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New brews: Innovative coffees and teas boost sales as well as energy

These beverages are sure to attract gourmet coffee or tea lovers—whether they want ready-to-drink or something to make at home—to the aisles of your store.

Jenna Blumenfeld, Freelancer

November 6, 2018

11 Min Read
New brews: Innovative coffees and teas boost sales as well as energy
Brad Bartholomew

Once upon a time, the only place where you could obtain a gourmet coffee or tea beverage was at the overpriced hipster coffee shop on the corner.

Such establishments may have sourced their own beans, roasted them consciously and brewed them using methods that respected the bean or leaf, such as pour over or cold brew. But with the recent influx of natural brands taking an epicurean approach to their beverage formulations, natural retailers can now offer consumers a bespoke, memorable coffee and tea experience that rivals barista-made options.

In the past year alone, coffee and tea products have seen significant sales boosts in natural retail—largely thanks to the plethora of new and innovative products. According to SPINS, in the 52 weeks ending July 15, sales of refrigerated ready-to-drink coffee and tea grew a healthy 9.5 percent to $20 million. While this growth is considerably slower than the incredible 21.8 percent sales gains in the year ending July 16, 2017, widened refrigerated grab-and-go sections of natural stores that serve customers visiting for breakfast or lunch encourage coffee and tea’s continued tangent.

Such strong packaged coffee and tea sales are particularly notable when you consider these figures do not include bulk retail or sales from in-house coffee bars where dedicated staff create specific beverages for customers.

Beverage manufacturers that geek out on direct sourcing, roasting and brewing methods cull favor with passionate, coffee-loving consumers who may also frequent small, artisanal coffee shops.

Cold-brew coffee—the practice of steeping coffee grounds in unheated water for as long as 24 hours—in particular has significantly elevated ready-to-drink coffee sales over the past two years. The brewing method is designed to improve coffee’s flavor, lower acidity and increase the caffeine content—all attributes that encourage consumers to try various cold-brew brands for the experience, and keep them coming back to the cold case for more. In the 52 weeks ending July 15, sales of refrigerated cold-brew RTD coffee grew a steady 6.9 percent to $17.4 million in the natural channel. This is significantly slowed growth from the breakneck pace of 29.1 percent the year before, according to SPINS. But make no mistake: Cold brew is still a piping-hot trend.

As increasingly more consumers shun sugary sodas, juices and soft drinks, premium coffee and tea beverages fill the gap with low- or no-sugar offerings, and often functional inclusions that provide benefits besides a caffeine boost.

Functional add-ins

Continued consumer hoopla over the ketogenic diet (which in a nutshell means eating high fat, and low carbs and sugar) has influenced a bevy of manufacturers to launch coffee blends that feature healthful fats such as medium-chain triglycerides derived from coconut oil, grass-fed butter, collagen, hemp oil, pasture-raised whey protein and more. Go ahead. Blame it on Dave Asprey, founder of Bulletproof and author of The Bulletproof Diet (Rodale, 2014), who after sipping yak butter coffee while trekking in Tibet, championed replacing breakfast with a blend of coffee, grass-fed butter and MCT oil for improved energy, weight loss and focus.

Don’t be surprised if your consumers ask you if coffee you stock contains mycotoxins, mold that can grow on some coffee and sap your energy. Asprey cautions against mycotoxin problems.

Now, breakfast isn’t just the most important meal of the day, it has become an arena, a prime time to optimize your life. New coffee-containing products reflect this sentiment. The concept of easy-to-consume enhancing ingredients also resonates in the RTD and shelf-stable tea category, where health-boosting add-ins such as adaptogenic ashwagandha, moringa, sleep-supporting valerian root and more are commonplace. Both coffee and tea represent an ideal platform to introduce novel health-promoting ingredients to receptive natural shoppers.

Sugar no more

The common trend among all coffee and tea variations that won’t vanish anytime soon? Beverages with low and especially no sugar—a product trend that particularly resonates with shoppers of the millennial generation.

“Millennials are increasingly consuming coffee and tea in equal amounts, and it’s their move away from sugar that is key,” says Bella Hughes, co-founder and president of Shaka Tea, a tea brand that brews the regenerative, Hawaiian-grown plant mamaki and bottles it. “The move away from sugar and the improved awareness consumers have about all of the negative impacts of sugar is the key tea-buying decision for most people. You can’t get ahead anymore as a brand with just a clean-label product that has ethical sourcing. Customers are going to demand and expect low-sugar products because they are better educated than ever before.”

