Eco-conscious companies are looking to combine the convenience of single-serve coffee with the quality of a specialty brew with teabag-like packaging available through a subscription service. Steeped Coffee is taking this approach, but Nate Appel, the company’s director of marketing, pointed out the brew is by no means instant coffee.
“It’s not instant,” Appel told PYMNTS in an interview. “It’s kind of at the speed of instant.” Other methods of preparation, such as instant coffee, use crystalized coffee and solubles, but Steeped Coffee offers pure coffee.
Consumers can brew the coffee much like they would a traditional teabag, by steeping it in hot water. Appel noted that 205 degrees is the ideal temperature for the water – just below boiling – and a lot of the kettles the company sells come with a temperature gauge. Consumers can let it sit for five to seven minutes, depending on how bold they want their coffee. Appel noted that if consumers leave a tea bag in too long, the beverage can become too bitter, but with the company’s method, the flavor of the coffee essentially gets bolder.
For consumers who want to try the coffee before committing to a subscription or one-time purchase, Steeped Coffee has a program where people can sign up for a link to get a free two-pack sample. While consumers need to sign up for a trial of a subscription, they can cancel at any time. The trial, Appel said, helps to convert customers to a subscription and enables them to make changes to their brews as they go.
Businesses are deploying the subscription model successfully with the help of plan features. The most recent PYMNTS Subscription Commerce Conversion Index, for instance, found that seven out of 10 of the top performers in Q4 2018 offered free trials. And almost all of the companies in that group – 95 percent – had plan changes as a feature. Some subscription firms also offer consumers the chance to buy their offerings without a subscription. In Steeped Coffee’s case, the company sells 10-pack and 30-pack boxes that consumers can order as a one-time purchase.
The Product Mix
For product offerings, the company has a light roast, medium roast, dark roast, French roast and decaf roast. Appel said that different origins provide different blends, and the company wanted its coffee to be fair-trade in addition to tasting good. He noted that following fair-trade practices is one of the most important things next to getting the right coffee flavor profile.
Appel also pointed out that some places, such as offices, might need to prepare pots of both decaf and regular coffee. With Steeped Coffee, if someone wants fresh decaf coffee, “you just use our packs,” Appel said. Beyond offices, the company’s products are also used in hospitality environments, such as hotels.
When it comes to the company’s market, Appel doesn’t see his product as a “replacement method,” but as more of an additive method. “You use it in conjunction with French press, pour over,” Appel said. (That is, customers might choose to use those methods when they can.) At the same time, he noted that many people realize there is more to coffee than the famous chain out of Seattle. His company’s method allows consumers to try different profiles without having to commit to a full bag of coffee.
Going forward, Appel said Steeped Coffee plans to keep getting its method out – and the idea that one can make coffee without compromising on taste or having to use equipment with crazy brewing methods. At the same time, he noted that “you don’t have to destroy the planet to enjoy a single cup of coffee.”
As USA TODAY reported earlier this month, “modern-day coffee containers increasingly contribute to the mountain of plastic that’s ending up in landfills.” Steeped Coffee, by contrast, offers packaging that is 100 percent compostable.
With the help of the subscription economy, coffee companies are looking to offer an alternative to pods with the promise of convenience and environmental friendliness.