boom, roasted

Houston-based coffee company invests $10M into expansion, new state-of-the-art roasters

FreshBrew has upgraded to some high-tech roasting equipment. Image courtesy of FreshBrew

Houston-based FreshBrew, one of the largest private-label coffee and tea producers in the country, announced this month the recent investment of $10 million into its specialty roasting and production divisions.

FreshBrew supplies specialty blended coffee, tea and total beverage solutions to companies in the food service, convenience store, hospitality and retail sectors.

The investment will expand current roasting production and will fund extraction, bottling and canning capabilities, making FreshBrew one of only a few companies in the country to offer total end-to-end beverage solutions. The expansion, which is on the same land the company has owned since its inception in 1995, is slated to be complete in early 2023.

“Over the years, we take a myopic approach with our customers, we look at what they want to achieve and look at their market, and blend their wants and our knowledge and create custom profiles for them,” says Al Ansari, president and CEO of FreshBrew.

As part of the investment, FreshBrew upgraded its existing roasters and purchased two additional roasters and added 11 packing lines for a total of 25 to accommodate increased demand. In addition, the company expanded its team lines and added sugar to its production to allow for sweet tea products.

Construction is now underway to transform the 40,000-square-feet of vending space to allow for extraction, bottling and canning production in-house. The company also acquired an additional 25,000 square-feet of space, creating a combined total of 140,000 square feet for the roasting plant and warehouse. The company plans to add up to 50 employees with the expansion and is currently at 100.

“I think COVID really changed the game for everybody in doing business, especially in the coffee market – people want innovative products, flavored coffee, cold coffee now. We believe unique items will be the wave of the future – the companies that are the most nimble will succeed and I think that’s what we do very well,” says Ansari.

Earlier this year, FreshBrew sold the vending division of the company to Compass Group North America, the owner of Canteen Vending Services, in response to rapidly increasing customer demand for production services.

Al Ansari is the president and CEO of FreshBrew. Photo courtesy of FreshBrew

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Building Houston

 
 

Ben Jawdat, CEO and founder of Revterra, joins the Houston Innovators Podcast. Photo via LinkedIn

With more and more electric vehicles on the road, existing electrical grid infrastructure needs to be able to keep up. Houston-based Revterra has the technology to help.

"One of the challenges with electric vehicle adoption is we're going to need a lot of charging stations to quickly charge electric cars," Ben Jawdat, CEO and founder of Revterra, says on the Houston Innovators Podcast. "People are familiar with filling their gas tank in a few minutes, so an experience similar to that is what people are looking for."

To charge an EV in ten minutes is about 350 kilowatts of power, and, as Jawdat explains, if several of these charges are happening at the same time, it puts a tremendous strain on the electric grid. Building the infrastructure needed to support this type of charging would be a huge project, but Jawdat says he thought of a more turnkey solution.

Revterra created a kinetic energy storage system that enables rapid EV charging. The technology pulls from the grid, but at a slower, more manageable pace. Revterra's battery acts as an intermediary to store that energy until the consumer is ready to charge.

"It's an energy accumulator and a high-power energy discharger," Jawdat says, explaining that compared to an electrical chemical battery, which could be used to store energy for EVs, kinetic energy can be used more frequently and for faster charging.

Jawdat, who is a trained physicist with a PhD from the University of Houston and worked as a researcher at Rice University, says some of his challenges were receiving early funding and identifying customers willing to deploy his technology.

Last year, Revterra raised $6 million in a series A funding round. Norway’s Equinor Ventures led the round, with participation from Houston-based SCF Ventures. Previously, Revterra raised nearly $500,000 through a combination of angel investments and a National Science Foundation grant.

The funding has gone toward growing Revterra's team, including onboarding three new engineers with some jobs still open, Jawdat says. Additionally, Revterra is building out its new lab space and launching new pilot programs.

Ultimately, Revterra, an inaugural member of Greentown Houston, hopes to be a major player within the energy transition.

"We really want to be an enabling technology in the renewable energy transition," Jawdat says. "One part of that is facilitating the development of large-scale, high-power, fast-charging networks. But, beyond that, we see this technology as a potential solution in other areas related to the clean energy transition."

He shares more about what's next for Revterra on the podcast. Listen to the interview below — or wherever you stream your podcasts — and subscribe for weekly episodes.


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