A cup of coffee is usually defined by its beans. The founders of one Massachusetts beverage startup believe that emphasis leaves out a key fact: Coffee is mostly water.
“Historically, everyone’s always focused on the two percent that’s the beans,” says Dan Bresciani, cofounder of Holliston-based Loco Coffee, which makes canned cold brew blends using coconut water and maple water. “We thought, why not use one of these better-for-you waters in our coffee? That makes the coffee better for you.”
Loco is betting that the shift in emphasis will help it appeal to buyers in the fast-growing market for ready-to-drink coffee. The company wants to position itself in a prime location in grocery store shelves and gym drink machines, between the canned coffees, energy drinks, and artisanal water products touting antioxidants and pH-balance. “If you look at all the other food and beverage categories, there’s so many better-for-you, functional options that have different ingredients,” Bresciani says, “and it didn’t exist in coffee.”
Bresciani doesn’t pretend to be a coffee snob. The 28-year-old likes coffee, but he knows there are many people who — like himself — mostly use it for an energy boost, and don’t want a lot of sugar and carbs. To prove that there was a market for the drink, Bresciani and his childhood friend from Hopedale, Sean Schiloski, a graphic designer, started working on their idea in a walk-in refrigerated space whose owner would only allow them to use it overnight. They received some small investments from friends and family, kept their day jobs, and made their healthy cold brew coffee in an industrial drum, mixing it with coconut water they ordered, frozen, from overseas. They bottled it themselves and sold it to a handful of gyms and stores.
They started in 2016 and within a year sales were strong enough to convince them that the product was viable. They needed more cold brew than they could make on their own, and they wanted to extend the product’s shelf life, which meant switching from plastic bottles to cans. Their goal is convenience, so no standing in line at a coffee shop. Bresciani, who quit his job as a financial analyst to work on Loco, thinks coffee shops could eventually go the way of soda shops.
Though most of the producers they talked with were tied to big brands, they were able to find a Minnesota production plant that agreed to make their cold brew. The company started mass producing its shelf-stable coconut water coffee in the summer of 2018. Later, they added a brew made with maple water sourced from Sudbury’s Drink Simple.
A can retails for about $3. Loco is now selling 1,500 cases per month in about 500 stores, mostly in New England, but also including Wegmans chainwide, Bresciani says.
And later this year, they’ll try rolling out something new (if equally trendy): a canned oat milk latte .
Cost: $3 for a 12-ounce can; $34.99 for a case of 12
Details: Maple water: 20 calories, 200 mg caffeine, 46 nutrients; coconut water: 45 calories, 240 mg caffeine, 570 mg potassium; (12 ounces of regular black coffee has approximately 5 calories, 140 mg caffeine, 175 mg Potassium, and several dozen other nutrients)
Andy Rosen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @andyrosen.