Beverage Digest is walking the show floor along with about 65,000 other attendees at Expo West in California this week. We'll investigate natural ingredient trends that could one day drive the growing and profitable functional packaged beverage market. We're also looking for what's new within existing ready-to-drink segments and product lines, and talking to the founders and leaders who propel the sector.
We'll share our observations in live updates here, so check back through the next couple of days.
Subscribers can email us if there is something specific you'd like to ask about. For those attending the show, feel free to send any noteworthy observations as well.
Back in my Bloomberg News days a decade ago, a colleague and ex-options trader, who was often intrigued by health and profit hacks, brewed a cup of Keurig coffee one morning and whisked it with grass-fed butter. He extolled the virtues of the concoction for both health and mental acuity. He believed it gave him the kind of physical edge that folks on Wall Street and Silicon Valley are forever striving to unlock.
Before long, seemingly everyone looking for an edge was talking about that trend and the brand fueling it, Bulletproof. Founder David Asprey had been energized by the yak-butter tea he drank during a meditation excursion in Tibet. Asprey introduced US consumers to grass-fed butter coffee by way of Bulletproof in 2013. The company included a healthy fat called MCT oil to provide energy to the brain and body. Bulletproof became a cornerstone of the keto diet fad, a modern on a low-carb diet. Keto encouraged consumption of quality fats and protein.
Bulletproof sold plenty of coffee beans, pods, and MCT oil. However, the company’s ready-to-drink offering, launched in 2017, hasn’t caught on and may have been too late, despite the brand’s keto-on-the-go promise. Instead, Super Coffee has dominated the MCT-infused keto coffee space. A 2018 appearance on Shark Tank, investments from the likes of NFL quarterback Aaron Rogers and pop star Jennifer Lopez, and a 2020 national distribution partnership with Anheuser-Busch has propelled that brand to the forefront.
That’s why Starbucks’ launch of olive oil infused coffees at a cafe in Italy is especially eye-catching. Called Oleato, the barista-prepared drinks — in hot and iced forms — appear to take cues from the MCT coffee craze, although Starbucks’ pitch is all about mouthfeel. “The alchemy of Starbucks arabica coffee and premium Partanna extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) creates an entirely new experience, taking on a depth and dimension that simply must be tasted to be believed,” the company’s website states. The drinks are headed to California in the spring.
As I tweeted last week, Oleato is just the kind of innovation that could one day jump to the RTD market by way of Starbucks’ JV with PepsiCo. That successful partnership has...
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