Cold-brew maker gets a new look
Richmond-based cold-brew coffee maker Convergent Coffee Co. rebrands as it looks to expand its distribution across the nation
The process of crafting nitro coldbrew coffee takes time, but a Richmond-based company isn’t wasting a second in its effort to bring its regional brand nationwide.
Convergent Coffee Co. recently announced a brand refresh, featuring a new look for its nitro-infused craft cold-brew coffee cans. The redesigned cans, which boast a new logo, will be available in retail stores in major markets this month.
“We’re creating a distinctive look and feel that reflects our craft brewing roots and who we are at the company,” CEO Steve Ball said.
The design update is the second piece of the budding national company’s rebrand.
The first came in August, when the company changed its name from Confluence Coffee Co. to Convergent Coffee Co. That decision was the result of a trademark conflict with a brewing company in Iowa.
The new name was chosen to preserve the essential meaning of the old one while keeping the product’s alliteration, Ball said.
“Confluence, the meaning is about coming together, and convergent is about coming together,” said Ball, who started working with the company in October. He also is one of the founders and the former CEO of “I and Love and you,” a premium pet food brand founded in 2012 in Boulder, Colo.
“We wanted to stay with the brand identity,” he said.
Convergent Coffee was founded by Mike Woitach and Terry Darcy in March 2015 in Washington, and
“There aren’t many nitro cold-brewed canned companies out there. I like to think we’re in a class of our own.” Ben Howard, Convergent Coffee Co. production manager
the pair moved operations to Richmond in 2016. It initially operated in a 1,600-square-foot space in the Manchester neighborhood of South Richmond, but moved its production operations to just over 10,000 square feet on Hermitage Road near The Diamond.
One of the co-founders remains as a minority shareholder, but the other is no longer involved in the business, the company said, declining to specify further.
Since its founding, Convergent Coffee has grown from a crowdfunding campaign into a brand that recently raised $2.3 million from individual investors, according to a U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filing.
The capital raise, which was completed in February, will be used to cover the costs of the rebranding and to support the company’s national expansion, Ball said.
“There aren’t many nitro cold-brewed canned companies out there,” production manager Ben Howard said. “I like to think we’re in a class of our own.”
Avrum Elmakis, Convergent Coffee’s board chairman, said he’s excited about the company’s future prospects.
“When I got involved, it was a very Richmond-centered company that didn’t have much, if any, distribution outside of the MidAtlantic,” said Elmakis, who, along with his wife, Lauren, in 2007 founded TDBBS LLC, the Henrico County-based company that sells natural dog treats and pet toys under the brands Best Bully Sticks, Barkworthies and Paw Luxury. Elmakis stepped down as CEO of TDBBS earlier this year but remains executive board chairman.
“Our job has really been to create a brand that can scale nationally,” Elmakis said about Convergent Coffee.
Despite the progress, a new name and logo can bring challenges for a company, said Kelly O’Keefe, a professor of brand management at the Virginia Commonwealth University Brandcenter.
“It’s a bit like starting all over again,” O’Keefe said. “If it has been marketed a great deal and now you want to change things dramatically, you’re kind of throwing away a lot of things you’ve invested in.”
But O’Keefe cautioned that the name and logo are only components of a brand — and not always the most important ones. “The key is making sure the product quality is as good as it can be.”
Nationally, the percentage of adults drinking specialty coffee daily, such as nitro cold brew, has risen from 14 percent in 2001 to 41 percent in 2017, according to the Specialty Coffee Association, a nonprofit organization that represents coffee professionals around the world.
Cold-brew coffee continues to enjoy popularity in the U.S., with total retail sales growing 460 percent from 2015 to 2017 to reach an estimated $38.1 million in 2017, according to data from consumer research firm Mintel.
Coffee giant Starbucks is the most notable company selling nitro cold brew,
though other smaller businesses also have entered the market.
To distinguish itself, Convergent Coffee takes pride in the uniqueness of its flavors and in its lengthy, hand-crafted brew process.
Last month, the company introduced a new vanilla-flavored nitro cold brew to its product lineup, which also includes its house, mocha and coconut flavors.
Though vanilla is a common flavor in coffee, Ball said, Convergent crafts its cold vanilla flavor in a different way. A can of its Nitro Vanilla has no added sugar and no dairy. The flavor, Ball said, comes directly from the organic vanilla bean introduced to the blend during the brew process.
That process, which includes five key steps, is “where the magic happens,” Ball said.
The coffee beans are first sourced and roasted by Blanchard’s Coffee Roasting Co., a Richmondbased company.
Those beans are then applied to a cold-brew process, which involves steeping the coffee in cold water for 20 hours. During the process, the concoction is infused with nitrogen to create a smoother taste that minimizes the need for added dairy. The nitrogen also adds a cascading factor to the coffee when poured, similarly to the stout-like consistency found in Guinness beer.
All stages of that process take place at Convergent Coffee’s production site on Hermitage Road. In November 2016, Woitach estimated that the company would be able to produce more than 135,000 cans a month in that facility. Ball declined to disclose current production figures.
“We feel that doing it all in four walls is the best way to ensure quality,”
Ball said. “Everything is hand-crafted. We’re putting the utmost quality in the product and the utmost time and attention.”
Convergent Coffee is currently sold in about 675 stores, the bulk of which are in the Mid-Atlantic and on the West Coast. The company also has commitments to sell its products in at least 2,000 stores by the end of the year.
The coffee cans are carried in Whole Foods stores in the Mid-Atlantic and locally at Ellwood Thompson’s Local Market, Stella’s Grocery, Pop’s Market on Grace and Carytown Cupcakes, among others.
The 12-ounce cans sell for about $3.99.
“We were a regional brand up until the end of last year,” Ball said. “Now, we have an office in the West to open up western distribution, and we’re launching in the Denver market this month.”
The company employs seven people at its Richmond facility and has three employees based out of its office in Denver, where Ball works.
Soon, Convergent Coffee will introduce two new seasonal flavors for the holidays. Those flavors, which haven’t been revealed yet, will likely be available in September.
“We’re definitely one of the fastest, if not the fastest, growing cold-brew companies out there,” Ball said.
Derick Tickle, head brewer at Convergent Coffee Co. in Richmond, fills out a temperature log. The nitro cold-brew coffee company operates on Hermitage Road near The Diamond.
Convergent Coffee Co. has four cold-brew flavors — house, vanilla, mocha and coconut.