According to an interview published earlier this year in Strategy+Business, a beverage called “Super Coffee” is now available to 40% of consumers in the United States. I wasn’t surprised to read that statistic — while on a cross-country road trip earlier this year, I encountered the beverage on a regular basis at grocery stores and gas stations. It’s become a fixture at corner bodegas in New York City.
Kitu Life Inc. (the product’s parent company), which was founded by three brothers who were named to Forbes’ “30 Under 30” list in 2019, and backed by celebrity investors such as Aaron Rodgers and Jennifer Lopez, reached a $500 million valuation this summer. The brand’s rise was likely aided by a 2018 appearance on Shark Tank (though the founders did not land a deal, the segment resonated with a national audience) and a 300 percent increase in grocery sales during peak quarantine.
However, the reason for Super Coffee’s success is much simpler than that: it is “packed with protein.” The protein economy, which is led by chicken, pork, and turkey but also includes yoghurt, nuts, bars, jerky, and other snacks, is expected to reach a $70 billion market size by 2025. Americans are perpetually concerned that they are not getting enough protein, and as a result, they seek foods that are high in protein, supplement with it (the protein supplement market is expected to reach $19 billion by 2020), or, increasingly, look for ways to incorporate protein into the foods and beverages they are already eating or drinking.
Simply put, it was coffee’s turn. Over half of all Americans over the age of 18 consume coffee on a daily basis. More than 70% consume it at least once a week. It’s the norm, so it’s natural that someone would attempt to inject protein into it at some point. Cheerios, too, went through a protein phase. “10G Protein” is prominently displayed on the Super Coffee label. Anyone who has shopped for food in the last 25 years will understand the pitch. Protein is beneficial, and we require a lot of it to grow our muscles. If the coffee isn’t a Mocha Cookie Crumble Frappuccino, it’s safe to drink, but pairing it with protein is a good idea.
However, the situation is more complicated than that. For starters, the majority of American adults already consume far too much protein. If you lead a sedentary lifestyle — which, unfortunately, is the case for the majority of American adults — you require no more than 60 grammes of protein per day. However, the majority of us consume significantly more than that, on a daily basis, to the tune of 100 grammes or more. From one perspective, this is an unavoidable byproduct of a Western diet based on excessive meat consumption. However, consider how deliberate protein consumption has become. According to a spotlight from The New York Times published four years ago, 60% of Americans were “actively attempting to increase” their daily protein intake.