Big Interview: New North
New North, the nitro coffee brand, launched to the UK market in January this year. In only a few months it was stocked in Selfridges, independent coffee shops, bars and it will launch in Ocado in September. Not bad for an entrepreneur that started making nitro coffee in his kitchen.
It was when visiting the US in 2016 that Christopher Beach came across the concept of nitro coffee.
“Nitro coffee was starting to gain traction, and you could find it served ‘on tap’ in independent coffee shops along the West Coast,” he says.
After returning to the UK, he challenged himself to set up a nitro coffee tap at home, using internet forums for advice. He started cold-brewing coffee in his kitchen, before infusing with nitrogen in a newly purchased keg.
"There was a lot of trial and error, but eventually, I was making consistently good nitro coffee,” he says.
While the UK coffee market has been undergoing a revolution in coffee shops and new product launches, nitro coffee was still relatively unheard of.
“I’m a big coffee fan and have appreciated the sharp increase in craft coffee shops in London, serving consistently great coffee. There is a real demand for better coffee and people are willing to pay more for quality and choice,” he says.
One reason for his interest in nitro was that infusing the coffee with nitrogen created a smooth, zero calorie ‘creaminess’ without the need for adding dairy or dairy substitutes. It is also unsweetened, is sugar free and high in antioxidants. And for Beach, who is lactose intolerant, he spotted the potential market.
“What’s surprising is the disparity between what you can buy in coffee shops and what’s being sold in the ready to drink coffee aisle. RTD coffees haven’t kept up with the innovation you see in coffee shops and are still mostly high sugar, coffee flavoured, milk-based drinks, making it hard to find good coffee ‘on the go’. This is especially true if you choose not to drink milk on ethical grounds or are lactose intolerant.”
It took a further 18-months to create the New North brand and release the first canned nitro coffee to the market in January 2018. He admits that those first few months “were tough”.
“It was winter, and I was trying to introduce a new cold coffee concept into the market. The initial few months were a reality check for how hard launching New North was going to be,” he says.
“Our first break came when Selfridges agreed to stock New North. Shortly after that, Daylesford Organic placed an order. Having strong names behind a brand makes a real difference and gave us a platform from which to push into new retailers.”
While Beach had spotted an untapped niche in the market it was not long before the potential was spotted by some of the bigger players with Nescafé entering the nitro coffee category.
But this is not something that concerns Beach. In fact he welcomes the move as it means more interest in the category as “They are educating the consumer, “ he says.
While the brand is gaining traction in the retail and coffee shop arena another area where Beach sees growth for New North is the cocktail bar market where is can be used to make alcoholic drinks such as expresso martinis.
Moving forward the brand will be working with events such as music festivals and corporate events to raise New North’s profile.
In May, the company was approached by the British Fashion Council to be the official coffee partner for London Fashion Week Men's. It is also currently sponsoring The Yacht Week as another way of building brand awareness.
There is more news to come as it is set to launch into Ocado with three flavours, one of those being its Original. But the new flavour variants are still under wraps. With such activity in only eight months and brand awareness growing it seems that there is likely to be more news from this new start-up.