Sunday 25 February 2024

Mel Elias, Bruvi Co-founder: “Sustainability is the focus of our social and ethical mission”

Mel Elias: "Bruvi intends to be the third largest single serve platform in the US within 12 months of launch with a focused strategy of online distribution. More importantly, it will be the system of choice for many third wave brands and roasters looking to offer their premium products in a capsule format."

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MILAN, Italy – Mel Elias is the Co-founder of Bruvi, next generation single-serve coffee system that claims to offer noticeably tastier coffee and eco-friendly pods. In this interview, Mel Elias revelas the market stratetegy of Bruvi and goes further into details about the B-Pods brewing technology, taking time to explain how sustainability will play a major role in the future of the company.

The capsules market has exploded during these pandemic years and is still growing: has Bruvi followed this new push?

“Certainly the pandemic has accelerated the growth of at home coffee, including single-serve. But even before the pandemic, single-serve coffee has been growing as consumers seek the convenience it offers.

In the US, household penetration of single-serve trails European countries such as France, but is expected to double, assuming consumer needs for quality and variety are met.

That is the sweet spot of opportunity for Bruvi, because we tackle the big weaknesses in the current single-serve offerings, especially in the US. First, we offer remarkably tastier coffee – hotter, stronger, smoother with noticeably less bitterness.

Second, Bruvi makes seven different beverages, including brewed coffee and true espresso and cold brew. Third, we offer an innovative, more eco-conscious solution for pod disposal, the Guilt Free Toss.

All with a beautiful brewer that looks great on your kitchen counter, and with an optional App for remote brewing and more. Most notably in terms of driving growth, Bruvi will be the perfect vehicle for third wave craft roasters and brands to enter the capsule market. 

The influx of super premium coffee offerings will further accelerate growth in the single-serve capsule market.”

What does your patented B-Pods brewing technology consist of?

“Bruvi advanced pod technology includes several patent-pending innovations, including double filters (and no plastic lined paper filters) which allows micro grinds to pass through, ensuring full bodied flavor and mouthfeel.

One of the common complaints about existing single-serve coffee is that it’s weak and thin, something we set out to address.

bruvi b-pod
Bruvi B-Pod (photo credits by Bruvi)

Also, Bruvi B-Pods contain more coffee than a typical pod – up to 40% more – which enables us to extract the good flavors while reducing the bitterness of over-extraction. With Hygienic Brew, Bruvi brews in the pod, not the brewer.

That means coffee goes straight to the mug, never passing through the insides of the brewer. It’s a cleaner brew – no mold or bacteria growth inside the brewer, no flavor cross contamination between different pods and no daily rinsing.

B-Pods are also hermetically sealed for extended freshness.  Other features include precision instant heating and welding technology in the capsules (we don’t use glues) which allows us to pack coffee almost immediately after grinding to retain the critical gasses that preserve aroma and freshness. 

Bruvi has innovated on multiple fronts to deliver a remarkably better consumer taste experience.”

Artisanal coffee and innovative single serve systems: how do these two souls coexist at Bruvi?

“Great question. In fact, Bruvi was born out of our belief that great tasting coffee and the convenience of single-serve is possible – and that doing so meets consumers’ demand for higher quality, better taste and more drink variety.

My co-founder and I have over 30 years’ experience in coffee – including over 20 years in single-serve – so with Bruvi, we set out to reinvent pretty much everything about single-serve to make that happen.

Our patent-pending technology includes Auto Precision Brewing: Bruvi brewers include a camera that scans the pod and then auto adjusts up to seven different brewing parameters and hundreds of combinations for the optimal brew of every individual coffee, just as the roaster intended. 

With 20 Stream Saturation, 20 separate streams in the B-Pod top cap provide even saturation and balanced extraction. Additionally, our B-Pods contain better coffee – only 100% Arabica craft coffee – and up to 40% more coffee than typical pods.

The Bruvi Brewer nad the B-Pods (photo credits by Bruvi)

As I mentioned, Bruvi makes seven different beverages – filter coffee, true high pressure espresso and Americanos, the first cold brew from a single-serve brewer, iced coffee, infused coffee and matcha latte.

