Could St. Pete-based Kahwa Coffee compete with Starbucks?
Kahwa Coffee is on a roll.
In March, the St. Petersburg-based roaster opened its first café in Miami, and then this month it made front-page, above-the-fold news when it announced a major new deal with Publix that will see Kahwa’s java, both freshly poured and packaged, featured in cafes at 130 Publix stores around the Southeast, starting in Winter Park and Bradenton.
That follows on the heels of a highly successful 2017 — a year in which Kahwa opened three new locations and partnered with marquee brand names like the Tampa Bay Rays and Mercedes-Benz of Tampa. The company, to wash that down, had $8.5 million in sales last year, up 21.4% from $7 million in 2016.
Since founding Kahwa in 2006, the husband-and-wife team of Raphael and Sarah Perrier has grown the company to include 15 cafes while also developing an 800-strong hospitality client network for the brand. The partnership with Publix delivers a double-shot jolt of espresso to that network. “We are absolutely over the moon that Publix is working with a local Florida roaster,” Raphael Perrier states in a press release.
In the past, the Perriers have made no secret of their desire to challenge Starbucks for global coffee supremacy. Of course, the idea that an upstart coffee roaster from the sunny Southeast could present a credible alternative to the behemoth of the Pacific northwest — and everywhere else — seems, at the minimum, a lot of extra foam.
But maybe, with Kahwa's recent string of big business wins and the recent hits at Starbucks, the Perriers are on to something. After all, once upon a time Starbucks was — just like Kahwa — a local coffee shop with just a single location.