One of Matt’s recent adventures was starting up his instant coffee business, Alpine Start. We asked Matt about where the idea came from, how it came to life, and what’s next for his company.
Hydro Flask: Tell us the story of Alpine Start and where it began. How did the idea come to life?
Matt Segal: I’ve been a professional climber for the last 15 years, and, for about the last 10 years, I focused on traveling all over the world on many kinds of climbing expeditions. About three years ago, I was in the Bugaboos in British Columbia and realized there was a gap in the instant coffee market. There was only one large company that was doing a lot of single serve instant coffees. I wanted to take a stab at creating a better image of coffee and the idea came to me on a rainy day. I was just sick of drinking bad instant coffee.
HF: How did you go through the process of sourcing the coffee and bringing it to market?
Matt: A friend of mine, Alex Hanifin, had worked with other companies in the natural food industry, so I dropped this idea to her. At first she was a little reluctant, but after talking about it and doing some research, she joined in. It was just her and me, initially. Then I brought my sister, Amy, on to help with design. From there we started trying as many instant coffees as we could to see what was already in the market. Eventually we settled on a Columbian coffee and a medium to medium-dark roast for our original blend. We were looking for something that was like a standard cup of coffee for the American palate.
HF: How was your new product received?
Matt: The initial reception to the product was really strong. A lot of people were excited about a new brand that had roots in the outdoors. Drinking coffee, especially instant coffee, is a huge part of camping, climbing, and backpacking. People were psyched to see a company with that background. I think it was not only a taste preference, but definitely a brand and a culture preference, too. Right away we got a lot of traction. We built our website and then shortly arrived in a bunch of “Mom and Pop” retailers. Then we got placement nationwide with REI, which was a big move for us. Alpine Start is also sold in Whole Foods regionally and a couple of other large grocery stores.
HF: How many years has the product been in-market?
Matt: In July 2018 we will have been on the shelf for two years. I had the idea about three and a half years ago, so it took six months before Alex and I started working on it. We call our birthday the first time we had product, so we’re two years old in-market.
HF: What do you see for the future of Alpine Start? Anything exciting coming up?
Matt: This summer we launched two new products: a coconut creamer latte and a dirty chai latte. Both are dairy-free. Our plan is to continue to put out new and innovative products. I feel like the growth opportunities are endless for us at the moment. Being a young company, we have a ton of ideas, but the reality is that we’re taking it slowly in terms of launching new products because we want to make sure we put out the best products that we can.
Learn more about Alpine Start.