Consumers have consistent appetites; it is not always about the next new thing. Just look at the film industry: most major blockbusters have been remakes and sequels over the last few decades. Something is comforting about nostalgia, about well-trodden paths. But that does not mean that consumers are averse to innovation, especially in the FMCG industry. Some companies have come out of nowhere to disrupt existing sectors – areas that are already saturated with well-funded, established market players – not by reinventing the wheel, but by putting a new spin on it.
Super Coffee is now the number three bottled coffee drink in the United States, but its first drink was bottled only 7 years ago, in CEO Jim DeCicco’s dorm room at Philadelphia University. Within that short span, the startup has a 500 million USD valuation, with 55 million USD in sales in 2020. High-profile investors include Jennifer Lopez, Alex Rodriguez, and Aaron Rodgers. Super Coffee has disrupted the energy drink market with its health-conscious spin on the original energy drink, coffee. Unlike sugar-laden energy drinks, Super Coffee’s products are naturally sweetened with monk fruit; they are also organic and keto-approved, containing MCT oil from coconut and lactose-free protein. This commitment to health has built up a loyal following, and the company prides itself in its avoidance of sugar. In fact, they feature a website counter that shows pounds of sugar that they have removed from the American diet due to people choosing Super Coffee over a competitor (over 10,000,000 pounds).
Barriers to Entry
Gaining their place on supermarket shelves was no easy task, especially with established players like Starbucks and Dunkin taking up as much space as possible. But Super Coffee looked to differentiate itself from the start. According to Mr DeCicco, “We wanted to create something that tastes good, is good for you, and gives you energy. All the other products on the market just tasted good. We realized that we couldn’t ask our customers to sacrifice flavour for health—we wanted to provide both”. But even with a great concept in mind, there were still huge barriers to entry. “Stores will only carry your products if you have a distributor that delivers them, and distributors will only carry your products if you have stores that will bring them there. When we started, we had neither of those things. And manufacturing facilities require distributors and stores, as well, because there are minimum orders”. So, DeCicco and his two older brothers rented the night shift of an assembly line between 8 PM and 6 AM. “All the grocery stores in the DC area opened at six or seven in the morning, so we would make product all night, load it into the van, and we’d basically do rock–paper–scissors to see which brother would make the deliveries”.
With massive valuations, increasing sales, and secure funding, the company is now looking to secure its future and improve its brand awareness. “Our brand awareness ranking is 4%. That means 96% of Americans have never heard about Super Coffee. The way we look at it: we’ve got good sales, we’ve got a lot of traction, we have loyal customers who buy our product. And with that, we have so much opportunity to get the brand out there”. If their meteoric rise is any indication, it looks like Super Coffee’s health-conscious spin on a well-established wheel has carved the company a niche that will pay dividends for years to come.