SOLON– Finding the right coffee to put in the bag– that’s been the challenge for Jeff Kral and Larry Erenberger in creating their own brand of bean drip for college sports fans.
Kral and Erenberger, who graduated from Solon just a year apart in the late 1970s, have just begun a new company, Mascot Coffee, which matches their Hawkeye pride with their love of the java juice.
Both were college athletes and developed the company for a few years before making a deal to sell Hawkeye Gold in 2011.
Each bag of coffee sold guarantees a portion of sales returned to the campuses and Erenberger said supporting the universities is an important part of Mascot.
Kral brewed up the idea for college-themed coffee when he saw a blank bag of coffee next to the famous tiger hawk logo of the University of Iowa Hawkeyes. His “aha” moment turned into a new business for the old friends. He checked to see if specialty coffee was available at university bookstores and, finding none, called Erenberger who lives in Tucson, Ariz. Kral lives in Prior Lake, Minn.
Erenberger has worked with universities and colleges for almost 30 years so they cooked up a licensing deal with Iowa last spring, then quickly added Iowa State, Kansas State and Minnesota.
The idea was simple, Erenberger said, “(but) implementation is not for the faint of heart.”
In addition to the school licensing deals, they said setting up insurance, designing the artwork and packaging, and developing the marketing and distribution plans have been a challenge.
The coffee, Kral said, was key. Mascot’s mild blend is 100-percent gold roast and comes in 12-ounce brightly-colored bags with school colors and logo.
“It looks great on the kitchen counter,” Erenberger said. “And you can serve it up in your RV while tailgating at the game, too.”
Each bag is $9.99 and currently available at local Hy-Vee stores and Paul’s Discount in Iowa City.
ISU fans will have to make a pilgrimage to score some Cyclone Gold, which is only available in Ames.
The duo is working to add more schools to their roster. They are also discussing corporate brands and starting a program to help high schools fundraise with the Mascot brand. No word yet on whether they’ll offer a Spartan-themed coffee for Solon High fans and grads like themselves.
The coffee is roasted, ground, and packaged in Le Center, Minn., and Mascot Coffee’s website is at www.mascotcoffee.com .