Nestlé’s Blue Bottle wades into instant coffee


Dive Brief:

  • Blue Bottle Coffee, which is majority owned by Nestlé, is debuting an instant espresso that allows consumers to make premium drinks at home without the need for pricey machines or brewing expertise, according to a statement.
  • Craft Instant Espresso, the brand’s first soluble coffee product in the U.S. after three years of development, is made by adding the pre-ground espresso beans to milk.
  • Nestle purchased a nearly 70% stake in California-based Blue Bottle Coffee for a reported $425 million five years ago, giving the food and beverage giant another premium offering as it expanded its coffee presence.

Dive Insight:

Nestlé has targeted coffee as a major growth pillar and it has been moving aggressively to follow through on that commitment.

Just last week, Nestlé purchased the Seattle’s Best Coffee brand from Starbucks for an undisclosed amount, increasing its exposure in mainstream offerings for the beverage.

But Blue Bottle, best known for its specialty coffee beans and retail stores, fits decisively into the premium space.

The latest instant coffee for making espressos fills a void by allowing the brand to play in a more portable space increasingly popular with on-the-go consumers valuing convenience. Rather than having to venture out to a shop or turn on their coffee maker, they simply add milk and have an instant espresso nearly anywhere, including at home.

“We didn’t think instant coffee at Blue Bottle standards was possible, but our initial experimentation with soluble proved the path to instant could be something moving and inspiring for our guests, if handled correctly,” Benjamin Brewer, senior director of global innovation and quality at Blue Bottle, said in an email.

“It was important for us to own the process from start to finish so that we could ensure our high-quality standards were upheld every step of the way.”

Craft Instant Espresso also enables Nestlé to expand its offerings of instant coffee among a wider range of consumers. One of Nestlé’s best-selling products is Nescafe. Popular among lower-income customers, it has thrived amid a run-up in inflation. Last week, the company said Nescafé contributed to a nearly double-digit growth rate in beverages in North America during the first nine months of the year.

In creating its first instant espresso, Blue Bottle had to move carefully to create a soluble offering that reflected its premium reputation. Instead of turning to a large distributor that produces most other instant coffee available today, Blue Bottle said it brought its 20 years of experience in sourcing, roasting and brewing to “reimagine” the instant process. It prioritized two steps, extraction and drying, to create what it describes as a higher-quality and better-tasting brew.

Espresso could be the beginning of instant coffees for the Blue Bottle brand as it grows beyond its coffeehouse roots. “Instant coffee provides a simple entry point into the world of specialty coffee and we look forward to continuing to expand our Craft Instant Coffee portfolio, always leading with taste,” Brewer said.

Blue Bottle’s Craft Instant Espresso won’t come cheap. Shoppers will soon be able to buy a 12-serving jar for $25, or five pre-portioned single-serve sachets for $15. In comparison, a 10.5-ounce jar of Nescafe Clasico Dark Roast Instant Coffee on Amazon retails for $8.69.

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