We caught up with Oregon brand co-founder Paul Evers to learn more about clean caffeine, the key ingredient in the brand’s sustainable positioning, and how Riff Cold Brewed hopes to nurture the coffee industry. in the broad sense to be more sustainable.
What was your inspiration behind Riff Cold Brewed?
Trying to find out what the next exciting new category was, my son Bobby (co-founder of Riff Cold Brewed) and I started to develop an idea and landed in the cold brew coffee business.
I saw parallels between what was going on with cold brew coffee in the coffee category and what I had already seen happening with craft beer in beer. You had smaller producers who were more innovative, not really stuck in well-established methods of marketing and product development and strategy, and were more nimble and more prone to experimentation. This is what got me excited about the cold beer category.
We set out to create a great brand of cold brew coffee that brought artisan sensibility to the segment with innovation and creativity. We wanted to produce the best quality cold brew coffee in the world and we launched a product in the market in 2018.
We are a resolutely motivated company. Our vision is to explore and celebrate 100% of the agricultural value of the coffee tree to help reverse coffee’s contribution to climate change and create greater economic viability for coffee producers while delivering something great and beneficial. to consumers. We can only maximize the impact if we have a scale.
Why did you choose the RTD format?
We have been predominantly RTD from the very beginning, so packaged and single serve. We have a draft offering with our cold brew coffees, but 95% of our business is packaged single serve containers that are RTD. This is how we can get a ladder. Our Riff Energy + Immunity product is pasteurized and has a shelf life of at least 365 days, so shelf stability helps with the single serving formula.
If you look at the back of the box of our Riff Energy + Immunity, it has the same amount of caffeine as a cup of coffee, 120 milligrams. Consumers understand this, it’s familiar.
You discovered cascara – what was interesting about this ingredient from the start?
The first item that interested people when harvesting coffee was cascara, the dried skins of coffee cherries. But what has become popular for export are beans. Everyone knows what coffee is, but not everyone knows that coffee is a fruit and that there is this wasted by-product of the coffee harvest called cascara.
Cascara is also loaded with nutritional value. It contains potassium, iron and antioxidants. It ranks very well in the superfruit category.
How did you start to experience the cascara?
Building on this commitment to innovation and experimentation, we started working with cascara. I was fascinated by it. We therefore imported a dry cascara, dried at the source because it was perforated and vulnerable to microbes. We imported whole dried cherries, basically the fruit, fruity pulp and peel dried together, then started experimenting with soaking.
The skin of the fruit is punctured at the source, in the first stage of processing, when extracting the coffee beans from the fruit (although they are not beans, they are a two-headed seed in a fruit, like a stone fruit).
My co-founder, Nate Armbrust, had worked with cascara in the past, so he knew him. We have created a drink made from cascara. It has evolved into the product we just released, a ready-to-drink, sparkling, natural, clean energy drink.
What does clean caffeine mean to you and how does it help?
Clean Caffeine is a plant-based source of caffeine that’s good for you. It is not synthetic, produced in the laboratory. It also means the whole ingredient panel is good for you and clean. Our new drink is completely herbal. We have natural flavors in there that are organic.
For us, it is pure caffeine, as the source of the caffeine is specifically from cascara and the caffeine is also from green coffee. Then, as part of a larger offer, the whole product is clean.
Our solution is to make the cascara known by translating it into a product with promising scale to generate demand. It also leads to a social impact in the coffee growing regions. There are 25 million small farmers around the world who grow 80% of the total coffee. The vast majority are going through very difficult times to make a reliable living. By transforming the cascara and selling it, they could potentially double their income or income and double their employment.
It would therefore also be a victory in injecting some economic equity into the supply chain. We are helping to save the planet. Then we translate the cascara into something that consumers can actually benefit from. That brings us to the Energy + Immunity clean caffeine drink we just released last month.
What are you most proud of so far?
We are very proud of the fact that Riff Energy + Immunity is carbon neutral. This is a conclusion that an Oregon State University researcher brought us, and she was very excited because she said: “You are on the verge of being carbon neutral”. She did her math based on keeping the cascara from going to landfill and then the math around the packaging and all the different ingredients.
We have a small deficit that we have to fill by planting trees; about three or four trees per pallet are produced. We achieve this by working with a nonprofit in Oregon, USA called Grow Ahead. They work directly with coffee growing communities and reforestation projects. We are also working with a group in Peru, which is planting trees in coffee plantations which also help by providing shade and mitigating rising temperatures.
We continue, as we move forward, to critically examine our packaging and the composition of our ingredients to ensure that we are gradually improving our carbon footprint.
What are your short and long term goals and what impact do you hope to have on the caffeine market?
Our main goal is to be the champion of cascara and to lead the way in raising awareness of cascara and all of its holistic benefits, including helping the environment, coffee growing communities and consumers. I have contacted other brands that operate cascara and produce cascara drinks in hopes of forming a business group so that we can unite and work together to move this forward.
We love coffee and our goal is to explore and celebrate 100% of the agricultural value of the coffee plant. On the cascara side, we are looking to expand and plan to have national distribution here in the next two to three years.