Project Based Copacking is designed in from the very first steps we took in starting up. We aren’t interested in making you fit your products in OUR process, we design a process to fit YOUR products.
Copacking for beverages is not a one size fits all concept at Cold Craft. Our Project Based approach is designed to treat each customer, and their product, as a unique process. It is oriented around maximizing your PROFIT by supplying key knowledge, resources and solutions to your goal. It is based on a strong definition of the project as a whole, not just a product, and relies on clear communication and defined obligations between Cold Craft and you.
We can only be as successful as our customers. This makes the relationship between us and our customers far more like active partners.
Copacking as a Project, not a Product
This difference is key to understand how Cold Craft operates. Our approach more closely mimics typical contract manufacturing solutions in other industries. Our job is to provide our specialties and resources to help you take advantage of your opportunities. Our opportunity is based on yours.
We get inquires all the time. Cold Brew Coffee as a category is exploding! Tea is always big worldwide. Craft food in general is a massive disruption to the norm. But the resources to copack, or co=manufacture RTD beverages leave a lot to be desired.
The main problem is the industry of copacking in not built around an extraction based process. It is built around a mix and go packaging process. They want to take syrups, ingredients and water and mix them on the fly and fill tens of thousands of bottles or cans an hour. All Day. All Night.
But cold brew coffee, tea and craft beverages don’t work that way. So far, the solution offered by copacking facilities is to make you use their “concentrates” and/or their “Unique, Proprietary, Patent Pending etc…” methods, in their packaging, and they will put your label on it.
And these operations are so busy right now, they often don’t take new customers, or the wait for line time is months.
This is because they are basically selling a service as a product. Their facility, methods, and packaging are all really more like a product that you can buy. There may be slight variations, but deviating too far from their setup isn’t workable. In our opinion, this is why the majority of the cold brew on the shelf nationally tastes the same.
Defining a Copacking / Comanufacturing Project
The majority of our inquiries that do not already have products in retail/wholesale, or who haven’t worked to scale at food manufacturing often don’t have as much experience with “specing” the product. Sometimes we work with specialty coffee roasters, and they have a paradigm for the coffee production, and the cupping side, but not for production. There are exciting new tea beverages. There is a LOT of interest in aluminum cans as a packaging platform. Some folks just love their product, and need help understanding what is next.
Here is a list of steps, and specifications that we go through to develop your project. Again, a serious difference here is we are not talking about just the product, but everything it will take to make it. Some of these steps are formal, some are not. Some can have a fee associated, and some do not.
Project Copacking Steps
- Initial consultation
- First customer samples
- Round 1 Bench Samples
- Final Bench Samples
- Additional Iterations
- Final Specification of Product and “First Article”
- Initial Run Pricing and Delivery Requirements
- First Order
- Second Order
- Pricing Review and Final Pricing
This is simply the first conversation and basic overview of the customer (YOU) and the vendor (US). This is where we try to get a feel for your project, and most importantly determine if you or us are a “good fit”. Normally over the phone, our goal here is to assess the viability of the project, your expectations, and next steps.
Typically, if we believe we should go forward, we will create a basic retainer agreement that will allow us to continue through the process of Round 1 Bench samples. Once you accept and pay the fee, we will move forward.
First customer samples
You ship or bring us current samples of your product if you have them. This allows us to taste them, and evaluate our initial details against your example.
Round 1 Bench Samples
Cold Craft will develop an initial set of 4 samples (at a minimum) of our first take on your project description. Often we find that we get very close to the product. This meeting is typically scheduled for about an hour, and we taste these with the customer. Our objective here is to see how the customer responds, and whether we are close.
If required, we will take the customers top choice, and iterate through a second round with any variables applied to pick a final product.
Final Bench Samples
This is a second round, with 4 samples. Our goal here is find the final product, and document the specifications. Any variations are built on the previous Round 1 meeting, and creating options. examples might be differing brew strength, different filtration, or similar adjustments.
If the customer wants to try additional variations, concepts etc… we will help determine additional rounds, and present a fee schedule for each additional round.
Final Specification of Product and “First Article”
Once the final choice has been made by the customer, this is a second sample run which should be consistent with the previous final choice. This is measured, and becomes the reference point for subsequent production. In contract manufacturing this is often called a “First Article”. We will develop the project copacking specifications detailed later in the article.
