Coffee drink founder capitalizes on Sweet Leaf Tea's success, adds staff

Sep 3, 2014
Austin Business Journal

David Smith, former Sweet Leaf’s vice president of sales, said he’s tapping previous employees of the Austin-based beverage company and key distribution partners to give his newest venture, High Brew Coffee Inc., the momentum it needs to make a dent in the highly competitive non-alcoholic drink market

After launching High Brew, a maker of cold coffee drinks, in late 2013, Smith has placed the products in retail stores such as Whole Foods Market Inc. (Nasdaq: WFM) and HEB Grocery Co., and Smith wants to repeat the success he found with Sweet Leaf Tea. He's even operating from the old Sweet Leaf office space at Penn Field on South Congress Avenue and has enlisted former colleagues who saw it through the first time around

High Brew Coffee employs 19 workers but Smith expects it to grow to as many as 50 or 100 workers in the years ahead

Sweet Leaf Tea, which Smith launched with boyhood friend Clayton Christopher in 1998, was acquired in 2011 by Connecticut-based Nestle Waters North America Inc. for an undisclosed amount

High Brew Coffee markets a line of flavored coffee drinks in eight-ounce cans with an average retail price $2.49. Smith said the drink is cold brewed instead of brewed hot like most coffee. The approach produces a less-acidic product with twice the amount of caffeine

He considers Starbucks to be High Brew’s chief competition

Last week, the startup reported raising $4.4 million of a planned $5.8 million Series A round of funding from 33 investors, according to a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission

The angel investors are providing industry expertise in addition to the capital and not expected to push for an exit as quickly as institutional investors, Smith said

The experience from Sweet Leaf Tea is expected to prove invaluable to the company and make it easier to build brand awareness

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