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How a ‘Yellowstone’ actor helped craft an Americana-themed coffee brand

While Paramount’s “Yellowstone” has captured the attention of millions of viewers, one of its stars is hoping to translate the cultural phenomenon’s Western cowboy themes and visuals into the coffee category.

Free Rein Coffee Company was born out of San Angelo, Texas, where entrepreneurs Karl Pfluger, Aron Marquez and Paul Anderson got the idea to start a new brand, sourcing from a roastery with 25 years of experience in the region and a cultlike following.

“They were undercapitalized and really just more regional,” Pfluger said. “Everybody that we introduced it to loved it, so we wanted to try to figure out how to get it in more people’s hands.”

The three decided to link up with Cole Hauser, known for his role as Rip Wheeler on the popular Western series, and also expressed an interest in the coffee category. After meeting with the actor at dinner in Florida, Pfluger said the four realized that while they each came from different backgrounds, they dreamed big and worked hard to achieve success. They each wanted to convey that ethos in the new coffee brand.

The decision to go to market more widely with an already established regional brand is not typical in the coffee space, according to Pfluger. “We wanted to rebrand it to something that represented what we were trying to build and something that we thought we could take nationally and ultimately internationally.”

Free Rein launched last fall, selling a variety of 100% Arabica blends in whole bean, ground and Keurig K-cup varieties, each with a distinct name that follows its Western branding. American Dirt, one of its signature brews, is comparable to a French Roast. Mesteño — which translates to “wild horse” in Spanish — is a medium roast Colombian blend with notes of cocoa, while Texas Pecan contains a nutty flavor.

With vast landscapes and horses adorning the packaging, Free Rein collaborated with Preacher, a design agency in Austin, Texas, that has also worked with water bottle company Yeti, and alcohol brands like High Noon seltzer and Maker’s Mark whiskey to achieve its cowboy-esque aesthetic.

“One of our main goals was for it to feel like a brand that’s been around for 50 years that people just have stumbled across,” Pfluger said.

Despite the $28 billion coffee category being crowded with household name brands and seemingly endless craft brewers, new brands continue to emerge in the space as coffee continues to grow in popularity. Another celebrity-backed coffee brand debuted in February called Happy — co-owned by actor Robert Downey Jr. and Eos lip balm founder Craig Dubitsky — that also expanded into RTD canned offerings last week.

Free Rein believes it can stand out in the category and grow a following by having distinct branding and high-quality coffee, according to Pfluger. While Free Rein doesn’t currently have plans to expand outside of coffee, the co-founder said there are more blends in the works.

“We don’t have a political agenda or any sort of agenda. We think if we have great product, we will have our fair share of market share,” Pfluger said. “Coffee is a big part of everybody’s morning routine, and it jump starts their day. And that’s who we’re trying to resonate with.”

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