Redesigned cans and RTDs hope to attract a wider audience to illy

By Beth Newhart

- Last updated on GMT

“We’re excited about it because we know the category’s growing, RTD is growing and we know cold brew adoption is growing."
“We’re excited about it because we know the category’s growing, RTD is growing and we know cold brew adoption is growing."

Related tags Coffee Coffee consumption Cold brew Cold brew coffee ready-to-drink

New ready-to-drink cold brew from Italian coffee company illy was set to debut at Expo West this month. But despite the cancellation, plans are moving forward with the hopes of attracting younger customers to the upscale brand.

The new product is made with illy’s classic blend of 100% Arabica beans, then cold brewed for 12 hours for a flavor that’s naturally sweet with minimal acidity. They have no preservatives, added colors or flavors.

Illy already sells five RTD coffees, the Café, Café Unsweetened, Café Latte, Cappuccino and Mochaccino, which the Cold Brew joins.

Growing cold brew adoption

Barry Sheldon, president and COO of illy, told BeverageDaily that the launch is still on track for April in the US, and the supply chain is steady in Europe. He noted that it would have been great to introduce the product at Expo West, having everyone in one place, but that things are continuing despite the setbacks.

“We’re excited about it because we know the category’s growing, RTD is growing and we know cold brew adoption is growing. With that, we believe we can introduce the illy brand to a lot of younger consumers, and introduce them to the brand equity,”​ Sheldon said.

Even with a crowded cold brew industry, illy believes there is a specific home for their new product. Traditionally, illy attracts high income consumers, as a ‘trade up’ for the coffee category and at premium pricing.

The cold brew will utilize new packaging in 12oz slim cans, and other illy products will soon transition over to that packaging.

Massimiliano Pogliani, CEO of illycaffè, said "Illy Cold Brew Ready-to-Drink reflects our desire to provide consumers many other occasions to enjoy the taste and the quality of illy coffee, keeping in step with modern consumption trends.”

Alongside the cans, illy will launch the Cold Brew product in a bag-in-box format for away from home channels. It has a shelf life of over a year and doesn’t use nitrogen to transform the product. Rather, air is injected into the product using a valve patented by illy.

Supporting the illy supply chain

Illy is working in nine different regions to source the coffee for both its cold and hot coffee, calling it ‘a continual process.’ All coffee is purchased directly from farmers, which helps keep revenue with the growers and keep them employed.

Sheldon sees growers getting excited about the category because they recognize opportunity in the US as more millennials are drinking cold brew.

“It’s well known that in a short time period, the scientists are saying that the farmable land for coffee is going to be reduced dramatically, with the earth’s rising temperatures. The sustainability and viability of the category is absolutely critical,”​ Sheldon said.

Illy prioritizes working with its global growers to teach them how to farm a higher quality product, and therefore garner more dollars per pound. The company views coffee as similar to the wine business, where people making better quality grapes are able to get more money for them.

The illy supply chain certified 100% sustainable, and they buy beans directly with a 30% premium versus the market spot price.

“With illy, we don’t launch products unless we absolutely are sure there’s quality in the cup. This is why we’ve taken some years to make sure the illy RTD was ready to be launched, because we wanted to make sure the taste profile met the illy standards, and we believe it does,”​ Sheldon said.

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