Cold brew, hot opportunity: Singapore start-up sees growth for coffee concentrates in South East Asia
Wake The Crew currently distributes online, via its website and on e-commerce platforms such as Shopee and Lazada’s RedMart, and occasionally marketing at pop-up events, farmers’ markets, and artisanal events.
Wake The Crew’s products range from coffee and tea concentrates in 500ml bottles, ready-to-drink cold brew coffee in 240ml, as well as its cold brew soap bars.
Co-founder Lee Ting Ong detailed its latest plans to bring products to the brick-and-mortar space, and is currently working on making its range “more shelf-stable” for supermarkets, potentially by adjusting its RTD ingredient list.
Currently, the shelf life of its coffee concentrates spans seven to eight months in a chilled environment and varies for its ready-to-drink series depending on what other ingredients go into the drinks.
The business started in 2020 at the peak of the pandemic, when it proved to be a challenge during lockdowns to visit cafes for high-quality coffee.
“We are bridging a gap between those who don’t want to invest in a coffee machine but wants quality coffee. [In the market,] there’s only two types of coffee. One is instant coffee, and the other is coffee made from the Nespresso machine.
“On top of that, owning a capsule machine is not easy as you have to make sure it’s clean and be skilled to take care of it. If it spoils, you’d have to get a new one. If not, you’d have wasted the capsules. We want to make it as sustainable as possible. When people get our concentrates, they can just mix it with a bit of milk or water.” Ong explained.
Aside from consumed beverages, the brand also collaborated with local soap crafter SYLI to use some of their coffee and tea grounds to
develop their cold brew vegan soap bar collection - ranging from espresso, oat latte to oolong tea.
Ong sees the demand for coffee concentrates continuing to grow and the firm has now moved into its manufacturing space located at FoodXchange @ Admiralty - intended as a lab for experimenting with new product formats using coffee grounds.
“The annual growth of the coffee market in Singapore is about 4.3%, and that’s what we’re looking at. People are also more conscious about what they consume, so there will be an increasing trend in terms of wanting more premium products.”
The specialty coffee market in Asia-Pacific is forecasted to grow by 15.3% annually over 2023-2030, up to US$30.2bn by 2030, and driven by factors such as rising income, strengthening premium coffee shops and increasing consumer preference for specialty coffee and green coffee.
Coffee concentrates growth in Asia
Ong added that the biggest markets in Asia are Australia, Japan and Korea. It is also not very common to find local or regional (e.g., Australia) coffee shops which are exporting cold brew coffee concentrates within the region.
In Singapore, cold brews are mainly offered by big coffee chains like Starbucks and Coffee Bean. For Wake The Crew, their products mainly target health-conscious consumers who are willing to pay for a premium.
“The brewing method makes it lasts longer, so it stays fresh for longer. You don’t have to add any preservatives, but the shelf life tends to be shorter than the shelf products you find. A lot of people also get gastric or stomach issues when they drink coffee, and hot brew coffee can cause these problems. Cold brew is a much gentler method of brewing coffee.” Ong explained.
Within the next two years, Wake The Crew also highlighted plans to expand into the South East Asian market this year, with the first one being Malaysia. She added: “Within the next few years, we would also look into going to other countries like Indonesia and Thailand.”
The team is still in the initial talks regarding the expansion plans.