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PROFILE: Blackeye Roasting Opens New Plant, Moves to Shelf-Stable Cans Suited to Beer Houses; Offers Retort, Tunnel Pasteurization Copacking on Side; Founder Also Expanding Bad Larry’s Hard Coffee

Cold-brewed coffee play called Blackeye Roasting that’s funded by unidentified beer distributors is moving into expanded production facility in St Paul, Minn, with view to offering shelf-stable cans in coming weeks and moving out broadly via beer houses in Midwest and Texas.  Founder Matt McGinn has also hung out shingle as copacker for iced tea, kombucha and other customers, at time that some of his capabilities like retort and tunnel pasteurization are in extremely short supply.  And he’s marketing alcoholic coldbrew called Bad Larry’s Cold Hard Coffee via separate entity that uses coffee concentrate sourced from Blackeye (BBI, Feb 17).  So youthful entrepreneur who got coffee bug while pursuing degree in social work now is building little empire.

The coffee experience spanned nearly a dozen years, first on retail side at Starbucks, Caribou and Dunn, then as advisor to indie coffee shops.  McGinn launched Blackeye in 2014, opening pair of Minneapolis coffeehouses, adding thriving draft cold-brew biz and expanding into canned biz at regional retailers like Holiday and Super America c-stores and Lund’s and Byerly’s grocers.  Hy-Vee has become national customer starting this month.  He’s been copacking Blackeye as perishable item in conventional 12-oz cans at local brewery but is about to segue to shelf-stable product in 11.5-oz slim cans at new plant.  Tho he uses retort production, McGinn claims his long experience as roaster has given him knowhow to process beans so flavor is enhanced not degraded via retort.  He’s working on Nitro Coco with coconut-based creamer and high-fat, low-sugar White Chocolate that he describes as “Ben & Jerry’s in a can.”  Both come in under 200 calories.  Due in fall is protein entry containing 25 mg of casein protein and 240 mg of caffeine, also under 200 calories.  All his coffees pack potent caffeine payload.

Saying he’s funded by undisclosed investors involved in beer distribution, Matt is pursuing DSD-oriented strategy, specifically beer houses, including Bud network in Minn, Iowa and, soon, Wis.  (One carveout is Hy-Vee, served as direct customer.)  In short term he’s looking to enlist distribution partners for other heartland states, in part to support Cub Foods expansion, as well as Tex.  On foodservice side, 28 tech campuses in Twin Cities have embraced brands, so co has enlisted Joyride Coffee’s network in NY, SF, LA and Boston to build out similar opportunities across nation.

New facility is 28,800-sq-ft and will be capable of producing 100K gals of coldbrew per month on single shift.  It boasts small retort unit and so far has enlisted as copack customers a sparkling tea called RSV Tea and Prohibition Kombucha.  McGinn said his model is to take equity in companies that come to him as retort clients.  He’s got 15 on payroll currently.

Meanwhile, Bad Larry’s Cold Hard Coffee is marketed by separate co with separate investors, operating virtually with no paid staff and sourcing its coldbrew from Blackeye and copacking at City Brewing in La Crosse, Wis.  Besides riding coffee wave, with 180 mg caffeine hit, it boasts of containing half the calories and sugar of Mike’s Hard Lemonade.  McGinn has enlisted Bernick’s to carry brand in Minn and western Wis, and is seeking other DSD partners.

Publishing Info

  • Year: 2017
  • Volume: 14
  • Issue #: 92
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