YouTube star Emma Chamberlain expands her coffee company to reach a new generation of coffee drinkers – Fortune

Good morning, Broadsheet readers! A new labor ruling has big implications for severance agreements; the lawsuit that threatens to ban a form of medication abortion nationwide has providers bracing for the worst; and Emma Chamberlain is reaching Gen Z coffee consumers. Enjoy your Thursday!

Buzzy startup. Emma Chamberlain became a YouTube star at 16 when she started posting videos about her daily life. The now 21-year-old has amassed 12 million subscribers on the platform. From the beginning, one of the frequent components of her everyday life was coffee—usually cold brew, the ice clinking in the glass on camera.
Now Chamberlain is looking beyond YouTube to other corners of the entertainment industry, podcasting, and, of course, coffee; she’s the founder of Chamberlain Coffee. She launched the brand in 2019 and redesigned its offerings in 2020; the company raised $7 million in funding last year in a round led by Blazar Capital.
“My dream job, if I had not started my career on the internet, was to be a barista or to own a coffee shop— that was always my fantasy,” Chamberlain says. “My opportunities from my internet career gave me the ability to make that dream come true.”
The brand has become popular with Gen Z and millennial consumers, from Chamberlain’s massive YouTube following and beyond. Its top-selling product is single-serving cold brew sachets, which cost $16 for a box of 10; it also sells matcha, chai, and accessories like a milk frother and beverage tumbler. With its funding, the brand is plotting an expansion from direct-to-consumer sales to reaching retail customers, says CEO Chris Gallant. The products are sold in about 500 retail stores now—its biggest partner is the grocery chain Sprouts—and the brand aims to be in 5,000 by the end of the year.
Coffee businesses like Starbucks have spent the past few years adapting to the changing tastes of young coffee consumers; cold drinks now account for as much as 75% of Starbucks sales. Chamberlain is part of that demographic—and has set some coffee trends herself, like her personal cold brew recipe—helping the brand understand its customer. “We’re creating a brand that is not a brown bag sitting on the shelf, but is livelier and speaking to a new cohort of consumers,” Gallant says.
Coffee is a consumer good that’s ripe for the direct-to-consumer model, Gallant says. “It’s great for subscription business because it’s so ritualistic,” he explains. “But most people still purchase their coffee on their weekly grocery trip.”
While Gallant strategizes how to reach more customers, Chamberlain continues to weigh in on product and marketing. And with so many celebrity-backed brands out there, being in the coffee category—not beauty or alcohol—helps Chamberlain’s brand stand out. “Authenticity is critical to our success,” says Gallant.
“I do want Chamberlain Coffee to have a life of its own,” Chamberlain says. “And I’m so grateful I was able to use the other side of my career to help this side of my career.”
Emma Hinchliffe

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