Yes, they can: Catching up with St. Pete's still-growing Made Coffee, now in Publix

The cold-brew cannery plans to become a major player in ready-to-drink specialty coffee.

click to enlarge Made Coffee's signature cold-brew cans are nitro and traditional. - MADE COFFEE
Made Coffee
Made Coffee's signature cold-brew cans are nitro and traditional.

The last time CL caught up with Made Coffee there was talk of a cutting-edge tasting room. That idea has since been shelved (for now), but the St. Petersburg cold-brew cannery’s growth has not.

Limited space in the 2,200-square-foot production facility — stocked with bags of beans sourced from two coffee importers and shiny equipment like a Wild Goose canning line and a Diedrich IR-12 roaster named Reggie — led the folks behind Made to hone in on distribution with their specialty coffee program, rather than a tasting room. 

Not enough hours in the day was a factor, too.

“The distribution game takes up all of our time pretty much,” said Made marketing maven Taylor Prater. “Being in distribution, I don’t know if we could’ve put in the effort we wanted to.”

Founder Mike Rideout added: “Space and time. I think Taylor nailed it. We didn’t wanna split our time. We quickly realized if we’re really gonna do this canned product justice and really get it out there, it is gonna take 100 percent of our time.”

Good thing, too. With 70 to 80 accounts spread out across five counties in the greater Tampa Bay area — and a slight shift in focus toward more off-premises consumption — Made not only continues to supply a healthy amount of restaurants and bars with caffeinated goodness, but also recently landed inside one of Florida’s best-known retailers: Publix.

Navigating this uncharted grocery-store territory wasn’t easy. And on top of their ongoing cold-brew coffee education efforts (about half of the folks they meet at local markets and samplings have never tried cold brew), the young cannery is competing against big-name dairy companies for shelf space. Made’s single-serve, RTD (that’s ready to drink) cans of traditional cold brew and nitro cold brew are found alongside creamers in the refrigerated dairy section of Publix, where new jugs of cold brew almost pop up overnight.

One reason for the abundance? According to Rideout, those large dairy brands are buying into specialty coffee. The makers of STōK Cold Brew Iced Coffee merging with the parent company of Dannon and Nestlé purchasing Chameleon Cold-Brew earlier this month are two examples. Made’s facing a similar battle that craft beer went through when it entered the market among beer giants with cheaper six-packs.

“Now it’s us small guys going up with the big, big guys. That’s the space that we are fighting for,” he said. “But ultimately, we’re wanting to educate people on what this product is, why they want to buy it at this price point compared to, ‘Oh, I could buy a gallon of this other stuff at this price.’”

Self-distributing to 10 Publix stores around the region (scroll down for the full list), Made has the ability to enter several counties with the Lakeland-based chain, but is expanding as they see fit.

click to enlarge Made For Florida is their next special release. - MADE COFFEE
Made Coffee
Made For Florida is their next special release.

Another big deal for the cannery thus far has been limited releases. First was the popular, fruit-forward Ethiopian Guji, a different origin of coffee than what’s used in their traditional cold brew, and next up is a specially designed Florida-themed can called Made For Florida.

“To set us apart from other ready-to-drink canned products, we want to embrace releases — fun releases. We’re gonna commit to doing four a year,” Rideout said.

Initially, the idea was to launch Made For Florida in time to donate a portion of the proceeds to a relief fund during hurricane season, but the team decided not to rush it. Rideout does foresee Made For Florida supporting some kind of post-hurricane aid, however, when it debuts in the first quarter of 2018.

Bigger equipment, which is in the process of being designed, will help Made sustain the development of new cans, as will relocating to a larger facility in St. Pete, a move the cannery also plans to make. Rideout put it simply: Phase one — getting the cans out there, creating the perfect production setup and improving their recipes, among other things — is coming to an end; they’ve made their share of mistakes along the way, and learned from them for the better.

“When we were trying to get equipment built, we were having to rely on so many different people. Pulling a little information from the brewery guys, from commissary kitchens, from the coffee community with companies that are roasting in-house. So now that we have all of this under one roof, we’re the ones that know how to do it, which is kinda cool. And the only way we learned was because we made a lot of mistakes,” he said.

Prater and Rideout don’t see the partnership with Publix as Made abandoning their hometown base. It’s part of their growth, and extending distribution to another company with a Florida connection furthers their goal of creating a RTD specialty coffee brand that the Sunshine State is proud to call its own.

“This brand is starting here, but I don’t feel at all that it’s selling out by getting into a grocery store or trying to get the product into as many people’s hands as we can,” Rideout said. “You’ve got like three big cold-brew companies from Austin. Stumptown is from Seattle. Why can’t St. Pete/Tampa, with the coffee culture that’s booming, why can’t we have a major player in ready to drink?”

Here’s where to snag cans of Made at Publix locations on either side of the bay:

4th Street Station

Carillon Town Center

Northeast Park Shopping Center

GreenWise Market at Hyde Park

Gandy Shopping Center

Tri City Plaza

West Hillsborough Avenue

Shoppes at the Royale

North Pointe Plaza

Park Boulevard Plaza​

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