‘America Deserves Better Coffee’ – is the philosophy under which two men and an entire business operate. Todd Carmichael, CEO, and JP Iberti, President, of La Colombe Coffee Roasters founded their business over 20 years ago on this single premise. Carmichael’s philosophy of bringing the best, hand-sourced coffee from the world’s developing countries to people nationwide in La Colombe cafés is set to further extend to Americans this year thanks to a novel innovation and collaboration with Crown Holdings Inc. (crowncork.com).
Carmichael and his business, grounded in Philadelphia, were looking for a way to bring La Colombe’s coffee to those without access to one of his 14 cafés. With the help of Crown and the use of its new InnoValve™ can, the two companies were able to create a unique, textured coffee drink – the Draft Latte – while simultaneously breaking into a new, untapped textured beverage segment.
Making the vision a reality
The journey began as most great ones do – over coffee. Over one year ago, Carmichael met with Hamdi Ulukaya, friend, mentor and the founder of Chobani, and they talked about his plan to bring better coffee to American households, as well as café-style drinks to consumers everywhere. Ulukaya, an investor in La Colombe, took an interest in this idea and challenged Carmichael to develop it into something tangible and extraordinary.
Carmichael took on the challenge, and with his underlying philosophy and spirited passion driving the operation, he devised a plan. His goal was to create a packaged caffeinated drink that would later change the beverage industry – namely the Draft Latte. The packaged product’s texture would mimic the foam that comes with a latte prepared artisanal-style in one of La Colombe’s cafés, but the question was ‘how?’
Before Carmichael’s idea could be realized, the company was faced with finding the right packaging company to take on this mission. His vision required no ordinary glass or plastic bottle, but rather a unique metal can that could maintain the pre-packaged coffee’s peak freshness and recreate a foam-like texture to deliver the gustatory sensation and overall experience that comes with having a latte in a café. Carmichael chose metal packaging because it aligned with his philosophy as it is infinitely recyclable, environmentally responsible and part of the economy that he participates in.
After exploring his options and speculating about companies who epitomize innovation and invention, Carmichael consulted Crown, which is also headquartered in the forward-thinking city of Philadelphia, to help him bring his idea to fruition.
“Crown Holdings, the inventor of the crown cork and the leading global beverage can manufacturer seemed to be the obvious choice to help me deliver this solution to consumers nationwide. Although, when stacked up next to each other, our two companies had a David and Goliath feel, it turns out we worked together in unison to create something truly extraordinary,” says Carmichael.
Creating the perfect package
By mid-2015, Carmichael began sharing his ideas for the product with CROWN Beverage Packaging in an effort to garner support in executing his plans. The Crown team included Dr. Daniel Abramowicz, Executive Vice President Technology & Regulatory Affairs, Cigdem Knebel, Regional Sales Manager and Ron Skotleski, Director of Marketing, who were all motivated by and enthused about the possibility of working with such a passionate customer.
In order to create a canned latte drink complete with a foam texture, the can would need to be pierced with a hole in order to insert a valve. The valve would create a precise reaction in the liquid with the use of a nitrous oxide gas, similar to that found in products such as canned whipped cream.
“In the early stages, I had initially showed Crown a prototype of an aluminum can sealed with a volleyball valve in an effort to depict the effect I was going for. I was concerned about how Crown’s R&D team would react when it was briefed on my request to puncture an aluminum beverage can so we could force the gas inside,” Carmichael says. “Aluminum beverage cans are recognized for their excellent barrier properties and yet, I was asking Crown to deliberately create a hole in the can.”
This idea, while unlike something Crown has ever done, was a success for this application. Because of its many divisions, including the beverage and aerosol departments, along with best-in-class R&D personnel, Crown was uniquely qualified to deliver a solution. The Company provided a unique offering, an aerosol valve adapted for beverage cans that would create the desired foam in La Colombe’s Draft Latte.
As a result of this collaboration, Crown simultaneously created its new InnoValve can, a 10-ounce sleek-styled can for textured beverages that is a melding of Crown’s aerosol and beverage technologies. The InnoValve can is comprised of a proprietary one-way valve/grommet at the bottom of the can that compresses a nitrous oxide gas into the drink upon opening, in this case creating the textured foam.
A recipe for success
Comprised of fresh, cold-pressed La Colombe coffee and high-quality milk, the Draft Lattes are hermetically sealed in Crown’s InnoValve sleek-styled cans with a lip guard attached to the can end that is designed to mimic the feel of a to-go coffee mug.
Four draft flavors will be available in the initial launch phase: mocha, pure black & white (a cup of coffee and splash of milk) and a non-dairy latte. The lattes do not require shaking prior to serving and are best enjoyed cold. As a result of the companies’ collaboration, the drink will first be available at Philadelphia La Colombe locations and online. Following local availability, the product is set to expand nationally and internationally in retail stores.
“In partnering with La Colombe, Crown heard the needs of the customer, and in developing the InnoValve can, created an entire new market segment – packaged textured beverages,” Dr. Abramowicz says. “We are extremely excited for the endless possibilities and growth of La Colombe.”
The end result is not only the first of its kind, but it may also be the first of an entire generation of textured beverages. La Colombe also sees opportunities on the horizon for other textured beverages, such as smoothies.