Outside the box
Solo in The States
When I tell people we make cold brew, they often say “have you been to America?”. I always thought ye I get it, they drink cold brew out there but didn’t think much of it. Recently we had an enquiry from the US that was too big of an opportunity to ignore.
We spent the past week in Texas. And now I finally get it. For years, we’ve been telling milky tea drinkers to try cold black coffee, and getting blank faces in return. Across the pond, cold brew and iced coffee are absolute staples. Every fridge is filled with every possible variant. In most convenience stores, you can help yourself to a (pint-sized) cup at the push of a button. It was everything we’ve been pitching, right in front of our eyes.
Our mission is to make great coffee more accessible, but to be frank, great coffee is already extremely accessible in the US. It feels like we’ve seen the future, and we couldn’t ask for better affirmation. What’s more is there is still an appetite for improvement, and they’re knocking on our door!
Since the beginning of Solo, the UK speciality coffee market has shown very little support for what we’re doing. I thought there would be excitement when we were saying “hey, we want to make this amazing coffee mass-market and easy for everyone to enjoy”, but the response was more a sentiment of “you won’t be able to do that” and, “you’re not supposed to do that”. It felt as if the speciality industry’s objective was to keep great coffee exclusive, as though a great cup should only be possible in the hands of an expert barista. Many see the very act of making speciality coffee more accessible as undermining the knowledge and abilities of coffee experts.
We personally believe that the improvement of the general standard of food for example, doesn’t only happen in Michelin star restaurants. It also happens when Charlie Bigham offers an alternative to horse meat microwave lasagnes, or when New Covent Garden soup offers fresh soup over tinned space food. Whilst speciality cafés and roasters are arguing about which paper filter tastes the least, Costa are busy putting vending machines in every petrol station. There are so many ways in which speciality coffee can be offered and distributed to a much larger market, and we’re hoping to be one of the bricks that builds the foundation of the UK’s mass market coffee transformation and a disruptive player in the vast US market.