Drink Muira is an innovative pioneer in the emerging market of ready-to-drink (RTD) iced coffee. The Toronto-based company was the first RTD flash-chilled coffee in the North American market with its popular canned beverage by successfully replicating the Japanese-style, cold-brew coffee process at scale.
And today, its newest beverage product is the first of its kind across the globe, says founder and CEO Adam Lewis.
This after receiving assistance from the food scientists at Research & Innovation’s Canadian Food & Wine Institute (CFWI) Innovation Centre to develop a custom-blended oat milk latte formula in a bag-in-box format.
Traditional Japanese-style iced coffee involves brewing coffee hot, with precision, before immediately and rapidly chilling it to optimize flavour extraction, and was the original product and formula the company went to market with in its canned beverages, explains Lewis.
“We saw growing demand for non-dairy latte alternatives and knew we wanted to satisfy our customers’ demands, so we sought out the expertise from Niagara College to help us formulate such a product to our specifications and desires.”
Lewis says his company had an idea about specific product characteristics and flavours they wanted to innovate in a new product and sought food science expertise from the researchers at Niagara College to achieve their goal.
They required assistance to effectively mix and integrate the appropriate ingredients into their product for optimal taste, texture and stability. “This is a challenge as we do not have the required expertise to understand that optimal mixing methods, ratios and risks associated with combining ingredients,” explains Lewis.
“The research, analysis and overall scientific approach that Niagara College provided was not only helpful but turned out to be very necessary as we learned the complexities of achieving the end result we wanted.” – Adam Lewis
Muira needed specialized knowledge to determine the compatibility of a new ingredient into their existing filters and equipment, and how to replicate their product at larger scales.
The company also required a product that stayed true to their quality standards of natural, plant-based ingredients, as well as being free from preservatives, dairy, gluten, nuts and soy and also vegan.
While their previously packaged 259mL slim can cold-brew RTDs were well-liked, and distributed to retail grocers like Sobeys, Metro, Longo’s and Whole Foods, when the pandemic hit in 2020, Muira had to shut down production and operations and pivot its direction. They made the economic decision to replace canned beverages with the new bag-in-a-box packaging.
“The research, analysis and overall scientific approach that Niagara College provided was not only helpful but turned out to be very necessary as we learned the complexities of achieving the end result we wanted,” says Lewis.
That end result was three RTD beverage formulations developed from concept to shelf by the CFWI Innovation Centre research team. Muira has since commercialized its Oat Mylk Latte product – a ready-to-pour from the fridge flash-chilled coffee in a 3L recyclable box.
Muira also sells its popular traditional Classic Black Flash-Chilled coffee, also now offered in this new boxed format.
“The team at NC was thorough and enthusiastic throughout the entire formulation process, ensuring all variables were accounted for to give us a formula that we were happy with from a flavour and functional standpoint,” adds Lewis. “They were organized and timely, making each meeting and iteration an inspiring step along the way to market.”
This research project received funding from the Ontario Centre of Innovation (OCI), through the College Voucher for Technology Adoption (CVTA) program.
This is one example of the applied research capabilities offered by the Canadian Food & Wine Institute Innovation Centre. To learn more about the full suite of services to support industry innovation and commercialization of new products and processes, visit the website.