Rise Brewing, cold-brewed coffee entry from group of youthful entrepreneurs based in NY and Conn, came out on top during BevNet Live’s 13th reality-show-style showdown event, winning praise from panel of expert judges for compelling product and branding, and multipronged market assault built around canned and kegged formats. They prevailed among a dozen finalists at BevNet Live event on Tues and Wed, making impassioned pitches on-stage even as cofounders Jarrett McGovern and Grant Gyeski nursed a keg of cold-brew while seated in audience, dispensing shots to attendees whose energy or attention was in danger of flagging.
By chance, BBI had just profiled Rise, from encounter at coffee/tea fest in Brooklyn last Sun (BBI, Jun 12). As they reprised effort for BevNet audience, McGovern and Gyeski started using toddy method on Fair Trade beans to attain rich cold-brew taste, but it took 24 hours to brew 4 cups of coffee, and it quickly got oxidized and lost flavor. So entrepreneurs infused liquid with nitrogen, getting cool cascade, creamy and indulgent taste and, since nitro acts as natural preservative, extending freshness to up to 5 months. Partners delivered first keg to Brooklyn’s Colony restaurant almost 2 years ago and have run with it since then, expanding to point where they can now run 1,500 kegs per day in their brewery. As for packaged version, in standard 12-oz cans, they’ve accelerated from hand-canning 4 units per minute to capability of producing 3 mil cases per year. Brand sold out in just 2 days on Jet.com. By now, kegs and cans between them have expanded to 900 locations in Northeast and Calif. Restaurants are using kegged Rise coffee as base for affogatos and other in-house creations. Rise cans and, increasingly, kegs have found place in expanding Juice Press chain. Among corporate customers, brand also can be found at Apple, Facebook, CAA and ESPN, as well as in Yankees and White Sox locker rooms, at NBA and NY Giants. A keg is situated in Yankees dugout, they claimed. (Not mentioned was popup taproom they’ve been operating on Stanton St in NY’s foodie-forward Lower East Side.) Among new frontiers, partners displayed 12-oz slim can they plan to add by summer’s end, and disclosed steps they’re taking to open up European market.
Among judges, Kellam Mattie, vp marketing & innovation and CMO of Coca-Cola’s Venturing & Emerging Brands, sponsor of the competition, praised team for great product, shelf-stable formulation and readiness to think about longer-term innovation. “Great concept,” agreed Tim Sperry, prexy/owner of The Tim Sperry Group, tho he advised team not to get too distracted with plans for Europe. “The grass is really greener right here, so stay focused on what you’re doing right here,” he urged. Another judge, Trevor Nelson, co-founder and mgg ptnr at PE firm Alliance Consumer Growth, lauded multipronged kegs-and-cans approach that’s worked successfully for other players in category like Stumptown. BevNet founder/ceo John Craven wondered whether there’s any meaningful entry barrier to rivals, and McGovern readily acknowledged there isn’t, tho there is some specific knowhow involved in Rise process. And Kerrie Lopez, sr category mgr for fresh items at online retailer Jet.com, urged them to do better job using package’s real estate to educate shoppers about cold-brew. Entrepreneurs acknowledged that, in early days, they were advised to stay away from nitro on grounds that it didn’t sound like clean, organic process, but that technique is getting big lift thanks to marketing by Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts.
The 5 other brands to make finals were Ounce Water, Remedy Organics, Mooala, Ugly Drinks and Smart Pressed Juice. (We’ll profile those entrants and offer lots more BevNet coverage in upcoming issues.) Although not all Showdown winners have gone on to great things, BevNet pointed out that prior winners have included likes of Health-Ade Kombucha, Malk dairy alternatives, Tio Gazpacho drinkable soups, Coco Cafe coconut water (quickly acquired by Vita Coco) and another NY cold-brew play, Grady’s.