According to Paul Hodge, CEO of Laird Superfood, the coffee creamer format can be a middle ground between the average consumer and the hardcore wellness and nutrition shopper.
More than half of Americans (62%) drink coffee daily, according to numbers by the National Coffee Association as reported by US News. Hence, Americans are more likely to reach for the more familiar creamer on store shelves than, say, a turmeric beverage—an ingredient which can be found in one of Laird Superfood’s creamers.
“We knew that you can’t just make a product that’s full-blown over the top, and expect people to adapt it into their diets,” he told NutraIngredients-USA. “We call it ‘meeting people in the middle.’”
Functional drinks on the rise
Easing coffee drinkers into beverages with functional ingredients is a strategy that’s been around for a while, but has remained mostly niche. However, sales for functional shakes and bars continue to rise at a CAGR of 8.3% annually, based on Packaged Facts data, suggesting that functional, fortified hot beverages may ride on this momentum toward larger growth and wider adoption.
Laird Superfood’s origin story comes from big-wave surfer Laird Hamilton, the company’s namesake, who has had a penchant for designing nutrient-dense alternative recipes for everyday indulgences like coffee.
“The company is based on his dietary habits, I spent winters in Hawaii where Laird lives and he was making me these coffees in the morning, adding a bunch of ingredients,” Hodge said. “I noticed getting a sustained energy rush.”
The secret ingredient was adding a ‘healthy fat’ in his coffee, in the form of coconut oil or red palm oil. The concept was similar to what is marketed by Bulletproof, a functional coffee brand infused with MCT oil with a cult following.
Putting minerals in the creamer
The idea of adding butter or other fats into one’s coffee took off shortly before Laird Superfood’s launch in 2015 (a quick google search reveals the coffee + fat combo getting attention from the public starting 2014).
To differentiate itself, Hodge started researching what else he can add to enhance the creamer’s functional health benefit. All clues pointed to a popular 1983 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, where researchers found that the tannins in coffee may block mineral absorption.
“We wanted to find something that would be highly bioavailable to replace the mineral loss,” he added. “So we looked at the ingredient Aquamin, and realized it was the perfect ingredient for this creamer.”
Derived from marine minerals, the ingredient played well into Laird Superfood’s surfer-inspired branding.
Aiming for more brick-and-mortar expansion
Laird Superfood’s creamers aren’t the only products incorporating Aquamin that isn’t a traditional pill or capsule supplement.
“Specific grades of Aquamin have been developed to allow its inclusion in all food and beverage categories. These include bakery, bars, confectionery, snacks, dairy, water based drinks, juices, powder blends, tablets, capsules, sachets, shots, etc.,” David O’Leary, Commercial Manager of Aquamin’s maker Marigot Ltd. told NutraIngredients-USA.
Aquamin’s inclusion in a variety of delivery formats hints to wider demand for mineral fortification in food and beverages. Because of this, Laird Superfood, which currently uses online sales as its primary channel, is betting on brick-and-mortar expansion next year.
“2018 is our big year for focusing on allowing retailers to sell the product,” Hodge said. “We have a few retailers we’ve been testing with, like Fresh Thyme Market in the Midwest—basically independent natural food stores.”
“We’re a new category, so we’re focusing on the natural food channels first.”