In fact, more than half of Americans drink a cup of coffee daily, Fortune reported in 2015, citing data from the National Coffee Association. “People often forget their vitamins or forget their gummies, but no one’s going to leave their house without their coffee,” says Brandon Fishman, founder and CEO of newly launched, San Diego-based VitaCup.
This revelation sparked the idea for VitaCup—a line of vitamin-fortified coffee and tea delivered in the Keurig system (or K-cups, as they’re known).
As the story goes, a few years back Fishman was feeling chronically unwell, prone to colds, and experiencing bouts of lethargy. After a visit to a naturopathic doctor, blood panels showed that he was “severely deficient in vitamins B1 and B12.
“I've always started my day with coffee and when vitamins became part of my routine, it inspired the concept of VitaCup," he added.
For the company’s premiere launch, there are three varieties: French Roast, French Vanilla, and Green Tea with Moringa. The young company is currently only selling online directly to the consumer, but Fishman has his eyes on specialty and natural channel retailers.
The race for innovative delivery formats
VitaCup, which is marketed as a beverage with a nutrition facts panel, launches at a time when both legacy supplement brands and start-ups are racing to create innovative delivery formats, from gummy subscriptions to sipping straws, as a way to address pill-burnout and increase consumer compliance to a routine.
The idea to ‘brew’ liquid supplements was under the spotlight at trade shows and both nutrition and tech media outlets last year with the launch of ‘supplement appliances’ Tespo and GüdPod. Despite the general fanfare, Fishman argued that there’s enough opportunity in using existing systems like Keurig.
“Not everyone wants to buy a new piece of hardware, and not everyone wants to spend money on supplements every month,” he said. “We figure, people are already spending money on coffee, [and] ours is only a little bit more money than regular K-cups.”
Not all vitamins go well with coffee
In the San Diego community, Fishman got to know CEO Michael Ishayik of private label coffee company Intelligent Blends. “I was speaking to him about to what he sees is the future of coffee, and he said that it’s any type of ‘nutritional’ additives,” Fishman said.
Fishman then pitched the idea of adding vitamins to coffee, which Intelligent Blends has never tried before. They worked with a lab to try out 40 to 50 different types of vitamins to see how they would affect the taste.
“A lot of them tasted horrible,” he added. “For example, vitamin C is so acidic that it just ruins the coffee. Same with like potassium and a few others that we tried.”
After testing, they found that vitamin Bs worked great with coffee because they are water-soluble and didn’t affect the taste as much. Vitamin D3—one of the most deficient vitamins in North America—also worked well with the coffee.
“So it doesn’t have everything that a multivitamin has, but it has a lot in there,” he said.