When Greg Steltenpohl founded Los Angeles-based Califia Farms LLC in 2010, producing nitrogen-infused and cold-brew coffees was not yet on his radar. Best known for its premium plant-based almond milks that are packaged in iconic hourglass-shaped carafes, Califia Farms’ portfolio has grown to include more than 60 SKUs, including a variety of almond milks, coffee creamers as well as a line of specialty citrus juices. Yet, its ready-to-drink (RTD) cold-brew coffees and coffee concentrates have provided extensive reach into the coffee category.

When Califia Farms first entered the coffee category in 2013, the company opted to develop a product that utilized a cold-brewing process in which the coffee beans are steeped in cold water instead of the common hot brewing process. But this summer, the company took its RTD coffee portfolio to the next level with the introduction of Nitro Cold Brew, a line of nitrogen-infused, dairy-free coffees.

The chief executive officer says his company’s quest to “relentlessly deliver game changing plant-based beverages and products that taste great and promote health for both people and the planet” continually drives him and his team of 180 employees.

The company’s pursuit of innovation is another driver. “Califia’s company’s culture is based on constant innovation — with new products and categories constantly being explored — all with the goal of delivering something new and better, from flavor to ingredients to design,” he explains. “Just as our authentic, premium almond milks reinvented the alternative dairy category, we’re hard at work doing the same in the coffee space. To further that end, we’ve brought on coffee guru Brian Lovejoy from artisanal producer Verve Coffee in Santa Cruz to lead our efforts.”

Introduced at this year’s Summer Fancy Food Show in New York, Califia Nitro Cold Brew is packaged in 10.5-ounce aluminum bottles and available nationwide in three flavors: Latte, Mocha and New Orleans. The line blends almond and macadamia milks with cold-brew coffee made from a specially curated, signature blend of direct-sourced beans from Colombia, Guatemala and El Salvador, and is then infused with nitrogen to bring out the natural sweetness of the coffee in a silky, micro-foam reminiscent of a dark draft beer, Steltenpohl says.

“These are the first dairy-free, nitro draft, cold-brew lattes on the market,” he says. “Our expert food science research and development team has developed an exclusive process for creating and maintaining thousands of nitrogen bubbles in the aluminum bottle. Cold brewing gives coffee a unique taste profile, minimizing acid while keeping the flavors of the bean at the forefront.

“Nitro takes cold brew to another level by creating a new taste experience and a healthy, non-alcoholic alternative to a refreshing craft beer experience,” he continues. “With our Nitro Cold Brew, we have untapped what we consider the next great adventure in coffee: a creamy, yet dairy-free, cold-brew latte that is free from soy, gluten and excess sugars.” 

The unsweetened sweet spot

To keep pace with consumers, particularly millennials, who are seeking premium, natural energy alternatives, Califia Farms recently introduced a line of Black Label Cold Brew coffees, which “are at the ‘unsweetened’ sweet spot of the cold-brew coffee craze: pure, smooth, unadulterated,” Steltenpohl says. 

Steltenpohl adds that he was compelled to dive deeper into the coffee category partly due to the success of the company’s line of cold-brew coffees, which are packaged in 48-ounce multi-serve bottles and 10.5 ounce single-serve bottles and are available in such flavors as Café Latte, Double Espresso, Salted Caramel, Mocha Mexica and Triple Shot. The company also releases seasonal offerings as part of the lineup, including its vegan Pumpkin Spice Latte, which hit store shelves in the fall, and a Peppermint Mocha Cold Brew will be out for the holidays, he says. 

Other clean-energy offerings from Califia Farms include Full Shot, a vegan, plant-based cold-brew coffee that features 6 grams of plant protein and
2 grams of medium-chain triglycerides; and Black & White, which contains no sugar and blends creamy almond milk and Arabica coffee.

“Our unsweetened almond milk SKUs are category leaders, so we knew that our unsweetened cold-brew blends (Full Shot and Black & White) would also be standout performers,” Steltenpohl says. “This flavor trend (no added sugar, coffee-forward taste profile) is really resonating with our consumers.” 

Although Steltenpohl notes that the cold brew and nitro cold-brew sub-segments are only a small percentage of the RTD coffee segment now, he expects the sub-segment will continue to grow and thrive.

“We launched Califia Nitro Cold Brew in mid-summer this year, and demand has been extremely high,” he says. “We’re currently supplying Target and Whole Foods stores nationwide and are continually expanding our distribution.”

In a competitive coffee market, Steltenpohl says his products stand out because they are crafted with care and are full of incredible flavor and functional ingredients.

“All of our products are created with one overriding principle: to provide something different, something better,” he says. “We strive to create products that make people feel better — both during and after consumption. We believe everyone deserves better coffee.” BI