Reshaping the Coffee Aisle

Coffee drinks are wildly popular, but many are loaded with sugar and otherwise not very good for you. 

Jash Mehta, co-founder of Pop & Bottle, says she can do better. Her company makes dairy-free, organic lattes and other coffee-based drinks with no refined sugar, only the best ingredients, and thoughtful packaging. This is its origin story.

A ‘Wellness Journey’

Jash says the idea for the company sprang from a “wellness journey” she and her co-founder embarked on.

“We were really trying to experiment with a plant-based diet, we were removing dairy from our diet, we were trying to remove added sugars and refined sugars, [and] we were adding functional ingredients,” she says. “[We were on a] personal wellness experiment.”

At the same time, they both loved coffee and tea. “We loved to meet up for our daily ritual, get our daily latte,” she says. “It was something that we genuinely looked forward to. [It] felt like a little respite in the day, a little treat, a little thing that gets you going in the morning. And we were also busy people.”

She says the “aha moment” came when they decided to promote wellness in every aspect of their diet and life in general, Jash says. The problem was, that goal didn’t really jive with their coffee habit. 

“This daily ritual, this daily latte that we look forward to every day – and we do it every day no matter what – didn’t really fit the goals of what we’re trying to do in every other part of our day in terms of our diet. So the problem that we were trying to solve was, could we marry this daily delicious ritual with our wellness goals? And could we still end up with a really delicious product at the end of the day, where you wouldn’t really feel like you had to make a sacrifice? You could have something tasty and rewarding and ritualistic, but that also met your personal wellness goal.”

An Inviting, Accessible Coffee Brand

To meet that challenge, the company produces healthier lattes and coffees in a variety of flavors like vanilla, carmel, and matcha green tea. It also wants to be seen as a “beautiful brand that is inviting and accessible,” Jash says. Part of that means not following the crowd and shouting about how much caffeine their drinks have or how much “energy” they will give you. 

“If you went to the grocery store and looked at the coffee section… at the time [we started the company] and still to an extent today, you would see lots of brown, lots of black, lots of messaging like triple shot, double shot, 2x caffeine, energy, bold,” and so forth, she says. 

By contrast, “A beautiful brand is inviting and accessible. So we use pastel, very intentional colors to communicate the delightfulness of the product. We don’t talk about caffeination in any extreme way. Our product is one cup of coffee in one bottle or in one can. So it’s really not about the functionality of the caffeine. It’s tea, it’s coffee. When you’re having your latte, it’s not just about coffee. You might be consuming it just purely for the ritual, and that ritual could be tea or it could be actually no caffeine at all.”

Team Building is Key

Jash says her number one piece of advice for early-stage entrepreneurs is to focus on building a great team.

“I wasn’t a natural recruiter of people, [but] I’ve learned how to be,” she says. She advises entrepreneurs to “be really picky with the people you bring along on the journey – really clear on their role or what they’ll be adding to the company.”

Having the right team members “can be the difference mentally between being really excited to get up and go the next day [and] feeling deflated and not knowing how to move forward. The team really is a huge part of what motivates me to keep building this brand. I think it’s really, really important to be really wise and detailed about how to build that team, who to bring on the journey, [to] make sure that they’re long-term-minded people who are going to be with you through the ups and downs…. If you are not jumping up and down saying, yes, I need to work with this person, this is a hell yes, then you shouldn’t work with that person and it should be a hell no.”

Product Expansion

Jash is proud of how much the company has accomplished, but she’s not resting on her laurels.

“We have a good foundation of distribution. We’ve worked for years to be in these big grocery stores across the country, and it’s really exciting to have our product in the hands of all these customers… starting in this small way in San Francisco. So [our first priority is] making sure that we are really doing a good job and executing on all that business, that our sales are strong, that our partnerships are good.”

At the same time, she wants to capitalize on the coffee craze by expanding the company’s product line and geographic reach. “We started out with this very clear idea that we just wanted to make lattes,” she says. “And as that started to work, we started to expand broadly and say now we’re gonna make cold brew coffee, we’re gonna make concentrated coffee. And that’s just kind of this tipping point of how people can experience our brand…. Innovation is [something] I continue to think about, our team continues to think about, as we move into more markets. You’ll hopefully see some exciting new products for us in the not-too-distant future, and we hope to also be in more markets and more geographies very soon too.”

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