After Sweet Leaf Tea was acquired by Nestle in 2011, Sweet Leaf co-founder David Smith and his family went on a seven-month Caribbean sailing adventure on their catamaran.
He, his wife, Elizabeth Smith, and two children visited the U.S. Virgin Islands and Grenada, and other islands.
From the couple’s desire for good, cold-brew coffee, came the idea for High Brew Coffee. After the family’s return, Smith founded High Brew in 2013 and began producing 8-ounce cans of cold-brew coffee in April of 2014.
Now, investors are providing a $17 million shot of funding into Austin-based High Brew, which plans to ramp up expansion.
The fast-growing company will use the funding to invest in production infrastructure and increase its capacity.
BIGR Ventures, based in Boulder, was the lead investor in the deal. A year ago, High Brew Coffee raised $4 million from CAVU Venture partners, based in Austin and New York, and about 30 individual investors.
“Witnessing the growth of High Brew over the past three years has been an amazing ride,” said Smith, who previously founded Sweet Leaf Tea with Clayton Christopher, who is now a CAVU Venture Partners co-founder. “With the closing of our series B funding, we will be able to reach even more markets. We are excited to write the next chapter in the High Brew story.”
Cold-brew coffee refers to the process of brewing coffee in cold or room-temperature water, rather than heated water, resulting in a coffee that is naturally sweeter, has higher levels of caffeine and has lower acidity. High Brew uses Arabica coffee beans to create a final coffee extract that is blended with sugar, reduced-fat milk and natural flavors.
High Brew Coffee, which has 80 employees, sells cold-brew coffee in flavors including Double Espresso, Mexican Vanilla, Salted Caramel, Dark Chocolate Mocha and Black & Bold. Calories per can range from 20 to 90.
The cans are sold at 15,000 retail outlets in 50 states. National retailers that carry High Brew include Whole Foods, Target, Kroger and Safeway. Twelve-pack cases cost $25 to $31 on Amazon.com.
High Brew is the number one selling cold-brew product in convenience stores, according to a Febuary Nielsen study. The company said it sold more than a million cases in 2016, and expects to sell more than two million cases this year.
Bill Weiland, managing partner at BIGR, said, “With a lineup of fantastic products that cater to a savvy customer, along with an experienced management team, High Brew is perfectly positioned to conquer an ever-growing industry.”
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