Written by David Silverbeg
It's hard for Abe Saimeh to conceal the excitement in his voice when he's asked about nitro coffee, one of the latest trends emerging for java enthusiasts.
“Nitrogen adds a velvet feel to coffee,” says Abe Saimeh, the vice president of sales for BROOD Refreshments. “Some say it adds a natural sweetness, and it also can be more powerful than regular coffee caffeine-wise.”
BROOD sells nitro coffee cold-brew dispensers that resemble keg taps but don't need to have kegs holding the coffee, since it can come in bags or containers. The dispensers chills the coffee to 2°C, and infuses it with nitrogen extracted from the air.
The company also sells double-tap units that can pour out nitro-infused coffee or regular cold brew. So far, more than 400 cafes and restaurants use BROOD technology, while 16 products have made their way to Canadian outlets.
Why the slower Canadian interest? “The slow sales in Canada was a learning curve, also due to the weather,” says Saimeh. “This shortcoming led us to build the world's first dual temperature hot-cold nitro system, coming in July 2019.”
Saimeh and his team have a knack for seeing the light peering through dark cloud He recalls about the early days: “Having no money is the best bargaining chip, both internally and externally. We learned the hard way not to wait for a grant to come through or a loan to be approved. We saw over time how sales generate cash that we used to keep building stock. We learned to sell our suppliers and partners on the vision and potential of partnering with us. This is finally paying dividends for them.”
BROOD found favour with foreign sales before winning attention at home, with the U.S. and Japan forming their top two market. The company enjoyed hockey-stick growth thanks to, as Saimeh says, “a cultural trend to more cold brew in retailers like Starbucks. Our mission is to make our dispensers a staple item. Not just a fad.”
Marketing a business with a niche audience such as coffee retailers can be challenging, especially for a start-up with limited capital. Sameh says that as a B2B company they wanted to branch out at first and tried to market direct to consumers but they spent more money with no measure of return. “That led us to doing exhibitions and conferences globally which had a direct measure for ROI. We learned a lot about our marketing strategy when engaging face to face, and had a true understanding of our target market at that point,” he says.
The other challenge Saimeh faces? Manufacturing to scale. BROOD can't pump out as many machines as clients request, thanks to cold-brew interest reaching a fever pitch worldwide. “We wanted to make our machines here in Canada, not in China, and we found someone we like, and now I feel some pressure, because entrepreneurs always feel like they're racing against the clock.”
When you're so in the weed with your company, it can be tough to look up and take a breath. When that happens, it can yield surprising results, such as when Saimeh visited a coffee shop on Spadina Avenue last year. “I looked and saw our dispenser was there, they were using it! And it dawned me on that yeah, this is really happening, we're really making it.”
Photo credit: Zlatko Cetinic, Images Made Real