Case in point, Hughes says that when she and her husband launched Shaka Tea several years ago, the product was originally sweetened with apple juice. But fervent consumer feedback drove the decision to use no-calorie monk fruit instead to sweeten the product, making many of the brand’s SKUs feature zero sugar on the nutritional facts panel. Now, Shaka Tea is entering national distribution, and the company is primed for growth with an updated packaging design.

These stellar new coffee and tea products feature trending ingredients and formulations, and represent what’s next in your morning beverage—and afternoon pick-me-up—sets.

Flavor-forward coffee


Rise Brewing Co. Nitro Cold Brew Coffee Oat Milk Latte

While almond milk receives much attention and praise these days, many baristas adore oat milk for its taste and its ability to froth better than other nut-based options. Rise Brewing Co. has encouraged such microbubbles with the infusion of nitrogen in this dairy-free, subtly sweet canned oat milk latte. Customers will love the USDA Organic certification, too. SRP: $3.50

Convergent Coffee Co. Nitro Vanilla Craft Cold Brew

Made with filtered water, organic cold-brew coffee and organic vanilla bean, this tasty 20-calorie beverage features a creamy mouthfeel thanks to an infusion of nitrogen. You gotta love the USDA Organic certification and art deco-inspired redesigned packaging. Give it a shake before pouring into a pint glass—agitating the beverage encourages a subtly effervescent texture. SRP: $3.99

Limitless Cold Brew Clean Coffee Vanilla

Air roasting coffee beans instead of drum roasting them allows Limitless to eliminate bitterness when brewing, creating a super, smooth-tasting product. This lightly sweetened, 30-calorie cold-brew coffee contains a touch of vanilla for added deliciousness. Limitless also sends its beans to a third-party lab to verify there are no mycotoxins—harmful mold that can grow on coffee and a hot topic of conversation in the Bulletproof world. SRP: $3.49

Forest Coffee Trading Co. Cold Brew Coffee Black

This beautifully packaged beverage proves that meticulous coffee sourcing, roasting and brewing make a notable flavor difference in the final product. The Denver, Colorado-based duo behind Forest Coffee sources coffee beans directly from micro-lots in northern Thailand, then roasts and cold brews the coffee for 24 hours before bottling. The result is a very low-acid coffee that tastes naturally sweet, bold and chocolatey. SRP: $2.99

Wandering Bear Cold Brew Coffee On The Go Straight Black

Wandering Bear’s delicious and smooth cold-brew coffee is packaged in an opaque box to help protect the delicate flavor that comes from USDA Organic, Fair Trade Certified coffee sourced from central Peru. Made without sugar or other additives, this refrigerated product delivers a higher-than-average dose of caffeine (275 milligrams per carton) so your customers can have a supercharged morning. SRP: $3.99


Functional coffee


Cuvee Cold Brew Nitro Hemp Oil Coffee

We love the packaging of this Austin, Texas-based brand’s new line of functional coffee. Won’t its bright green stand out beautifully on store shelves? Cuvee’s product hits all the right notes: Coffee beans are directly sourced from conscious producers. It’s cold-brewed at a chilly 36 degrees. It’s infused with nitrogen for a creamy mouthfeel. And there’s 10 mg of hemp oil inside, too. SRP: $3.99

Nytro Jack Focus

A cute product name packaged in an even cuter 8-ounce can, this nitrogen-infused coffee features teensy bubbles that lend to a smooth drinking experience. Shake the can vigorously before pouring it into a pint glass for consumption. This version features trendy MCT oil for added focus and energy. Also check out Nytro Jack’s other SKUs, which offer functional hemp oil, taurine and more. SRP: $3.49

Know Brainer Ketogenic Coffee Original

Designed to make consuming a full-fat, ketogenic morning coffee more convenient (no blender needed; just add hot water), this take-along squeeze pack contains a perfect blend of instant Arabica coffee, organic grass-fed clarified butter (also called ghee), organic cultured buttercream and 1 tablespoon of MCT oil for brain-supporting functionality. Each packet contains a filling 210 calories—enough to satiate the drinker until lunchtime. SRP: $2.50

Bulletproof Dark Chocolate with Collagen Protein

Bulletproof is founded on the premise that drinking coffee infused with healthy fats and proteins for breakfast can help maintain weight and focus throughout the day. This 190-calorie version features another hot keto ingredient—hydrolyzed collagen protein—for 15 grams protein per box. Grass-fed butter, Bulletproof’s signature Brain Octane oil and cold-brew coffee make this beverage a winner. SRP: $4.99

Perfect Keto Instant Keto Coffee French Vanilla

This powdered instant coffee mix has gained considerable traction with ketogenic consumers online, and it is sure to garner similar enthusiasm on your store shelf. Made with organic instant coffee, acacia fiber, stevia leaf extract and vanilla, this mix notably contains—wait for it—10,000 mg MCT oil and 7 grams saturated fat. Plus, it’s shelf stable. SRP: $17


