With the proliferation of canned and bottled cold brew drinks from small specialty players to beverage behemoths like Coca-Cola and Nestlé, standing out on a crowded market shelf becomes ever more challenging.
Yet for the founders of a new sparkling canned cold brew company called Vivic (written as VIVIC by the company), an origin story involving remarkable synchronicity smacks of serendipity.
Before a chance meeting brought them together, Graham Gould and Louis Abruzzese had independently thought up a beverage formulation that would eventually be altered to become their company’s signature product.
Gould, working for Taylor Lane Organic Coffee in Sebastopol, California, had been playing around with sarsaparilla root in his off-menu flavor experiments.
“The first iteration actually had almond milk in it,” Gould told Daily Coffee News. “It was like a sparkling almond milk root beer coffee, which I thought was too many things. So I took out the almond milk, and it was just a splash of sarsaparilla and sparkling coffee, and the reactions I was getting showed me that it was something that I need to pursue.”
Meanwhile, while living in Sonoma and contending with the heat of the kitchen at the Glen Ellen Star restaurant, Abruzzese was combining shots of espresso with sparkling water and lemon syrup to cool off and keep his energy up.
A fortuitous encounter between Gould’s partner and Abruzzese’s father-in-law on a flight eventually led the two to meet, whereupon they decided to combine their two recipes, and voilá, Vivic was born.
Said Gould of that early meeting, “It was very clear that we needed to continue developing the concept and the line of flavors.”
The next step was sourcing coffee. Gould’s connections within the industry brought them to Guillermo Moran in Oakland. Moran is a fifth generation Salvadoran coffee farmer who had moved to California and set up an importing and roasting business to bring his family’s coffees to the United States.
“One of the foundational pillars to our brand is the fact that it is direct trade,” Gould said. “In fact it’s so direct trade that literally all the money we spend on the coffee, other than shipping, goes directly to Guillermo and his family.”
Currently Vivic, which grows from the Latin “viv” (life) offers three flavors, all slightly sweetened by cane sugar — original, sarsaparilla, and lavender — with more in development. These three flavors act as proof of concept for the brand, Gould explained, while also allowing the startup to target an audience of more than just strict coffee drinkers.
“We get a lot of people that either don’t like coffee or don’t drink coffee,” he said. “So we have the original, that’s kind of for the coffee drinker; sarsaparilla is kind of more for the soda drinker; and then the lavender is for the tea drinker.”
Moving forward, Gould and Abruzzese are working on a straight black, zero sugar version as well as a raspberry version, which the pair plan to introduce at the Natural Products Expo West event in March. Interestingly, the target market for their beverage has shifted somewhat since the company’s launch.
“When we first came up with the concept and started to do the branding and everything, we were like, ‘Oh, this is totally going to be for millennials, Gen X, all those young folks,’” Gould said. “And quickly through doing demos we were really surprised — we had a lot of baby boomer generation people buying multiple cases at a time.”
Vivic is currently hoping to gain a foothold in Bay Area grocery stores before heading south to Los Angeles and San Diego. From there they hope to move into New York and the Pacific Northwest before filling all the spaces in between, Gould said.
“We see the coffee industry as a whole as pretty boxed in. There’s an idea of what coffee should be, a lot of vanilla, caramel, chocolate, the same stuff over and over again,” Gould said. “And coffee is so versatile and complex; there’s raspberry notes and lemon notes, so why not use different ingredients to highlight those flavors? We’d like to bring life to the coffee industry by kind of breaking down those boxes of what coffee should be.”
Fionn Pooler is a freelance writer and former coffee professional based in Ann Arbor, Michigan.