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How Chamberlain Coffee aims for broad appeal while catering to Gen Z

Chamberlain Coffee is a big deal on social media. But the beverage brand wants wider name recognition with consumers outside of its staple Gen Z fanbase.

The brand was co-founded in 2020 by YouTube star Emma Chamberlain, at the time 18 and now 22, who boasts 12 million subscribers on the video platform and 15 million Instagram followers. It launched exclusively via e-commerce with whole bean coffee bags and later expanded into single-serve pouches and Keurig pod coffee, as well as matcha powder.

Videos about Chamberlain Coffee have amassed over 363 million views on TikTok, and its official page features Chamberlain creating drinks using its coffee and matcha products. In June, the company announced a $7 million funding round to fuel the launch of RTD canned dairy-free lattes — in Mocha, Cinnamon Bun, Vanilla and Cold Brew flavors — which rolled out exclusively at Walmart in April.

Chamberlain Coffee’s chief marketing officer Liz Ahern joined the company last October to accelerate the launch of its products in retail stores. This month, the brand launched three of its coffee bags at more than 375 Target locations across the United States. Prior to that premiere, the brand debuted at select Sprouts and Albertsons stores.

Ahern explained that the brand has jockeyed to move into brick and mortar stores in the past year. A key part of this aggressive transition was to drive awareness among the brand’s existing customer base.

“We worked really quickly to bring the ready-to-drink lattes to market six months after authorization,” Ahern said. “Even before the announcement, people were posting TikToks about seeing them at Walmart.”

chamberlain coffee

The brand’s RTD latte products, available at Walmart.

Courtesy of Chamberlain Coffee


From e-commerce to the coffee aisle

Translating the digital success of a brand co-founded by a social media influencer into retail came with one crucial task: How can it appeal to consumers outside of Gen Z and millennials? Faced with the challenge of familiarizing people who have never heard of Chamberlain or its products, Ahern said the brand leaned into its better-for-you attributes of its latte products to catch eyes on Walmart shelves.

“We had to think about how to market outside of our core demographic, with value propositions on the back of the can, launching with almond and coconut milk [in the lattes] with only one gram of sugar,” Ahern said.

In working to stay in tune with its young audience, Chamberlain Coffee has formatted its products to fit Generation Z’s unique ideals and tastes.

On social media, the brand picked up on a desire for more accessible coffee options, given the tediousness required to brew drip coffee. Ahern said this spurred the company to launch the RTD latte drinks as its first retail exclusive product.

Ahern said the brand also prioritizes sustainability — which Gen Z increasingly takes into consideration when it purchases food and beverage products — through its commercially compostable coffee pods. And young consumers’ interest in bold colors and flavors informed its decision to lean into decadence with its eccentric-looking lavender, strawberry and blue matcha blends.

chamberlain coffee

Chamberlain Coffee’s matcha powder.

Courtesy of Chamberlain Coffee


An eye on innovation

While the mission of Chamberlain Coffee is still the go-to brand of choice for the Gen Z consumer, Ahern said there is growing demand for a coffee company with its set of priorities among older generations as well.

“We have learned over time that our brand values — premium and accessible, and not a snobby coffee brand — are appealing to more than just Gen Z,” Ahern said.

Chamberlain Coffee is utilizing its brand recognition to fuel product collaborations, including its canned Matcha Lemonade with Swoon in 2022. But it isn’t stopping at beverages, even dipping into the hair care space with a matcha shampoo collaboration with IGK earlier this year.

As the company aims to capitalize on its viral success, Ahern said consumers can expect more brand collaborations for Chamberlain Coffee in the near future. The brand, she said, closely watches what its consumers want from the brand on social media as it formulates its innovation pipeline.

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