Plus Bruvi offers personalization options – hotter, stronger, low acid and five cup sizes – and a hot water dispenser for tea or other beverages.

Another benefit of Bruvi is that consumers can declutter their kitchens because our brewer can replace the kettles and other brewing equipment they currently use.”

Where do you select your coffee, do you have direct contact with the growers?

“Yes. At Bruvi we are a coffee company first and foremost.  Direct relationships with growers and producers is a priority for Bruvi. Our green coffee buyer has nearly two decades of experience buying specialty coffee, with a specific focus on sustainability.

We source 100% Arabica craft coffees from Latin America, Ethiopia and Indonesia, including artisanal, limited production and micro lot coffees, all are ethically and sustainably produced.

And we have two Q Graders on our coffee team, which further illustrates our coffee first commitment.”

How and who does roast the coffee?

“All Bruvi coffee is roasted to the specifications and under the supervision of our coffee team, working with the other experts at our roasting facility. We work with a state of the art roasting facility in Southern California that is food safety certified (SQF level 2) and uses environmentally conscious practices.

Our roasting partners have literally hundreds of years roasting and packing experience. The facility itself has a fully automated roasting infrastructure with advanced water cool grinder and state of the art quality control systems and processes.

Our goal is to meaningfully raise the bar on coffee freshness during the packing process, so we have a nitrogen inert environment from the time the coffee is roasted to the time it is packed. 

Many co-packers underestimate the skill and complexity involved in retaining freshness, but we have made the art and science of degassing and journey from roast to cup a super priority at Bruvi.”

Now that Andrea Clementini has joined the board of directors, what does this entry represent for Bruvi’s development?

“Having Andrea join Bruvi is a fantastic development.  His involvement is a real endorsement of the single-serve opportunity in the US and a validation of the Bruvi technology.

With his extensive experience, network and knowhow, he is already actively helping us on various fronts. 

I’ve had the pleasure of working with Andrea during his time at Caffitaly so we have hit the ground running.  As expected, Andrea has already added an extra layer of insight and has made some valuable introductions.  I can’t overstate the value of having one of the top CEOs in the single-serve industry on our team.”

The quality of espresso in capsules, one of the big questions that often challenge the single-serving product: how have you managed to guarantee a premium product without compromises?

“Yes, we’ve invested a lot of time to ensure Bruvi makes a true, high pressure espresso. Our team has worked to perfect everything from grind size to every brewing parameter, including pre-infusion, to ensure a great and consistent extraction at 9 bars.

With 15 grams of coffee in each espresso B-Pod, and precision temperature control, Bruvi delivers a consistent and delicious espresso with real crema and sweet nectar. 

Making an Americano is as easy as pressing a button on the touch screen and Bruvi will extract a 2 oz espresso and hot water automatically.”

The Bruvi Beverages (photo credits by Bruvi)

And then there is the first cold brew in capsules: can you tell us what is behind this solution?

“Another Bruvi innovation made possible because of our hygienic brewing process and instant temperature controls. 

Our smart heater has multiple temperature sensors and cools quickly to 120°F (~49C) for cold brewing over an extended time cycle of 4-8 minutes.

That signature cold brew low acidity flavor can now be achieved in minutes in the convenience of a capsule system with just a touch of a button. 

We have also been experimenting with specific blends and grind distribution for cold brew and will eventually be launching a series of capsules made specifically for cold brew.   

The trends driving coffee consumption growth in the US are premiumization, sustainability and cold brew.  Bruvi has catered to them all – and more.   We believe the next big consumer trend will be functional, fortified or infused coffees. 

So in addition to our cold brew functions, Bruvi also has specific infused coffee settings and systemic advantages to capitalize on this new wave.  Soon after launch, we will be introducing our Triple Death fortified coffee which has 3x the caffeine and L-theanine for energy without the crash. 

We can pack up to 18g of supplement in our capsules to ensure the same strong smooth coffee taste together with other fortified ingredients. 

Furthermore, our packing system separates the coffee from the fortified ingredients in the capsule to retain freshness and the integrity of the coffee.  No capsule system currently on the market will be able to deliver quality infused coffee like Bruvi will.”

