’d say the same for “low & slow,” which is a term typically used with slow cooking of meat and implies heat (isn’t cold-brew supposed to be, well, cold?).
Finally, we think it’s going to take some serious brand building effort to get traction with STōK. It’s a relative latecomer to the category and it doesn’t have the brand that Starbucks has (despite being retailed in the same cooler space), so there’s going to be a pretty big uphill battle for this brand.Ultimately, this is how we feel about STōK: there isn’t a clear point of innovation or differentiation. It feels like something that is, at best, an opportunistic offering that might grab some market share based on price point or retail availability (which WhiteWave is certainly good at). But if what they are really after is building out a serious, long term player in RTD coffee, they are going to need to push the product offerings a lot further.