Northeastern Students Create a ‘Way to Eat Your Coffee’
Faced with the tedium of an 8 a.m. financial accounting class, two Northeastern University students began looking for a way better way to start the day. Constantly pressed for time and unable to get their early morning caffeine fix, freshmen Johnny Fayad and Ali Kothari began building an all-in-one energy bar that was not only nutritious, but infused with full shot of espresso.
“We were looking for a quicker way to get going in the morning without sacrificing nutrition,” Fayad says. “We thought, ‘Why can’t we just eat our coffee?’ Unlike Red Bull and 5-Hour Energy and all those unhealthy energy drinks, we didn’t want to sacrifice nutrition. We wanted to provide people with a healthier way to get energized throughout their day.”
Fayad and Kothari spent a number of late nights experimenting with recipes in the basement of their freshman dorm. After baking a batch of bars, they would deliver them to students in an upstairs study lounge and conduct impromptu taste tests. A year later, the duo settled upon a vegan, gluten-free recipe that combined natural ingredients such as cashews, almond butter, chia seeds, cinnamon, and Fair Trade coffee from a Washington micro-roaster.
“We really built-out our CoffeeBar through the Husky Startup Challenge at Northeastern,” Fayad says. “We ended up doing really well there and won Audience Favorite. That gave us some validation to move forward with the idea and from there started scaling up.”
The two named their burgeoning company New Grounds Food and began a working with Scout, a Northeastern student-led design agency who helped develop their branding. To assist with daunting packaging costs, New Grounds then launched a $10,000 Kickstarter campaign, a milestone they were able to surpass in less than 15 hours.
With 40 days still to go until their Kickstarter campaign ends (on Nov. 6), Fayad and Kothari are now targeting their more ambitious monetary goals. If they reach $25,000, New Grounds will be able to partner with Project Alianza, a non-profit organization that would help them source coffee direct from small-scale farmers. At $75,000, Fayad and Kothari would be able to expand their product line to include flavors such as caramel macchiato, hazelnut, and peppermint mocha.
Kothari says the company has been working closely with a food scientist to makes sure their product is shelf-stable and eligible for FDA approval. They’ve also lined up a manufacturer in Washington to produce the bars, which they’ll sell online via their website.
“Post-Kickstarter, we want to approach Whole Foods Market and hopefully get nationwide distribution through them,” Kothari says. “That’s the ultimate goal. This Kickstarter campaign is really the last step in getting our CoffeeBars to market. We’ve done all the back-end work to make sure that we’d be successful, we just need the community behind us now.”