BevNET: Beekeeper Coffee Co-Founders Talk NBA Inspiration, Market Moves

Posted: 10/11/2023
BevNET: Beekeeper Coffee Co-Founders Talk NBA Inspiration, Market Moves

Beekeeper Brings “New Voice” to RTD Cold Brew

October 4, 2023 by Martín Caballero

Pressurized margins. Competition from all sides. A scary high failure rate. Breaking into RTD coffee is not for the faint of heart.

But with the backing of a seasoned team of brand builders and well-connected operators, Beekeeper thinks it has a shot. The new brand is hoping its four-SKU line of 8 ounce canned cold brews launched online in late September — available in Double Black (dairy-free), Vanilla, Mocha and Caramel, all of which are sweetened with a “drop of honey,” though aren’t honey-flavored — can disrupt a tight category, if not necessarily overnight.

Speaking with BevNET last week, co-founders Paul Rivera, co-creator of Max’s “The Shop” and the Chief Brand Officer of Springhill Co., and David Creech, co-founder of wellness brand builder Adopt and a former design lead at Nike, said they were tackling this new challenge in CPG with the same principles that have served them well thus far: finding white space in a category and attacking.

But coffee wasn’t necessarily an obvious one; to start, when exploratory discussions began around the business over two years ago, Rivera didn’t drink coffee and was wary of getting involved in a project he didn’t “truly believe in” until Creech helped change his mind.

“David’s point to me was, ‘I look at that as an opportunity. What if we could create something that you that you would want to drink?'” Rivera explained.

Coffee’s heightened profile within NBA circles, having taken off while players were isolated in the quarantine “bubble” in 2020, was also an influential factor that opened a window to more white space: amidst the multitude of coffee options now available in locker rooms, the Beekeeper team saw athletes looking for a more choices to satisfy their pre- and post-game caffeine cravings.

“That was another kind of confirmation that we were doing something that was needed because this young generation of not just athletes but also the people around them were craving that,” said Creech.

Beekeeper isn’t the only coffee maker to have made the connection to sports: Super Coffee — itself founded by college ballers the DeCicco brothers — offers low-sugar coffees boosted with protein, as do Slate, OWYN and Alani Nu. But in terms of formulation, Beekeeper’s point of differentiation is the added drop of honey, which Creech described as “a perfect balance that gives texture and flavor with the other ingredients.”

Outside of the Double Black (zero calories, zero sugar) variety, that drop of honey is accompanied by 8 grams of protein and 7 grams of added cane sugar in the milk-added SKUs, with each clocking in at 150 calories and 17 grams of sugar per 8 ounce can (160 calories and 18 grams of sugar for Mocha).

Perhaps more importantly, the brand’s NBA connections, and specifically Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James, run deep. James helped to bring “The Shop” to HBO as a producer, and Rivera later became an investor in his James’ premium tequila label, Los Lobos 1707. That extends to Beekeeper’s other co-founders: Fara Leff is also Chief Operating Officer of James’ management firm, Klutch Sports Group, while Andrew and Nate Forbes are the former minority owners of the Cleveland Cavaliers, the team that drafted James and where he played for 11 seasons.

That leads to the next question: is James or any of his fellow NBA stars involved with Beekeeper? The company hasn’t confirmed anything as of yet, but that could be coming soon.

Yet Beekeeper is clearly looking to leverage its connections to sports and entertainment: after seeding on D2C, Creech said the next step is to “actually take it to where we see our core consumer” by stepping into hospitality accounts, specifically ports arenas. The brand’s deep network means it can tap into moments with “natural activations” with sports and culture: think Super Bowl, Formula 1 and NBA All-Star Games.

Despite their successful individual track records, Rivera credited the group for “knowing what we did not know” in CPG and looking toward experienced industry voices to fill in the knowledge gaps. Those include a CEO, who joined roughly nine months ago, and a VP of marketing. Having other ventures to sustain cash flow has also meant the company can move at a more deliberate pace.

“We won’t sit here and say we were geniuses enough in the beginning,” said Rivera. “I think the more research we did, the more excited we got about the opportunity. That excitement came from realizing how really interconnected it all was, from the
Beekeeper name to how we feel about community.”


Link to article: