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The Next Big Thing: Duke Brother’s Coffee

March 1, 2016

Robert Fuller and William Roberts are the co-founders of Duke Brother’s Coffee. This small business is at the leading edge of a new and growing trend: cold-brewed coffee. If the taste wasn’t enough to convert you consider this: a 12 oz. serving has 40% more caffeine then a regular cup of coffee without any of the bitterness or acidity.

These entrepreneurs found inspiration for the company’s name from Robert’s maternal grandfather Oscar Duke. In the 1930’s He and his identical twin brother Donny owned a motorcycle company called The Duke Brothers. Their company became one of the largest motorcycle distributors in India at that time. Most amazingly Ossy and Donny lived to be 102 years becoming the oldest male identical twins of their time! 

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Peddling Around:  

Robert came up with his first version of the current Duke Brother’s business idea while abroad. Travelling in the US, he discovered bicycle venders literally pedalling cold-brewed coffee!  People were lining up in the streets to buy a cup. 

Robert had always wanted to own a café, and thought to himself that a bicycle-based coffee business here in Canada may be a good way to transition into that dream. “I thought being able to ride my bike around, while sharing my love of coffee with the city, would be a great summer gig,” Robert says. 

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From Good to Great:  

Although Rob was born and raised in Kitchener, since the beginning of Duke Brother’s he has been focused on the Toronto market, with plans to expand into other southern Ontario cities as the company grows.  The Duke Brothers have come a long way in a short time. They got started making sales directly from their specialty tricycles and have since transitioned to a producer/wholesaler model. This occurred when they were faced with limiting city bylaws that called for a change in plan. They began targeting the foodservice channel by selling wholesale coffee kegs to bars, restaurants and cafes. You can find Duke Brother’s products in stock at a number of notable Toronto establishments including the Drake One Fifty. They will also continue to use the bikes to market our product at various events, festivals, parties, etc this year.

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Robert explains his plans for the coming months. He says “ I feel my cold brew is better than all the other products on the market, however there’s still room for improvement; I’d like our product to be more consistent.” 

Robert understands the importance of market research and competitive advantage in regards to his business. “I’m taking inspiration from wine producers and trying to find a way to make a cold brew coffee that has seasonal variation but year round appeal.”

“Some of our proudest achievements over the last year have come through joining the Food Starter Incubator” says Robert. “Food starter has really been a godsend for our company. We have been able to realize many goals much quicker than we had ever anticipated at a fraction of the cost. We have been able to connect with a variety of fantastic resources who are helping us in various aspects of product development, marketing, validation, technical support, and much more. Our customized accelerator unit has been key in setting realistic high growth projections for the upcoming year and has allowed us to keep intellectual property and quality assurance in house.”

Rob adds “This was something that we wanted in the beginning but it became a cost vs benefit that we couldn’t  initially justify. with the help of Food Starter we have been able to put a 1 and 3 year plan together for scaling until we generate some solid revenue and  move out into our own facility .”The collaborative environment and  support from the Food Starter team has allowed Matt and Rob to focus and maintain optimism in some of those turbulent times that every start-up experiences in the first stages of growth.

What’s on the Duke Brother’s agenda for spring? Rob plans to spend two months testing his formula and using sensory science tools to find the best process to produce the best taste that can be duplicated and scaled. “We have been able to start conducting considerable R&D with the hopes of releasing a number of products into the market this year,” he says.

 

Connect with “The Duke Brothers” 

Check back with us in the coming months for updates about Duke Brother’s adventures in the world of cold brew!  They have been on a social media hiatus as they focus on product development; however, they will be gearing up for some really wicked events in the coming months such as a launch party, cold brew cocktail competition, and many events and festivals this summer so sign up for their social handles to stay informed!

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Anna Dredge
More than a fair weather friend | Fan of food puns & the occasional dad joke | Brand manager, creative & digital strategist | Founder of Cynefin Co | INFJ trying to find my tribe and career path -- Follow my progress on 50 coffeess