Whole Foods Launches Plant-Based Beverage Line from Koia
As it has done with all new product rollouts, plant-based beverage manufacturer Koia is giving steady partner Whole Foods Market an exclusive launch window for its latest ready-to-drink innovation.
The functional coffee lineup initially spans three flavors – vanilla latte, mocha latte and salted caramel – and boasts ingredients such as MCT oil and coconut milk that the company says deliver healthy fats and aid with cognitive enhancement, sharpened focus and sustained energy.
Competing in the coffee set alongside brands such as Bulletproof, the SKUs hit Whole Foods endcap beverage coolers in January with an accompanying violator touting the products as new and exclusive while promising “a jolt of protein with 0g of added sugar.”
“We’re excited to unveil a premium-quality coffee product that’s wholly plant-based, convenient and fresh, and that will expand the Koia brand into a new cooler – the refrigerated coffee section – within retailer locations,” Koia co-founder and chief executive officer, Chris Hunter, told William Reeds’ BeverageDaily.
Koia, a Southern California company, entered the market in 2016 with national distribution for its core protein shakes at Whole Foods, helping the brand gain credibility among health-focused consumers in the highly competitive chilled beverage section. The following year, Koia began to steadily widen distribution to additional retailers. Most notably, the company announced entrance into 400 Walmart stores in October 2018 and 530 Target locations in February 2019.
Koia was simultaneously expanding beyond its core product offering to launch a line of beverages that fit into the ketogenic diet trend. That lineup also first rolled out to Whole Foods before quickly expanding distribution to more than 3,000 U.S. stores when the grocer’s six-month exclusivity period ended, Hunter told BevNet.com. In total throughout 2019, Koia doubled its core product’s retail footprint to more than 8,000 stores, including the natural and specialty, conventional grocery, mass, convenience and food service channels. The brand is additionally available via AmazonFresh.
Hunter told BevNet that Koia recently completed a test run in select 7-Eleven stores and will soon expand to additional locations across the U.S. The brand was part of a “Sips + Snacks That Love You Back” program the convenience store chain tested in Los Angeles. “We support emerging brands who are innovating unique flavors or healthy alternatives. We know they are important to today’s customers so we have launched a test of 100 of those emerging brands in our L.A. test market, and customers are loving it,” 7-Eleven president and CEO Joe DePinto said in a LinkedIn post last summer.
Koia also participated in 7-Eleven’s Brands with Heart Summit in last October. “Three years ago when we launched, I’d never have thought I’d be saying that we’re going to be selling in 7-Eleven,” Hunter told BevNet. “It validates that the c-store consumer is now looking for better-for-you options like Koia.”
While Koia’s latest coffee lineup also fits within the keto diet’s restrictions, the current keto consumer is already educated and will calculate net carbs on their own, allowing Koia to tailor the new line’s marketing to the average coffee consumer seeking “an elevated option,” Hunter told BevNet. He attributes much of the company’s growth to aggressive field marketing and increased sampling efforts, which the company is now planning to expand beyond its hometown market.
To that end, Koia recently hired its first chief marketing officer, Chris Pruneda, who was previously CMO of Cece’s Veggie Co. and has held marketing positions at Brownie Brittle, Pirate Brands and Coca-Cola Co.’s Vitaminwater.
New data from the Plant Based Food Association and The Good Food Institute shows U.S. retail sales of plant-based foods increased 11.4% last year to $5 billion, while the total U.S. retail food market only grew dollar sales by 2.2% and was flat in unit sales. “Plant-based foods remain a growth engine, up 29% over the last two years,” said PBFA senior director of retail partnerships Julie Emmet. “Growth is fueled by innovation in categories across the stores, and retailers are responding by expanding shelf space to satisfy the rapidly expanding consumer base seeking more plant-based foods.”