From the heart of Brooklyn, N.Y., the home of Coney Island and the Brooklyn Bridge, comes RealBeanz, a ready-to-drink gourmet iced coffee company brimming with New York pride. The self-described “up-and-coming” brand plays off of the classic, artsy Brooklyn vibe to showcase its borough spirit and connect with its “kind of young, kind of hip, and kind of fresh” consumers in the 18- to 35-year-old demographic group, says Jenna Burke,  director of public relations and social media for RealBeanz. 

“[Brooklyn is] like the new Manhattan,” she says. “I don’t know if it’s completely there yet, but a lot of people are writing a lot of good things about Brooklyn. There’s a cool buzz going on about it, and I thought that our brand aligns with that. We’re based in Brooklyn, [and] we’re highly concentrated in Brooklyn right now.”

To incorporate the Brooklyn vibe into the brand, the company launched creative featuring the Brooklyn Bridge as well as graffiti to highlight the artsy spirit of the borough.

“People are loving the look, and it’s just being received really well,” Burke says.

The brand also focuses its marketing power on Brooklyn- and New York City-based events and publicity campaigns, including partnerships with charity races, Columbia University in New York City and Brooklyn Magazine, to create buzz in the tristate area, she says.

“We’re doing a ton of sampling,” Burke says. “We have full-time brand ambassadors, and we have them going around Manhattan and New York and sampling and getting people to just try the product, and that most likely converts into a sale.”

Like the Brooklyn Dodgers, the Major League Baseball team that packed its bags and headed west to become the Los Angeles Dodgers in time for the 1958 season, RealBeanz also hopes to eventually bring its Brooklyn vibe to the West Coast through marketing events, such as music festival sponsorships, Burke adds.

A ‘Real’ commitment

RealBeanz got its start in August 2011 in the local market with five original flavors — Cappuccino, Diet Cappuccino, Caramel, Mocha and Vanilla Nut — but its popularity encouraged the brand to expand into nationwide distribution last July. The beverages now are available in Fairway Markets, Safeways and Whole Foods Market stores across the country, as well as in several New York delis, convenience stores and other retailers on the East Coast, for $1.99 to $2.49 for a 9.5-ounce bottle, Burke says. The brand hopes to see double-digit growth every year in the future, adds Serge Freund, president of RealBeanz.

The different flavors RealBeanz has to offer have functional benefits and contain vitamins and natural-infused herbs, Burke says. Last year the brand added Cappuccino Refresh and Dark Roast Refresh varieties with coconut water to its portfolio.

“Obviously coconut water is this huge fad, and it’s a huge trend. Some people love it, some people don’t love it,” Burke says. “Iced coffee has such a distinctive taste that it overpowers the taste of the coconut water. It’s a lighter blend with the addition of the coconut water. It kind of evens out the taste while keeping the functional benefits of coconut water without having too intense of a coconut water flavor.”

Burke says the Dark Roast with coconut water product is popular at tasting events and samplings because of the lighter taste profile that coconut water adds to the mix. “People are always intrigued with the coffee and coconut [water] mixture and always comment how refreshing it tastes,” she says. “With the launch of the Cappuccino with coconut water, I have seen many non-coffee drinkers turn into coffee-coconut fans. Both are always well received.”

On top of that, the brand is committed to using 100-percent natural ingredients to give consumers a better-for-you functional beverage experience, according to the brand’s website.

“We don’t want to just satisfy taste buds; we want to enhance everyone’s lifestyle without the harmful chemicals,” Burke says. “As a health-conscious, functional beverage brand, it only makes sense to add the all-natural component. We want to be a brand that promotes healthy living. We want to continue promoting the healthy beverage evolution and really keep people on this health kick. This is where the food and beverage industry is going, and it aligns perfectly with our brand’s message.”

RealBeanz on the scene

In addition to a social media presence and traditional public relations pitches and advertising, RealBeanz recognizes the importance of being out on the street with target consumers to promote the better-for-you products.

“I think that these days it’s hard for people to go to a brand’s Facebook page and really experience [the product], especially with a beverage,” Burke says. “We really want people to try the product — experience the product. Many times when consumers see or hear the words ‘healthy,’ ‘vitamins’ or ‘all-natural,’ they might assume the taste of the product will not meet their standards. Their reaction is what gives us pride in our product — they love it. If they’re not head over heels for a certain flavor, it’s because everyone takes their coffee differently, which is why we carry several different flavors and functions to satisfy everyone. Right now, the experience is how we are acquiring fans in the social world.” She adds that the sampling events also are a great way to garner feedback as consumers taste the product for the first time.

To combine their social media presence and marketing events strategy, RealBeanz hosted the RealBeanz.RealPeople Scavenger Hunt last August. “That was very social media-driven,” Burke says. “[The brand and participants] were tweeting the entire time, so that was a really good social media push.” The brand also made YouTube videos at the event to promote RealBeanz.

The one-day event challenged fans to race around Manhattan, New York, to find and solve clues to compete for tickets to Nolcha Fashion Week: New York, which also was sponsored by RealBeanz and took place in September 2012 at Pier 59 Studios in New York. Reality TV stars from ABC’s “The Bachelor,” “The Bachelorette” and “Bachelor Pad” co-hosted the event with the brand to meet and greet participants at checkpoints and the kick-off party and after-party. A portion of the proceeds from the event were donated to Blythedale Children’s Hospital in Valhalla, N.Y., Burke says.

In February, the brand partnered with Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in New York to distribute RealBeanz beverages in VIP gift bags, which helped the brand garner some positive tweets from celebrities, Burke adds. 

 “It’s always good to have a social media presence,” she adds. “While social media is creating brand awareness and has people intrigued, it’s really important not to forget about the value of face-to-face interaction at events, samplings, etc. This is how RealBeanz is truly gaining ‘real’ fans. We have a lot planned for the year 2013, and a lot to look forward to.”