Sparkling coffee brand launches from Sonoma with hopes of national distribution
When Louis Abruzzese was working in the kitchen at the Glen Ellen Star, he found himself frequently pulling a shot of espresso and adding sparkling water because it was so hot behind the line.
“I fell in love with it, and found it so refreshing,” he said.
He also fell in love with and married local girl Alli Stanfield, and they decided to settle down in Sonoma. Abruzzese realized he didn’t want to work in restaurants anymore and became interested in the coffee business.
Up in Sebastopol, during stints at both Peet’s and Taylor Lane Organic Coffee, Graham Gould started making a sarsaparilla syrup for lattes and thought, “Wow, there’s something here.”
The two met by chance in late 2017, got to talking about coffee and started to dream up a unique coffee beverage, which they eventually named Vivic – stemming from the word vivification, which means “to bring life to.”
“It was one of the first names we came up with and we probably went through about 500 before coming back to it,” said Gould. “Coffee brings you to life and we are trying to bring life to the coffee industry with a new way of drinking it.”
Realizing that they couldn’t just go to market with one flavor, they developed three initial flavors: original, lavender, and sarsaparilla. Three more are in the pipeline for 2020, as well as a zero sugar.
But the pair didn’t want Vivic to just be another enjoyable drink.
“We wanted there to be a mission behind it,” said Aburuzzese. So they effectively cut out all the middlemen and buy directly from a fifth generation farmer in El Saldavor.
“The inequities within commodity coffee trading are so pervasive -- something needed to change,” said Gould, explaining that this arrangement is superior to fair trade, because in fair trade, a middleman still takes a cut. Direct trade means you deal directly with the farm.
The coffee is roasted in San Jose by members of the same family that grows the beans and is delivered to the Vivic production facility in Oakland, where the product is produced and packaged.
Originally targeted at millennials and younger generations, Abruzzese and Gould said they quickly decided that Vivic could potentially be marketed toward a variety of ages.
“I was just at a construction site and I gave a bunch to some workers and they were like, this is actually really good for doing construction,” Gould said, adding that he also envisions it as a cocktail mixer, “particularly with darker liquors.”
They don’t imagine Vivic as a replacement for your morning coffee.
“It’s more of an afternoon pick me up to get you through the day,” said Gould.
Each can retails for around $3 and has 30 calories and about 110 milligrams of caffeine, about the same amount as a cup of coffee. There are no artificial ingredients or extracts.
“Even ‘natural’ ingredients sometime use solvents and chemicals that are harmful and proven to cause cancer so we stay away from those and we use real ingredients,” said Gould. “A ‘natural’ flavor enhancer called castoreum, for example, is derived from beaver anal secretions. Seriously!”
No beavers are harmed in the making of Vivic, stress Gould and Abruzzese.
Despite the “buzz” Vivic is hoping to create around its new brand, there are few successful regional sparkling coffee brands. Chameleon Cold Brew and High Brew are two brands in stores. Others have launched and quickly flamed out, like Starbucks’ attempt at a carbonated coffee back in 1994. But Gould is unconcerned.
“In the Kombucha world, there were a few main players in the very beginning and then it became a phenomenon,” he said.
Up next for the Vivic team is Expo West, one of the biggest food shows in the country, in early March. Their goal is to build Vivic into a national brand. The farm they buy from has capacity to grow as Vivic expands.
“We’re positioning ourselves in a way that it is very scalable,” said Abruzzese, from the company’s current home office in the Lovall Valley Road area. “And the category itself is definitely emerging.”
Contact Lorna at email@example.com.