Additional investors in the round include the founders of upscale Danish bakery chain Ole & Steen / Lagkagehuset, Ole Kristoffersen and Steen Skallebaek; founder of influencer marketing software company Grin, Brandon Brown; DTC expert and CPG brand builder Nik Sharma; and beverage industry veteran Ken Sadowsky.
The funding will go towards growing the Chamberlain Coffee brand and entering into new channels including a push into retail and expansion of its product portfolio, which includes bags of coffee ($16), single-serve instant coffee packs ($20), matcha tea powders ($22-$23), cocoa products, and a collection of coffee accessories.
From YouTube to cold brew
With nearly 16 million followers on Instagram and 11.7 million YouTube subscribers, 21-year-old Emma Chamberlain and her namesake brand represent the next generation of coffee drinkers who want an elevated coffee experience but without the coffeeshop elitism, said CEO Christopher Gallant.
Asked to describe the coffee consumer continuum, Gallant broke it down by generation: first came baby boomers as the Folgers and Maxwell House generation, Gen X came of the coffee drinking age with the entry of premium coffee chains such as Starbucks while millennials ushered in the 'third wave' coffee movement focused on equitable, Fairtrade business models. Now Gen Z is leading the next phase of the premium coffee evolution.
“We’re now looking at this fourth wave of consumers, and I think within coffee what they want is that same super high quality, but they want it without the pretentiousness and snobbery,” Gallant told FoodNavigator-USA, who said that even more so than previous generations, Gen Z cares deeply about where their coffee comes from.
Chamberlain Coffee partners with the non-profit Food 4 Farmers which works with roughly 8,000 coffee-farming families in Colombia, Guatemala, Nicaragua, and Mexico, many of which struggle to cover basic food expenses. Working with Food 4 Farmers, Chamberlain buys its coffee directly from the farmers and in the process has helped reduce the rate of food insecurity in those coffee-farming regions.
Striving to be the go-to coffee and tea brand for Gen Z – now the world’s largest and most diverse generation – Gallant noted that younger consumers are connecting with the brand because of its authentic messaging which is centered around Chamberlain’s genuine love of coffee seen in her YouTube content including the viral ‘Emma's Legendary Coffee Recipe’ video, which now has over 6.7 million views.
“Emma is not a spokesperson for our company, she’s the founder. She was passionate about coffee long before the brand came along,” said Gallant.
The brand's colorful and playful packaging plays a key role in its positioning and authentic marketing as well.
“We try to get as much of our packaging into biodegradable and compostable packaging as possible. What you won’t get from us when you order our product is big giant box with lots of tissue paper and a beautiful unboxing experience because that is just a ton of waste from all that extra cardboard and paper,” said Gallant.
“On top of all of that we’ve layered in a really fun brand with beautiful packaging and fun characters.”
‘The bulk of coffee purchases are made in retail’
Having launched as a DTC brand, Gallant said that the online market will always be an important channel for the brand but that retail is very much on the company’s radar.
“We’ll continue to drive direct to consumer on our website as our primary channel of business. We really like the ability to connect with our consumer there, but we also want to make sure we’re meeting our fans where they want to buy it understanding not everyone wants to come to our website,” he said, adding that the brand has gained traction on Amazon, GoPuff, and other e-commerce sites.
“The bulk of coffee purchases are made in retail which is why we’re starting to enter retail right now. I think it’s important not just for a coffee brand but for any food and beverage brand to have that omnichannel experience, and it’s really hard to do.”
Chamberlain Coffee is predominantly available in the Southern California retail market at Bristol Farms, Erewhon Market, Pavilions, and Sprouts with a target of bringing on more specialty and natural retailers further down the line.
With funding in hand, Gallant said that the brand will continue to introduce new and innovative products while building up its core audience of Gen Z coffee drinkers with fun and interactive coffee and tea content to engage young consumers.
"We’re working on bringing new innovative products to market so you’ll see some new things coming out over the course of the next two quarters," he said.
"We want to continue to grow expand our product line and really start to become the coffee, tea, and beverage company for Gen Z."