Bulletproof Coffee CEO bringing butter coffee to the masses?
Editor's note: This is part two in a two-part series exploring the popularity of butter coffee. Click herefor part one.
"Bulletproof" is to butter coffee like Kleenex is to tissue.
Bulletproof founder David Asprey has marketed the term so well that many use it to describe butter coffee in general, but make no mistake, Bulletproof Coffee is a trademarked brand that covers much more than coffee.
It's a lifestyle, and Asprey is the guru, writing books and articles, hosting a podcast and selling cognitive enhancement supplements all designed to "activate untapped brain energy to work smarter and think faster."
"Our products are only part of the Bulletproof model," Asprey said in an interview with FastCasual. "The second aspect is education. Our cafe staff answers questions from customers all day long."
Creating the buzz
Asprey was inspired to create his version of butter coffee in 2008, after a trip to Tibet, where the locals gave him yak butter tea.
"I felt rejuvenated and began researching different methods for adding grass-fed butter to my coffee," Asprey said about his experience with the yak butter tea. "After lots of trial and error, I finally discovered Bulletproof Coffee, which is a combination of Bulletproof Coffee beans, grass-fed butter or ghee, and Brain Octane Oil, blended into a frothy cup of coffee."
Asprey's passion has led to four Bulletproof Coffee cafes in and around Los Angeles, a flagship location opening by the end of the year in New York City and a partnership to sell the coffee at Whole Foods.
"Everywhere I travel (I'm on the road quite a bit) people ask me when I plan to open a cafe in their area," Asprey said. "It is one of the most common questions I hear. And it makes total sense. There is a trend right now for higher-quality food and beverages that won't sap people's energy or spike their blood sugar.
"People want something that makes them feel good and is delicious. It also gives us the opportunity to connect with people face-to-face. The internet is amazing but it is invaluable to make real world connections and give people the opportunity to explore all that Bulletproof has to offer."
Asprey's company sold 48 million cups of coffee last year, and Bulletproof Radio is a No. 1 rated podcast with 50 million downloads. He's published multiple books, including "The Bulletproof Diet" and "Head Strong," which are both New York Times bestsellers.
"Our products and education go hand in hand," he said.
Is butter coffee too niche to go mainstream?
While Asprey is winning with butter coffee, the trend hasn't quite taken off,
"Since this trend is still emerging, we don't have any hard stats on it just yet," said Elizabeth Reardon, marketing specialist, Technomic."However, we do know that it's trending in some shops in major urban areas, and there are even shops opening up that are dedicated to it, too."
Chef Eric Nakata, VP of culinary & innovation, S&D Coffee & Tea, is a bit skeptical when it comes to the commercialization of butter coffee.
"Personally, I don't think bulletproof coffee has long-term drinkability and will not go mainstream," said Nakata, who has only seen it in small coffee houses or niche shops specializing in healthful food and beverages.
"Prep time is longer as you now have to adulterate your premium coffee with unsalted grass-fed butter and/or MCTs like coconut oil and use either a blender, hand mixer or good old-fashioned whisk and elbow grease," Nakata said. "These additional premium ingredients add to the cost of your cup of coffee."
Other questionable factors are taste and texture.
"Some immediately like the slightly thicker, oilier and creamier coffee; others find it an acquired taste which either cannot be overcome or causes palate fatigue and the consumer to reach for something tastier," Nakata said. "If consuming MCTs/fats is an important goal, these can be incorporated into a nutritionally balanced meal — leaving your coffee quick, simple and soul satisfying."
Cold brew vs butter coffee
The bigger trend, which started around the same time as butter coffee, is cold brew coffee, said Nakata. Mainstream brands, including Starbucks and Dunkin' Donuts, have already embraced it, for example.
"This is an obvious strong trend and shows no signs of slowing down," she said. "For athletes, it is perfect for giving a jolt of caffeine without causing an upset stomach before a big workout. While by itself it doesn't help you lose weight, it is an anytime beverage that can easily be customized to fit the needs and flavor profiles of anyone."
Cherryh Cansler / Before joining Networld Media Group as director of Editorial, where she oversees Networld Media Group's nine B2B publications, Cherryh Cansler served as Content Specialist at Barkley ad agency in Kansas City. Throughout her 17-year career as a journalist, she's written about a variety of topics, ranging from the restaurant industry and technology to health and fitness. Her byline has appeared in a number of newspapers, magazines and websites, including Forbes, The Kansas City Star and American Fitness magazine. She also serves as the managing editor for FastCasual.com.