Bottled coffee concentrate startup Explorer Cold Brew Company has raised $2.5 million in seed funding. The capital injection follows a previous seed round of $1.5 million raised by the Brooklyn, New York-based company in June of 2021.
The money will be used to grow the brand, whose four core products boast specific caffeine levels and flavor profiles. Explorer Cold Brew was founded in 2020 by mountaineer Cason Crane, who is credited with being the first openly LGBTQ-identifying person to summit Mount Everest and The Seven Summits.
The current seed round was co-led by billionaire hedge fund manager Bill Ackman’s personal investment vehicle, Table Management, and the consumer product-focused investment firm NewBound Venture Capital. The round also involved more than a dozen angel investors.
Roasting for the brand is currently executed by Renton, Washington-based Distant Lands Coffee, while concentrate production is handled by Austin, Texas-based cold brew co-packer Brew N Bottle.
The four currently available versions of Explorer Cold Brew coffee concentrates are called No Caf, Low Caf, Reg Caf and Extra Caf, indicating the relative caffeine content of the 1:4 ratio in diluted finished servings.
Each also features its own individual coffee or blend developed by a team of three specialty coffee professionals Crane has enlisted from around the world. Explorer’s “Tastemakers” included CEO of South African company Truth Coffee, David Donde; Certified Q Grader and Kalei Coffee Co-Founder Dalia Jaffal of Beirut, Lebanon; and Indonesian Barista Champion Mikael Jasin, founder of Melbourne-based cafe and sourcing consultancy So So Good Coffee Company.
“We worked together to taste dozens and dozens of different iterations of our concentrates,” Crane told DCN. “I’m so grateful to have had their input and guidance throughout that process, especially because of their deep expertise and respect in the coffee industry.”
No Caf is a Swiss Water processed organic Peruvian coffee blended with roasted French chicory. Low Caf is the Peruvian bean blended with a coffee from Ethiopia and chicory. Reg Caf is the Ethiopian coffee as a pure, single-origin brew, and the Extra Caf is the Ethiopian coffee plus chicory and an additional boost of green-coffee-derived caffeine.
“My family is from Louisiana, and I grew up loving the taste of the ubiquitous chicory coffee,” said Crane. “So it was important to me that we have some of our concentrates have that ‘Nola’ style flavor, while still offering others with a more traditional profile.”
After launching with online sales during the height of the pandemic era in 2021, Explorer struck a distribution deal in June of last year with Delta airlines that brought the cold brew concentrates on board for certain transcontinental and long-haul Hawaii flights. Passengers get a single-serve 2-ounce bottle of concentrate alongside water and ice.
Also within the past year, Explorer has fleshed out its offerings to include a gift box, chai and various “functional elixir” additives. Plans include expanding sales into additional retail and grocery channels while introducing new branding and package design.
“There are so many folks out there who, like me, absolutely love their cold brew, but wish they could have more choice in the caffeine content,” said Crane. “Explorer offers that and so much more, and 2023 is going to be the year that our caffeine conscious approach to cold brew goes mainstream.”
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Howard Bryman is the associate editor of Daily Coffee News by Roast Magazine. He is based in Portland, Oregon.