Ready-to-drink tea


Honest Organic Lemon Grove Maple Black Tea

If you can believe it, Honest Tea launched 20 years ago. To celebrate, the company redesigned its glass packaging for a taller, more modern silhouette and launched a few more flavors. Our fave? Lemon Grove Maple Black Tea, which features USDA Organic brewed black tea from India sweetened with organic maple syrup and a healthy squeeze of lemon juice and ginger peel. It’s solid flavor innovation from a responsible legacy tea brand. SRP: $1.79

HopTea Sparkling The Green Tea One

HopTea is a new beverage designed to be consumed like, well, a hoppy imperial pale ale. Fruity, floral hops are brewed with organic green tea and then carbonated to produce a sparkling beverage that contains 60 mg of caffeine and no sugar or added sweeteners. Perfect for consuming at lunch, this canned beverage is also a top-notch choice for shoppers who want to eschew alcohol in social settings. SRP: $2.99

Shaka Tea Lemon Lokelani Rose

Hailing from Honolulu, this new and exciting beverage is made with mamaki, a traditional Hawaiian plant. What’s notable about Shaka Tea? The small company sources mamaki from regenerative partner farms from Hawaii and is dedicated to preserving the state’s biodiversity. This zero-sugar blend features hibiscus and monk fruit juice for natural sweetness. The price point is quite accessible, too. SRP: $2.29

8th Wonder Superfood Tea Ashwagandha Chai

The passionate folks behind this Colorado-based brand are obsessed with sourcing organic ingredients with a focus on integrity and traceability. Inside this delicious, robust beverage you’ll find fair trade cane sugar, black tea from Kenya and ashwagandha extract from India. A blend of apple juice, lemon juice, stevia and erythritol adds low-sugar sweetness. SRP: $2.99

Bali Tao 100% Mangosteen Juice + Green Tea

At 90 calories, this exciting beverage from Bali is devoted to bringing mangosteen—the traditional Southeast Asian fruit—to the United States market. Here, sweet-tart mangosteen juice is tempered by brewed green tea to craft a lighter, floral taste. Drink alone, or blend with sparkling water for a less sweet flavor. SRP: $3.49


Specialty tea


Nepali Tea Traders Spiced Black Tea Nepalese Masala

Dedicated to lifting up tea farmers in Nepal, one of the poorest countries, Nepali Tea is deeply driven by environmental and social stewardship. The company sources tea from high-altitude co-ops, where the tea is processed close to the farms. This version is a traditional Nepalese blend that contains black tea, cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, black pepper, star anise and more. SRP: $10.99

Hanuman Ayurvedic Chai Tea Bags Cooling Blend

While Hanuman Chai manufactures RTD tea blends, we’re obsessed with this cooling chai version in leaf format because it’s made with a delicious, USDA Organic blend containing black assam tea, cardamom, ginger, turmeric, tulsi, amla, saffron, cinnamon, cloves and black pepper—a medley of ingredients that lend to significantly more nuanced flavor than we’ve tasted before. SRP: $11.99

Lov Organic Lov Is Zen

Packaged in elegant, silk bags, this fruity, French-designed tea is made with USDA Organic rooibos—a caffeine-free herbal tea from South Africa—apple pieces, lemon balm, blackberry leaves and orange. Brew hot and sip slowly for a decidedly cozy taste—which is near perfect after a chilly winter walk. We’re particularly obsessed with the tea’s fruity, autumnal flavor. SRP: $13.99

Buddha Teas Moringa Teas

This single-ingredient herbal product features organic moringa leaves packaged in sachets—that’s it! Moringa is a bright green, increasingly popular ingredient from Africa, Asia and South America that is garnering attention for its unparalleled health benefits, which include being rich in vitamin A and vitamin K, and minerals such as potassium. We like how Buddha Tea, in addition to stellar sourcing, is dedicated to planting more trees with its “Tea For Trees” campaign in partnership with the National Forest Foundation. SRP: $6.49 

The Tea Spot Organic Whole Leaf Herbal Tea Lights Out

This sleep-supporting blend of herbal tea is a USDA Organic wonder. Each sachet is filled with hibiscus, peppermint, licorice root, lavender, chamomile and valerian root, which will help your customers not only fall asleep, but also stay asleep. Bonus: The Tea Spot donates 10 percent of each sale to organizations that support cancer research and community wellness. SRP: $6.99

About the Author(s)

Jenna Blumenfeld


Jenna Blumenfeld lives in Boulder, Colorado, where she reports on the natural products industry, sustainable agriculture, and all things plant based. 

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