Durham-based Tempo Brew Co-Founder Gauri Rege is a lifelong coffee lover. But she noticed the products in the cold-brew market were missing something compared to the cold brew she would make at home.
They weren’t as flavorful because they were pasteurized. While pasteurization increases a product’s shelf life, it can diminish the taste. So in 2020, Rege, alongside her fiance Kevin Murphy, saw an opportunity to create unpasteurized cold-brew coffee products that still had all of the flavor as well as a long shelf life.
This was the idea behind Tempo Brew, which launched in farmers markets in May of last year and now has a seat in the current Launch Chapel Hill accelerator. From the farmer’s markets, the Tempo Brew co-founders said they’ve noted people do identify a difference between Tempo and any other beverage they were hooked on before.
Tempo Brew’s flavor profile—whether in its original, decaf, vanilla or cinnamon-infused concentrates—is one of its two primary competitive advantages, along with the convenience of using the products at any time from your fridge, Rege said.
Their ideal target customers, Rege said, are highly collaborative people working long hour jobs who are foodies and coffee enthusiasts.
“That’s the kind of consumer where we want to offer them something that just has absolutely natural ingredients and is minimally processed,” Rege said. “And there’s no pasteurization, so you get the full punch of flavor.”
All of Tempo Brew’s products use real spices without any added sugar, so customers can get their kick of caffeine in a healthier way.
The main goal for the Tempo Brew team is to get their product into local grocery stores this year beyond just the farmers markets the company has already found success in across the Triangle.
So far, Tempo Brew is prioritizing customer discovery with those working in roles like nurses, first responders, and volunteers at places like Habitat for Humanity or Meals on Wheels.
Even though the 18-24 age group has statistically been said to enjoy coffee the most, Murphy said the farmer’s market groups they pull from the most include senior citizens and parents. These groups appreciate the convenience and lower acidity that the drinks offer. They even sparked Tempo Brew to launch a new decaf product after considerable customer interest.
Along the way, Rege said they’ve learned a lot as founders. They realized early on that their original product, which only had a shelf life of two weeks, needed to adapt to prevent waste. Now, Tempo Brew’s products are good for six weeks, but this year they hope to extend that even further, to 10 weeks.
Adjusting to startup life
Rege relates the process Tempo Brew has undergone to a saying she has heard about the startup life: Being a startup entrepreneur is like standing on jelly and being comfortable with it. It’s been a constant exercise of problem-solving, she said.
“It’s been learning to fall in love with that problem-solving process,” Rege said. “Every time you solve a problem, there’s another challenge waiting there for you.”
The positive feedback they receive when Tempo Brew resonates with a new customer makes it all worth it, though.
“Someone says, ‘I had your coffee last weekend and me and my mom talked about it all afternoon,’” Rege said. “It entirely pays off when someone comes over and says ‘I loved your coffee.’”
While Tempo Brew has started in the Triangle, the startup looks forward to both regional and product expansion with ready-to-drink cold brews.
“We are hoping to solve a coffee issue for the consumers where we’re maximizing the convenience of having a cold-brew coffee in your fridge available to you whenever you want it, but also without compromising the flavor of it,” Rege said.
As Tempo Brew looks to dive deeper into customer discovery and acquisition, potentially setting up shop at nearby universities’ markets, the consumer’s experience will remain at the forefront of the business.
“For the longest time, coffee has been an affordable luxury for me,” Rege said. “To be able to offer that to others, that’s what we’re in it for.”