Initial Run Pricing and Delivery Requirements
This step is where we develop the pricing and delivery requirements based on the First Article. We define the delivery requirements as well, which dictate things like lead time for raw materials supplied by you (“Customer Furnished Materials” or CFM).
For instance if you are supplying the roasted coffee, we need to define how many business days before production start date the product is required to be delivered to our facility.
If you are supplying packaging (kegs or bottles for example), when does it need to be at our facility before production begins?
What are the payment terms?
The price will be used for the first 2 orders. Deposit requirements, cancellation fees, and missed pickup fees will be defined when needed.
This is simply the first order. This gives us our first comparison against the product specification.
Similar to the first order,this is the second order that allows further tracking and adjustments against product specification.
Pricing Review and Final Pricing
This is a review after 2 production runs and we review the pricing and specs and make a final pricing and spec change for future orders.
Project Copacking Specifications that might apply
- Final Brew Strength
- Agtron or Colorimeter rating of roasted coffee
- Water Specification
- Micron rating of filtration
- TDS (Total Dissolved Solids) specification
- PH specification
- Adjuncts/Flavorings/Additives recipe spec
- Pasteurization specification
- Final packaging specifications
- Storage requirements and Delivery Requirements
Final Brew Strength
This is normally a measurement of brewing ratio, by weight, of water to coffee. This is typically referenced like “10-1″ or 11.5-1”.
Agtron or Colorimeter rating of roasted coffee
These are quality parameters that prove the roast degree is the same as the spec. Normally samples of whole bean, and ground are measured multiple times and must be within a specific tolerance. If CFM, we are simply tracking that what you delivered to us is within our agreed spec. If we are roasting, we are assuring we hit the right parameters.
Note… this doesn’t mean the coffee itself has the same Roast Curve/Profile. It simply means the roast process brought the bean to the correct final level.
We normally use filtered water. However in the case where the project defines something different, we will call it out.
Micron rating of filtration
We define the final filtration size of solids. Typically in a range of 10 to 1 micron.
TDS (Total Dissolved Solids) specification
This is a measurement of the amount of coffee solids that were extracted in the cold brew, expressed in a percentage. The spec is allowed a range such as 1.5% +/- .1%
A measurement of potential acidity. A simple measurement can be called out with a similar variance.
Adjuncts/Flavorings/Additives recipe spec
If things are being added to the brew, pre or post, they are called out and recipes is defined.
If the product is to be pasteurized, the type and specs are recorded. For example, classic flash pasteurization for fluid milk is 161/4, or 161 degrees Fahrenheit held at 4 seconds.
Final packaging specifications
What is the final packing (e.g. 12 oz cans, 16 oz bottles, 20l kegs) and what is the details. how are they cleaned? How are they filled, pressurized etc…
Storage requirements and Delivery Requirements
Is the product going to be stored at Cold Craft? For how long, and what are the fees and penalties for failure to pick up.
Why Project Based Copacking?
We believe the marketplace needs entry level, unique product offerings that can be brought up to market quickly and in smaller initial order requirements. Specialty Coffee, Sinlge Origin, Flavorings, Nootropics etc… they all have a unique application in an exploding category. Treating production as a project allows for defining variables across a large segment of products and help incubate the ideas until they gain ground and increase sales. We believe this allows us to make on ramps at easier levels for a larger cross section of potential products and customer types. It also allows us to clearly understand when the product is sound, and when it is not. This avoids bad batches and inconsistent raw materials from making their way into the product and damaging the brands reputation.
This seems overwhelming for some of our inquiries. That is because there is a fundamental disconnect between making a product and drinking it, and then making it at scale for FDA compliance. For example, anyone can make cold brew coffee, but the whole retail food industry takes both product specification seriously, let alone the food safety requirements. All these work to force us to comply with standards that are beyond the local cafe owner or home enthusiast products.
It is safe to say that a minimum budget to get through the initial steps to First Article will be $10,000 for projects that are already well vetted and established. If you need additional help or support, $15,000-$25,000 for a budget is realistic. For some additional requirement detail and budgets check out Getting Started with Cold Craft . . .