How to Out-Sell Starbucks with Grumpy Cat - Selling Out Week


By Jess Goulart

Photos courtesy of Nick Sandford.

When San Diego State graduate Nick Sandford started his first beverage company, El Gallo, in 2012, he learned one valuable lesson fast–selling a product is horribly difficult when you don’t have brand recognition.

El Gallo is an energy drink sweetened naturally with agave to help it mix with tequila. Sandford thought he’d found an untapped niche (Redbull + tequila = gross), but said the product simply couldn’t compete with big names consumers already knew. Then, driving home one day from work, he was struck by genius.

“I thought, oh man, it would be cool to put Grumpy Cat on your iced coffee. Everybody knows Grumpy Cat. Everyone needs a little coffee in the morning to cure your grumpiness,” Sandford tells BTR.

Sandford contacted the cat’s owner, Tabatha Bundesen, and pitched his innovative idea. She approved, so he started designing.

Thus was born The Grumppuccino–a premium cold coffee drink with the most adorable logo you’ll ever see based on everyone’s favorite frowning cat. Check it out.

Using animals to grab people’s attention is no new tactic. For example, as of June 2013, a video of dog chasing a deer amounted to 8.9 million views on YouTube. Animals have their own shockingly popular social networks, like the UK’s Yummypets. Boo, The World’s Cutest Dog, was adapted into a best-selling stuffed animal. With all the viral animal listicles, it’s also possible that BuzzFeed was founded on this principle.

As such, internet cat memes have grown incredibly popular and recognizable–plus it doesn’t hurt that Grumpy Cat’s beige-and-brown coat resembles a tasty cappuccino. Sandford may not be reinventing the marketing wheel, but his cat-themed coffee is the first beverage to use the cute-factor for visibility.

The Grumppuccino aims to compete with the Starbucks Frappuccino, a feat Sandford says none have yet achieved because consumers simply don’t care about no-name brands coming to market. To further distinguish itself from its competitor, Grumppuccino is made with Arabica beans from South America, is gluten-free, GMO-free, and sweetened with natural cane sugar. It’s brewed hot and then bottled, unlike a Frappuccino, which is reduced to concentrate first. But perhaps the most distinguishing feature of the grumpy coffee is how consumers react to it.

“This is pretty much the polar opposite of a Starbucks brand,” explains Sandford. “It’s not serious. It’s a little quirky, fun, cute, it evokes a positive emotion and positive response when people see it. They stop and take pictures of it and smile, and you just don’t get that from a regular coffee brand. It’s about the emotional connection you can make with you consumer.”

The Grummpuccino comes in three flavors; mocha, vanilla, and coffee. The bottles are primarily sold in Southern California, but Sandford plans to further expand. For those of you wanting a grump-fix, check out their store locator.

“I don’t like morning people. Or mornings. Or people,” says the caricatured cat.

Oh, but we like you Grumpy Cat. We like you. Enough to drink.