Silk has launched two plant-based ready-to-drink latte varieties combining almond and oat milks with coffee. The Danone-owned brand said in a release its Espresso and Mocha flavors are available at Target, Kroger, H-E-B and Fairway stores nationwide for a suggested retail price of $5.49 for a 48-ounce bottle.
The bottles are recyclable, the company said, with a minimum 80% of materials sourced from renewable sugarcane. The coffee is from UTZ certified sources, meaning it is sustainably farmed. The beverages are Non-GMO Project Verified and free of dairy, carrageenan, cholesterol and artificial colors and flavors.
David Robinson, Silk's senior brand manager, said in the release the new products make it easy to enjoy a coffeehouse-quality latte. "Silk is excited to enter the coffee category with a dairy-free and hassle-free option that brings barista-quality coffee into your home, minus the upcharge," he said.
This is the first move into the RTD coffee space for Silk, which is known for its plant-based beverages, creamers and yogurt alternatives made from soy, almond, oat, cashew and coconut.
It's not uncommon to see numerous bottled coffee drinks in stores — and even non-dairy versions such as Califia's wide array of canned and bottled latte and other coffee products — but Silk seems to be focusing as much on the almond and oat beverages as on the coffee.
That makes sense, since the company has long been in the plant-based drink business. Adding in cold-brew Arabica coffee, espresso and cocoa blends is what could make these new Silk latte products stand out in the increasingly crowded plant-based beverage category.
The brand name is also unique. While most of the other RTD coffee offerings bear the name of a well-known coffee brand — including Starbucks, McCafe, Dunkin', Chameleon Coffee or La Colombe — the coffee in this mix seems to be of secondary importance. And while the product announcement touts the sustainability of the Arabica coffee, it says nothing more about the branding, roast or source of the beans.
While Americans are increasingly interested in name-brand coffee drinks, they are willing to buy a coffee drink without coffee branding. According to Statista, the top-selling RTD coffee brand in the U.S. last year was Starbucks. Combining the brand with Starbucks Iced Espresso Classics, it was worth $145.77 million in sales. But, like Silk's new drinks, the No. 2 brand in the RTD coffee space takes its name from the cream that flavors it. International Delight, also owned by Danone, had $74.65 million in sales in the RTD coffee category. And Califia Farms RTD coffee, which also plays up its dairy-free credentials, was No. 4 with nearly $34 million in sales.
Other well-known beverage brands are following this lead and making blended coffee drinks that take on the branding of the component that isn't coffee. Ocean Spray recently launched Brew, a juice and cold brew blend, under the brand name most commonly associated with cranberry juice.
In marketing these new latte blends, Silk may be able to lean on its long-time reputation for plant-based beverages — and its parent company Danone's reputation for sustainability. It doesn't hurt that the bottles are mostly plant-sourced and recyclable and that the contents boast a list of free-from assets.
These factors, along with the plant-based milks in the lattes, could end up being more important than the source of the coffee itself, which is another interesting aspect to Silk's latest launch. The company has sought out sustainably grown Arabica coffee, though, which is prudent given how quality-minded many consumers are when it comes to choosing a latte. Shoppers may eventually start to look more for the Silk name brand than for any other single element as long as the taste, price and convenience are all as advertised.