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Tuesday, Dec 5, 2023

Liv, Love, Local: Snowcap Cold Brew

Lundell behind Snowcap's table at the Vermont Cheese Festival. Photo courtesey of Lundell
Lundell behind Snowcap's table at the Vermont Cheese Festival. Photo courtesey of Lundell

Dreamt up by two roommates sharing a passion for perfecting an energizing cold brew concentrate in 2016, Snowcap Cold Brew now produces a variety of canned brews stocked at over 100 locations across Vermont. 

While Lucas Lundell and Adam Marchesseault co-founded the business, Lundell has been running Snowcap on his own as a full-time venture since Marchesseault’s pivot to becoming a tax preparer in 2020. 

Lundell and Marchesseault began tinkering with the brew method while students at the University of Vermont, where they began their quest to craft an affordable and delicious at-home coffee for themselves and their housemates. 

“A lot of our friends were consuming the cold brew that we were making faster than we had expected, just kind of disappearing out of the fridge,” Lundell said. After offering it to friends in the restaurant industry, one of the duo’s friends began to use their cold brew concentrate in cocktails at Drifter’s, a now-closed restaurant and bar that used to be located off of Pine Street in downtown Burlington. 

“It started kind of growing gradually from there,” Lundell explained. 

Snowcap’s product has undergone many evolutions over the years as the team honed in on their ideal brew. 

“We started out with a pretty strong cold brew a lot of people might consider like a cold brew concentrate,” Lundell said. Ultimately, however, their product evolved to a more approachable, ready-to-drink brew strength in canned form rather than a bottled concentrate. Cold brew concentrates are intended to be watered down by the customer with their choice of milk or water before drinking, as opposed to cans sold at a strength meant to be immediately consumed. 

The company’s current lineup includes four options: a higher-intensity espresso brew, a nitro can, a maple brew and a single-origin release in collaboration with Barre, Vt.-based 802 Coffee Roasters. Single origin coffee comes from one specific region, either a country or an individual lot. 

Lundell is continuously looking to develop cans that consumers want to drink. Previous innovations include a run of a CBD-infused can in collaboration with Mansfield Provisions, a CBD company also based out of Colchester, Vt.

Outside of its collaboration with 802 Coffee Roasters, Snowcap has sourced beans from Earth Back Coffee Roasters, a micro-roaster based in South Burlington, Vt. In 2020, Snowcap moved from a production space in Barre into a larger space in Colchester in order to scale up production.

“I would say that's probably one of our biggest hurdles, was like making that leap,” Lundell said of moving to a new production space. “But that allowed us to kind of get into a space… of higher efficiency, which allowed not only us to have more time to do distribution and make relationships with other producers, and actually give us more time to be more creative with what we wanted to do.”

Organic growth facilitated by collaboration with local businesses and distributors has been Snowcap’s strategy since the beginning. “Growing organically is probably one of the best things that we've allowed ourselves to do,” Lundell said. 

Along with several stores in New York and New Hampshire, Snowcap is stocked in about 100 stores throughout the state of Vermont, including the Middlebury Natural Foods Co-Op. Snowcap is one of hundreds of local products available in the grocery section and stocking local products such as Snowcap aligns with the Co-Op’s mission, grocery manager Jennifer Alderson told The Campus.

Lundell has found the Vermont environment to be uniquely supportive and has strived to maintain local, organic ingredient sourcing as much as possible, while working with local production and distribution companies to scale his business.

“We've been conscious about how we source everything that we get and intentional about working with other Vermont producers because Vermonters have been good to us in the whole process of developing the business,” Lundell said.

All ingredients Snowcap uses are certified organic, including the maple syrup for the maple brew from Backwoods Alchemy, an organic farm in Enosburg, Vt.

Snowcap works with Iron Heart — a mobile canning company with locations in Vermont and New Hampshire — for its production runs, and distributes via Vermont Beer Shepherd, a distributor of independently-produced beer, wine and nonalcoholic beverages such as kombucha and cold brew largely from Vermont. Working with Iron Heart has allowed Snowcap to produce about 400 cases in a day during a production run, which usually requires about a five-day preparation period.

The company’s label and logo design is done by Burlington-based graphic designer Four Nine Design. 

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Because of the huge variety of tasks involved in Snowcap’s day-to-day operations, Lundell said, it has been difficult for him to hire more full-time team members. But working with local businesses like Iron Heart and Vermont Beer Shepherd has been crucial to managing all aspects of the operation.  

“It was really great for us to be able to start working with a distributor who understood us, who understood our product and who was working with stores that understood local business,” he added. 

Outsourcing bookkeeping, design and social media management to other businesses has allowed Lundell to focus more on initiatives critical to the long-term growth of Snowcap, he said. 

Organic growth has not been without its challenges, however, including the sheer amount of labor required of a small team in order to increase the scale of a business, according to Lundell. Prior to beginning its collaboration with Iron Heart, a production day might have lasted from 8 a.m. until 3 a.m. the next day. 

Lundell hopes to take advantage of extra time as cold brew production slows down in the winter months to experiment with a brew with a lower caffeine content, as well as an oat milk-infused can as an offering akin to a latte for a potential spring 2024 release.

Despite the various challenges of running a small business, Lundell finds pride in watching Snowcap’s gradual spread and seeing the growth of other local businesses. 

“Vermont is really unique in that sense,” he said. “I think we're really lucky to have the greater community that we have in terms of the consciousness, so to speak, of supporting local business. And I don't know that I would have chosen to start Snowcap if I lived somewhere else.”

Olivia Mueller

Olivia Mueller '24 (she/her) is a News Editor.

Previously an Arts and Culture editor, Olivia is an International Politics and Economics major with a Spanish minor. Outside of the Campus, she is a spin instructor for YouPower, an avid runner and hiker, and a member of the Middlebury Mischords a cappella group.