Outside the box

Launching in the US

Last week, in London Heathrow, terminal 3, on a wet and cold March morning, I was desperately looking for a coffee. Caffè Nero is my best/only choice, my preference would be a filter or a cold brew but an ashy americano will have to suffice. We’re on our way to LA. 2 years ago, I had never been to the states, since then work has taken me to Texas, Florida, New York, North Carolina and Georgia, and now California. Simply put, if you want to innovate in the coffee space, you will inevitably be drawn to the US.


Cold brew supposedly originated in Japan, however it’s fair to say it was popularised on the west coast of America. High quality coffee in innovative, accessible formats is their North Star, much like ours. If you want to grow a coffee innovation brand you, at some point, need to work with the US, or at least learn from them. Our first trips revolved around research and manufacturing and have slowly morphed into “maybe we can do this, maybe we can sell in the US”. Despite us sharing a common vision with the American coffee brands, we hold a robust uniqueness - we’ve spent 5 years pitching to a nation that does not give a shit about cold brew coffee and is resistant to change. Rejection results in two outcomes, improvement or dejection. And whilst we’ve felt much of the latter, it has resulted in the former. We’ve had to create a proposition that it is un-rejectable by even the most discerning operators or consumers.


LA was like a dream, not only for the sceneries, sunsets and glamorous lifestyle, but because it is exactly the future of coffee that we’ve been pitching and hoping for. Every convenience store has multiple help yourself dispensers of high quality ready-to-drink coffee, the specialty coffee industry has warmly embraced cold brew and endlessly improves it instead of shaming it. From gas stations, to hotels, to high end coffee shops, they’re all focused on innovating and improving quality and accessibility at every level. That’s the true American dream. Well, Solo’s American dream.


People in the F&B space in the UK will be quick to tell you horror stories about UK brands that thought they could take on the US and failed. This sewed a seed in us to approach the whole situation with extreme caution. The warnings are normally that it will cost way more than you could ever expect and that competition is high. We knew we needed a foolproof strategy that wouldn’t break the bank.


That being said, we’re not looking to take baby steps or move with trepidation. When I asked a mentor friend (who has built an extremely successful brand in the US) whether we should let it play out slowly. He succinctly said “Absolutely not. You’re in the fashion business, especially in the US”.


In December 2023, we launched into a distributor in Florida, a restaurant group that covers 6 states and a handful of smaller accounts. We did this to measure how it would go down and if it’s worth pursuing. Turns out, it’s worth pursuing. We have something that America wants. Our most recent trip confirmed that things will start ramping up pretty quickly. We’ll soon be announcing a partnership we have in the works, and a lot of other fun stuff. Follow our new instagram account for US content @solocoffeeus

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