Specialty instant coffee maker Voila has joined the pre-ground coffee capsule fray with a new product and service called Voila Labs.
Voila Labs offers creatively packaged Nespresso-compatible capsules made from eco-friendly materials and containing high-quality specialty coffee. The concept also aims to remove all barriers for consumers through an innovative text-based ordering system for United States customers.
Voila Founder Kent Sheridan told Daily Coffee News that the company has partnered with European coffee packaging and services company Mo Coffee, which roasts beans sourced by Voila and then grinds and packages them in Voila-branded biodegradable, compostable capsules.
“We think that out of all the compostable and biodegradable capsules out there, the Voila capsules set a new standard,” Sheridan told Daily Coffee News. “It’s so difficult to get great results across so many different machines, different water qualities, etc., but we accomplished that with some amazing coffees.”
The capsules represent a departure from Voila’s core offerings, which are packets of soluble coffee designed to be mixed into hot water. Those have been sold by Voila and partnering roasting companies seeking an “instant specialty’ solution. Voila Labs, then, moves from “instant specialty” into “specialty capsule” territory for shorter, espresso-style brews.
The first offering from Voila Labs is a Voila Espresso Discovery Pack that includes 30 capsules, 10 each of three different single-origin specialty-grade coffees.
“I’ve been a fan of specialty Nespresso capsules for years now, but would always import them from overseas,” said Sheridan. “I felt that it was time to take specialty capsules to the U.S. market and show that this is possible and [that it] creates really impressive results at home, without spending a couple grand on a home espresso machine,” Sheridan said. “I practice what I preach, too, because five years ago I sold my Linea Mini and K30 in exchange for a Nespresso Citiz with a milk frother, and have zero regrets.”
For the text-to-order system, customers fill out a form that includes a shipping address and payment source to be kept on file. New coffee releases are announced via text message, to which customers can reply with the single-word response “order,” and the product will ship to their door.
“The goal was to design a truly zero-friction checkout experience,” said Sheridan. “It’s been really fun to try and create an entirely new way to order. We’ve learned a lot and have had some success creating a process that recognizes text and places orders, but I don’t think it’s perfected yet. I look forward to developing this further and having more offerings come through the text platform.”
Apart from increasing convenience, the system is also designed to create more of a bond with consumers than can be gained through traditional marketing channels such as email and social media. The bare-bones Voila Labs website features a retro look with Web 1.0 elements and a Birmingham, Alabama-area phone number placed front and center.
Moving forward, subscribers to Voila Labs texts will be the first to learn about newly encapsulated coffee offerings, as well as other innovations.
“We’ll have really fun limited releases coming through Labs,” said Sheridan. “But we also have a handful of really cool innovations and new products that we want our Labs members to test and have first access to.”
Howard Bryman is the associate editor of Daily Coffee News by Roast Magazine. He is based in Portland, Oregon.