Super-innovative convenience cappuccino developed by SA entrepreneur
An exciting new convenience cappuccino, Ella, has just launched in South Africa, enabling consumers to carry barista-quality coffee in their back pocket, and make it anywhere as long as they have hot water.
Sporting the apt tagline “Nothing Else Like It”, Ella is made from espresso and low-fat milk free of artificial additives or preservatives.
Each capsule is simple to use: simply shake for 20 seconds, break the lid and the seal, and pour into a cup or mug before adding 150ml boiling hot water.
The resulting blend not only looks like a cappuccino, it tastes as good as the fare you’re served by any barista or artisanal coffee house.
Ella is the brainchild of Neil Hellmann, an entrepreneur and serial inventor who has spent “a lifetime uprooting himself from the domestic placidity of city life to explore nature”.
“About three or four years ago, I was out on an adventure and I wanted a cappuccino. Normally, one had to resort to a sachet and powdered milk. And I thought, ’there’s gotta be a better way to deliver a convenient coffee of premium quality.’”
Hellmann decided to design the solution himself, but the challenge would be sizeable: fuse taste and quality with a lengthy shelf life, qualities that rarely go together.
Today, in Paarl, his team has devised a special type of plastic to keep the coffee preserved, based on a license from Sweden. To that, the team has developed a unique foaming ring which generates the perfect foam.
In Germany, Hellman enlisted the help of a private firm to perfect the taste. And he has even built a processing plant to bring these disparate elements together.
After four years of graft, the hard work has been worth it. Hellmann has disproved the innumerable packaging and food industry experts who called Ella a pipe dream.
Consumers got their first look at the capsules at the packaging show, Propak Cape 2017, staged at the Cape Town International Convention Centre.
Titans of the industry, including Nescafé, were impressed, he says.
“It’s all about making the consumer’s life as easy as possible,” Hellmann adds. “For the lazy man and woman in the morning, you turn the kettle on, grab a capsule, and you’ve got delicious coffee in seconds. It works whether you’re at home or on the move; say on a camping trip, or at the beach, or simply in a foreign city.”
At retail, Ella will be sold in packs of three at a RRP of R49.50, starting with SPAR in Hout Bay in late November. From there, Ella is launching at select Thrupps stores in Johannesburg in early December.
While Hellmann admits that, at R16.50 per capsule, Ella’s price point exceeds your average sachet, it represents a sizeable saving over quality coffee you buy in-store.
Going forward, Hellmann wants to make life easier for the hospitality and airline industries too, who have traditionally had to haul coffee machines to and fro, and the plastic packaging is fully recyclable.
“Bringing Ella to life has been tremendous fun. We’ve had stints flying up to 8,500 feet to test it at high altitudes, and we’re not stopping there. We’ve got the option to do any flavour or blend: from vanilla to Irish to mocha. There’s a big demand for decaf as well.”
Expect to see Ella’s eye-catching packaging very soon as the new website goes live and an advertising campaign is rolled out, based on designs by advertising powerhouse TBWA.
Your editor’s impressions:
I called Ella my “Most Interesting Moment” of the Propak Cape expo in October when I spotted and tasted it on the Polyoak stand – and mentioned it in my Propak Cape report on FOODStuff SA [read more here].
In fact, I would go so far as to say it’s likely one of the most interesting beverage innovations I’ve seen in SA, if not globally, this year.
It really delivers on its taste and convenience promise – and it surely has huge marketing and application potential in several sectors; food service, airline catering, events, safaris and outdoors etc.
Hellman reportedly has been working on this for four years – not surprising considering the complex packaging and production hurdles to cross for this sort of product, as the press release above mentions.
Polyoak, at Propak Cape, said it is particularly proud of the ‘impossible’ packaging it has created for Hellman; a retortable cup, complete with frothing widget in its base, as well as an oxygen barrier in-mould label.
This is definitely one to keep an eye on!
Stay up to date with the Ella story at www.ella.coffee or on @EllaCoffeeSA on Instagram and Facebook.
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