All set for launch in the United States in the third half of 2022: what can we expect, what are the objectives translated into numbers?

“Our initial focus is launching direct to consumer (DTC) in the US where we will capitalize on having direct relationships with our consumer and can control the narrative of our brand.  Bruvi is a connected IOT device so we will leverage the data collected to serve our customers with products and services to extend the lifetime value of our consumer base. 

Growth will depend on the cost of customer acquisition and also raising future rounds of growth equity to fund our digital advertising program and inventory.   That said, the capsule market in the US is approximately $7B and is growing double digits.  

We believe the Bruvi addressable market opportunity is approximately 35M households in the US so the install base of Bruvi can eventually be significant. 

In short, Bruvi intends to be the third largest single serve platform in the US within 12 months of launch with a focused strategy of online distribution. More importantly, it will be the system of choice for many third wave brands and roasters looking to offer their premium products in a capsule format.”

The Bruvi bundle (photo credits by Brurvi)

And in the near future, what will Bruvi do to go down the road of sustainability, another major problem for plastic and aluminum capsules?

“I’m so glad you asked about this. Sustainability is the focus of our social mission, one of three core pillars of Bruvi.Let me highlight three priorities:

  1. our STEP Impact Coffee program;
  2. eco-conscious brewing;
  3. our pod disposal innovation, which we call the Guilt Free Toss.

First, all of our coffee is ethically and sustainably sourced. We developed our STEP Impact Coffee program which includes fair pricing for higher quality coffee, long term relationships with producers and an Impact Fund to direct capital to local producer projects. 

Next, contrary to conventional wisdom, single-serve is one of the most eco efficient ways to brew coffee, with less water waste, coffee waste and energy usage than other methods. Bruvi takes that to another level with our on demand heating technology as compared with traditional boiler or thermaform heating solutions commonly used in home single-serve systems. 

Now let’s talk about pods. Certainly the issue of coffee pod disposal is huge for the industry.

With all the focus on vilifying plastic, let’s remember that plastic is still the most convenient, effective and cost efficient food preservation medium. The real issue is plastic waste, in particular, microplastics.  

And yes, the issue of pod disposal is huge for the industry. We know that despite good intentions, recycling of plastic and aluminum pods isn’t very effective. Only 9% of all plastic gets recycled, and it’s especially challenging for small plastic pods.

Recycling aluminum pods is also cumbersome for consumers and as a result also has low compliance, especially in the US. Some are advocating for compostable pods, but in the US, the industrial composting infrastructure isn’t yet developed, with less than 10% of households having access to industrial facilities.

Home composting isn’t yet widely practiced either, so most compostable pods end up in landfills where they take hundreds of years to decompose. Importantly, compostable products also use a lot of resources to produce, so aren’t that efficient in terms of greenhouse gas emissions.  

For all of those reasons, Bruvi has invested over three years and considerable resources  to address the plastic waste issue with a breakthrough approach that is practical and effective, leveraging the existing waste infrastructure.

Our enzyme-infused plastic B-Pods are intended to be simply tossed in the trash, hence the name Guilt Free Toss. They are uniquely designed to substantially break down much more rapidly  in a landfill environment than untreated plastics through an organic process  – and leave no microplastics behind. Further, they offer the potential to be converted into renewable energy.

In the US, municipal landfills are closed environments and are required to capture, then flare the off-gasses. A significant number of active municipal landfills do even better and repurpose the collected methane into clean renewable energy, through Landfill to Gas Energy projects.

There are more pending projects so these LFGTE projects are expected to expand. In those communities, B-Pods can be part of the renewable energy creation, which brings enhanced end of life value. 

I should mention that we also focus on sustainability throughout our business. One good example is our packaging, where we have reduced the amount of material and used both recycled and recyclable materials. Within the shipping box, our brewers are packed in a reusable canvas bag.

Importantly, we are just at the beginning of our sustainability journey. We’re in the process of developing our long term ESG strategy. But as we proceed, we will remain focused on practical, realistic solutions that work toward reducing greenhouse gasses and lowering our carbon footprint.”

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