Chamberlain Coffee raises $7m to launches into retail with RTD options to expand consumer base, usage occasions

By Elizabeth Crawford

- Last updated on GMT

Source: Chamberlain Coffee
Source: Chamberlain Coffee

Related tags Coffee fundraise

Already a cult-favorite among Gen Z coffee and tea drinkers who prize quality but also want a bit of whimsy, Chamberlain Coffee hopes to expand its appeal, distribution and usage occasions in the coming months with an infusion of $7m in follow-on series A funding that closed in April.

The funding, led by existing venture builder Blazar Capital, founder Emma Chamberlain and United Talent Agency along with newcomers Volition Capital, Electric Feel Ventures, LA Libations and PLTFRM founder Noah Bremen, follows an initial $7m series A fund that closed last August.

The capital will help the young brand, which YouTuber Emma Chamberlain first launched in 2019 and later relaunched with a team in 2020, expand beyond its roots as a digital DTC brand focused on dry coffee and tea to one that is also available in retail stores and includes ready-to-drink beverages for added convenience and usage occasions and broader appeal, CEO Chris Gallant told FoodNavigator-USA.

He explained that Chamberlain Coffee stands out in a crowded category of well-recognized national brands as well as newer regional players by offering a premium option but without the “pomp and circumstance” that typically accompanies high quality coffee but which can be intimidating or uninspiring to young consumers or those new to the category.

“We’re really focused on Gen Z and younger Millennial consumers”​ who want the high quality, premium coffee popularized by third-wave brands, but are turned off by all the shades of brown and black that dominate the coffee aisle, he explained.

“We are coming in with bright pinks, yellows and greens,”​ and smiling cartoon animals associated with playful names like Sweet Otter Cake Batter Blend and Fluffy Lamb Vanilla Blend that are more approachable, “lively and entertaining,”​ but without compromising on quality, taste and experience, he added.

The brand also centers on cold brew, which Gallant says is how “90% of our consumers drink their coffee,”​ with a line of single-serve bags that can be added to a glass of water and left overnight in the fridge for a mess-free, convenient and freshly made cold brew in the morning.

It also offers more conventional bags of beans and ground coffee, K cups as well as matcha and other tea.

After proving itself online during the pandemic, Chamberlain Coffee is now making the leap to retail and expanding into ready-to-drink with a line of four SKUs that launched exclusively in Walmart last month, and bagged coffee and single serve pouches in select Sprouts for the past year.

Funding will support additional staff to expand brand appeal, marketing

In the coming months the company plans to expand into additional retailers with both its RTD and dry offerings and in doing so hopes to reach a larger consumer base and tap into additional usage occasions.

“A lot of our current consumers are strong, avid Emma [Chamberlain] fans and tend to be more Gen Z and females. But we are looking to get more males into the mix”​ as well as older consumers from the Millennial generation, but without alienating our core, Gallant said.

To do this the brand wants to bring on additional staff, including a shopper marketing position, to additional sales positions and a supply chain position – all of which is possible thanks to the recent fundraise.

The new shopper marketer will help the brand rethink color palettes, tone of voice and other ways to activate a more diverse consumer base as well as how best to engage with consumers at shelf beyond steep promotions.

“It has been hard with promotions – everybody’s doing promotions all the time. And we’ve got to find a way to limit how deep and how often we go through promotions because they can obviously kill your margin, but they also hurt your brand. … So we are thinking about how we can go to market differently instead of just more steeply discounted,”​ Gallant explained.

He added to support new retail partners the brand will also leverage many of the strategies it used to build its DTC consumer base, including social media, but also will test connected TV, podcast advertising and other “top of funnel brand awareness activations to let people know w e are in retail now.”

Constant innovation

Even as the company roles out its first RTD options, Gallant said it will use part of the recent fundraise to further innovate – including a new product in the tea space that will launch in June and other innovations later this year.

“The inspiration for our innovation always starts with fans and really listening to what they want and producing it,”​ said Gallant, who noted Chamberlain Coffee’s fans are “very vocal.”

He explained: “One of the great parts about our engagement is we can send out a survey and get 10,000 responses in a day and we will know what people are looking for. And a great example of that is the Chai latte mix we launched last year, which is now our number three selling product.”

Growing ‘smart’

As the company expands its line-up, team and distribution with the current fundraise, Gallant said he will carefully watch to ensure all three are effectively supported.

“When I consider our measures for success, one of the first things I look at is whether our team is having fun – are they enjoying it? Because without that, it would be tough to operate. So, I always look inwardly first to make sure everyone is having a good time, enjoying themselves, feeling fulfilled in their career. That is a big one,”​ he said.

Next he wants to ensure retailers see the velocities they need to justify – and maybe add – shelf space for the brand as well as doors.

Finally, as the brand transitions from online-only to omnichannel, Gallant says he will closely watch and measure brand awareness and how informed new consumers are about the brand and the extent to which that awareness expands beyond the company’s current core.

Related topics Manufacturers Tea & coffee

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