By the end of 2020, the ready-to-drink coffee beverage company Super Coffee, cofounded by brothers Jordan, Jake and Jim DeCicco, had become the third most popular ready-to-drink coffee in America. Kitu Life, the 110-person company that owns Super Coffee, is only behind Starbucks and Dunkin—and its revenue grew 106% to $55 million, helping it reach a $400 million valuation. Though the coffee behemoths’ revenues are in the billions, they declined from 2019 to 2020. “We’ve been in hyper-growth mode since we started,” says Jim, 28, the CEO, explaining the company’s growth-over-profitability strategy. “We did $4 million in 2018 sales and $55 million in 2020—so it’s been a crazy couple of years.”
Super Coffee’s revenue was up 57% for the first quarter of 2021 as compared to the same period last year. This year, the brothers, who made Forbes 30 Under 30 list in 2019, plan to make Super Coffee available wherever beverages are sold.
To help them achieve this goal, on Friday the company announced the appointment of Rosanna Godden, former finance vice president at Whole Foods Market, as its chief financial officer. “The addition of [Godden] will enable us to explore every option from private mergers to a potential IPO—whatever path allows us to scale globally quickly and efficiently,” says Jim, 28.
Prior to joining Whole Foods and Amazon, where she spent more than eight years overseeing merger and acquisition financing, she served as an accountant at Starbucks, managing consumer packaged goods and retail finances, as well as its acquisition of Evolution Fresh.
“It’s not every day an opportunity comes across your desk that leverages your entire background.” says Godden. “Everything Super Coffee needs I have. I think I could make a really direct impact immediately.”
The DeCiccos neither have backgrounds in corporate beverages nor bespoke coffee brewing. Rather, they were college athletes. The youngest DeCicco, Jordan, was still a freshman at Philadelphia University when the company was founded. After running sprints and lifting weights at 5am basketball practices, he struggled to find the energy for his classes. The business major turned to campus vendors for coffee, but only found ready-to-drink Starbucks Frappuccinos, complete with 31 grams of sugar and 37 grams of carbohydrates, making the option a nonstarter for the athlete. From his dorm room, he took to brewing his own coffee with strength-boosting protein and coconut oil. It became a hit with his teammates.
Two years later, Jordan won the Thiel Fellowship, Jim quit his Wall Street finance job, and they moved into the basement of Jake’s Georgetown dorm to make their athlete-approved alternative to coffee a reality. In 2015, they made their first sale at the Georgetown Whole Foods Market.
Though its coffee is slightly more expensive than competitors Starbucks and Dunkin—a dozen of its ready-to-drink bottles market for $32, as compared to $17 for the same amount of Starbucks Frappuccinos and $26 for the Dunkin equivalent—Super Coffee sees itself as a healthier alternative, its beverages boasting zero added sugar, MCT oil to improve cognition and plant-based protein (or milk protein isolate) to build strength and stave off hunger. It sells 30 products, ranging from coffee grounds to K-cups to creamers.
Pursuing growth and hype over everything, they’ve opted for a plethora of buzzy investors to attract press as much as capital, rather than sticking with select Silicon Valley firms. Its more than 100 investors—including celebrities like Jennifer Lopez, Aaron Rodgers and Patrick Schwarzenegger—own over 80% of the company, and their big personalities have helped Super Coffee attract 110 full-time employees, many of whom will work out of the company’s new 8,000-square-foot Austin headquarters.
Though Super Coffee has only been on the market five years, a relative blip compared to Dunkin’s 71 and Starbucks’ 40 years, it has secured shelf space at Walmart, CVS, Walgreens, Target and millions of corner stores, thanks, in part, to its wholesale distribution partnership with Anheuser-Busch. When Hensley Beverage, the largest A-B distributor in Arizona, was looking to expand its portfolio beyond alcohol, it turned to Super Coffee, intrigued by the brand’s value proposition, the brothers’ story and the drinks’ taste. One year later, Super Coffee is selling 2,000 cases per month to Hensley’s Arizona retail clients.
“Their growth has been exponential,” says Hensley president Andy McCain. “What makes the company appealing is that they have stayed true to their core, which is providing this drink that they know is a better alternative to what was out there before they created it.”
The brothers attribute much of their success to their tight-knit relationship, and the fact they consider themselves synonymous with Super Coffee. Until Jim moved to Austin D.C. to open the new Super Coffee headquarters, the trio had lived, worked and worked out together in New York City. “Super Coffee is a natural extension of who we are,” says Jim. “It wouldn’t make sense if we ran a salad dressing company. Super Coffee and the DeCicco brothers have the same personality.”
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