photo courtesy of Chameleon

The Austin-based coffee startup hits the big time

Tim Nelson
November 06, 2017

While coffee trends like Unicorn Frappucinos may come and go, it looks like cold brew is definitely here to stay. It’s a pretty standard offering at coffee outposts both big and small, and supermarkets are awash with bottled options as well. Nothing’s been more emblematic of the category growth than Chameleon Cold Brew, an Austin-based coffee “startup” whose refrigerated bottles can be food everywhere from Amazon to your local convenience store. 

In an effort to keep up with the times and expand its coffee portfolio, food conglomerate Nestlé made a bold play to acquire Chameleon late last week. Described by a Nestlé press release as “a leading provider of premium-crafted coffee sourced consciously and grown sustainably,” Chameleon has clawed their way up the ranks since launching in 2010. Currently, they’re the No. 1 cold brew brand in the US and No. 3 globally. Terms of the deal remain undisclosed. Back in September, Nestlé acquired Blue Bottle for half a billion dollars.

The move helps Nestlé—already the world’s largest coffee producer—expand their footprint into the world of multiple-serving cold brew concentrates and pre-packaged ready-to-drink options. Given that those two sectors now represent roughly 18 percent of the massive $2.5 billion market for at-home coffee, it sounds like the acquisition will help Nestlé fulfill its “strategy of capturing opportunities provided by new consumer trends.”

For its part, it sounds like Nestlé doesn’t want to mess too much with Chameleon’s winning formula. Chameleon will maintain most of their autonomy in terms of both day-to-day operations and long-term vision. “Our intent here is to come out of this as the case study for how a big company can successfully acquire, integrate, and both add and collect value from this kind of situation,” said Chameleon CEO Chris Campbell. 

Hopefully that means Chameleon’s product line (which includes concentrate, home-brew kits, and five pre-packaged cold brew flavors) can reach even more consumers down the line. Definitely a good enough reason for coffee lovers to crack open a cold one. 

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