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Intelligentsia Coffee cart
<p>Ten-unit Intelligentsia plans measured growth, including one or two new coffee bars this year.</p>

Breakout Brands 2016: Intelligentsia Coffee

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When Peet’s Coffee & Tea agreed to acquire a majority stake in the Intelligentsia Coffee roaster and retailer last year, it was clear the third wave of super-premium coffee has been tagged as a growth opportunity.

The acquisition brought Intelligentsia into the portfolio of Peet’s parent JAB Holding Co., which in recent years has also added Stumptown Coffee Roasters, Caribou Coffee and Einstein Noah Restaurant Group Inc. into the fold.

Dave Burwick, president and CEO of Emeryville, Calif.-based Peet’s, said at the time that the super-premium coffee market continues to explode in the U.S., driven by Millennials who are more affluent, love their premium brands and seek variety and new experiences.

Chicago-based Intelligentsia has 10 coffee bar locations in Los Angeles, Chicago and New York. But the acquisition sets the coffee brand up to expand.

Co-founder Doug Zell said 2016 will be a year for laying the groundwork for  thoughtful expansion. One or two new units will be added in new markets this year, but the company did not say where.

Intelligentsia Coffee
Intelligentsia Coffee taps into the growing super-premium coffee trend driven by Millennial consumers. Photo: Intelligentsia

“We don’t want to grow at a rate that exceeds the quality we built our name on,” Zell said.

Intelligentsia aims to be “accessible but still culinarily interesting,” Zell said.

“That’s the balance we want to strike — to have that friendly service, but to introduce more people to this kind of coffee that brings people closer to the source and talks about the producer.”

Intelligentsia is not trying to be the next Starbucks, Zell noted.

“We don’t want to be General Motors. We want to be Tesla,” he said.

Contact Lisa Jennings at [email protected].
Follow her on Twitter: @livetodineout

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