Taste Radio Insider Episode 21

Why Nestlé Invested a Half-Billion in Blue Bottle

+ Bryan Meehan, Lance Bass


Blue Bottle Coffee CEO Bryan Meehan is well aware of the increasingly competitive landscape for coffee. Yet while some companies are racing to expand and innovate, Blue Bottle, one of the most admired coffee roasters and retailers in the world, is taking a patient and restrained approach.

“Our way is not the right way if we want to be the most commercially successful company in the country. Meehan said in an interview included in this episode. “There are companies ahead of us that are doing more innovation. But I think our way is the right way if we think about the long-term value of the brand and what taste we deliver to our customers.”

That perspective is embraced by Blue Bottle’s majority owner, Nestlé, which in September 2017 paid approximately $500 million for a 68 percent stake in the company. Meehan remarked that Nestlé views Blue Bottle as “doing something very unique and should not be touched.”

“Throughout the whole culture of Nestlé, there’s support to just (let) Blue Bottle be,” he said.

As part of our conversation, we spoke with Meehan about how Blue Bottle’s new line of whole bean coffee in pressure-sealed cans fits into its purposeful innovation strategy. He also discussed the evolution of Blue Bottle’s cafe and beverage business and the company’s efforts to enhance consumers’ experience with coffee and his perspective on the future of packaged coffee drinks and the industry as a whole.

Also in this episode: an interview with former N’Sync star Lance Bass who recently introduced a line of cocktail mixers called Just Add X. Bass spoke about the launch and development of the new brand and how his experience in the CPG business compares to that of his music career.

In this Episode

1:39: Cannabis, Canned Cocktails & Freeze-Dried Ice Cream — Mike spoke about his visit to the Seed to Sale cannabis conference held this week in Boston and what it was like to interview Lance Bass. Later, the hosts imbibed on canned cocktails and tea-infused beer, munched on freeze-dried iced cream and remarked a recent visit to the office by Dan & Genevieve Brazelton, the founders of cocktail mixer company Improper Goods. They also discussed the construction of a new studio for our new weekly video show, Taste Radio Now.
15:23: Interview: Bryan Meehan, CEO, Blue Bottle Coffee — Since Meehan took the helm of Blue Bottle in 2012, Meehan has overseen three major funding rounds and executed a significant expansion of the company’s cafe business and its foray into ready-to-drink beverages. He also guided Blue Bottle through Nestle’s acquisition of a majority stake in the company. In an interview recorded at Blue Bottle’s booth at the 2019 Winter Fancy Food Show, he discussed the recent launch of its innovative cans of coffee beans and expansion of its cafe business. He also explained why Nestlé views Blue Bottle as “precious” and why “over time (it) can be a company for everybody.”
30:55: Interview: Lance Bass, Founder, Just Add X —  If you grew up in the late 1990’s or early 2000’s you’re probably familiar with Lance Bass, best known from the wildly popular boy band N’Sync. Since hanging up his headset mic and dancing shoes, Lance has begun a new career as a beverage entrepreneur with the launch of cocktail mixer line Just Add X.  At the 2019 Winter Fancy Food Show, Lance sat down with Mike Schneider and NOSH editor Carol Ortenberg for a conversation about the launch and development of Just Add X and how his experience in the CPG business compares to that of his music career.

Also Mentioned

MedMen, Cocktail Squad, Shipyard Brewing Co., Tiesta Tea, Owl’s Brew, Cosmik Ice Cream, RAFT, The Bitter Housewife, Smashmallow, Blue Bottle Coffee, Intelligentsia Coffee, Stumptown, Just Add X, Chef’d