How a Literally Out of the Box Idea Built a Successful Beverage Business
Chris Clark, founder of Clark’s Cubes, a cubed coffee and tea company, ditched his technical IT training to pursue the entrepreneurial life at a fast-growing beverage startup. While there, Chris discovered the huge amount of plastic waste in the beverage space! An environmentalist at heart, Chris was determined to find a solution by literally thinking outside the box.
After months of research and development, Chris developed a first of its kind product that offers instant coffee and tea without any single-use plastic waste. Clark’s Cubes now sells in over 75 stores around the Mid-Atlantic and online, including Whole Foods Market, Balducci’s, and Amazon. Chris has also been featured on the Good Morning Show for his coffee and tea.
He may not have known it at the time, but Chris’ interest in the stock market and economics would give him the confidence later in life to launch his own food business. After graduating from West Virginia University, Chris went into IT, but soon found himself daydreaming about what his life would look like as an entrepreneur. He craved the sense of fulfillment and slight insanity of running his own business. So when a friend asked him to join a rapidly growing beverage startup as a sales rep, Chris jumped at the opportunity. He spent his time demoing the products at grocery stores and quickly developed a passion for the food industry. He loved connecting with customers over shared obsession for the product.
But as Chris spent more time observing the manufacturing side of the beverage industry, his inner environmentalist began to feel frustrated with the sheer amount of waste he witnessed from single-use plastic beverage products. “I learned about the low plastic recycling rate and could physically see the sheer volume of bottles we were selling at a small bottled beverage company,” Chris told us. He added that he couldn’t imagine the amount of waste coming from large bottled beverage businesses. Like a true entrepreneur, he began to ask himself, how can I do this better?
For months, all Chris could think about was how to solve the problem of single-use plastic waste in the beverage industry. Chris didn’t want to give up convenient beverages and assumed most consumers wouldn’t want to either, so the solution had to offer both convenience and reduce waste. His mind was an endless stream of questions as he tried to find a solution, when finally, on a long drive home, the idea that changed everything came to him “why not cube coffee and tea?”
What seemed like an out of the box idea (pun intended) turned into months of R&D and a very messy kitchen. He read everything he could about moisture levels, coffee and tea, and dehydrating products. He was determined to crack the code. Once he had a product that was good enough for customers to give him real feedback, he used his background in business to launch in farmers' markets. He talked to everyone to learn as much as he could.
After a few months of working farmers' markets, Chris recognized if he wanted to scale, then he needed to be in grocery stores where the majority of food purchases occur. He had heard the buzz around Union Kitchen and, after a successful pitch, joined the accelerator cohort in May 2018. Since then, Clark’s Cubes are now sold in over 75 stores across the Mid-Atlantic, including Whole Foods Market, Union Kitchen Grocery, and Balducci’s. He continues to fine-tune his production processes and product offerings. Chris describes his entrepreneurial journey as slow and steady with lots of learning and tweaking done along the way.
“For me, success would be making these cubes in a way that is neutral and that people see as useful enough to allow me to make a measurable impact on the total waste generated by the convenient beverage industry.” - Chris Clark