As someone who’s never quite gotten the coffee craze, I’ve experimented with all types of other caffeinated beverages: tea, soda, Red Bull, you name it. Zachary Barden, a St. John’s student himself, has developed a delicious new alternative: caffeinated hot chocolate called Buzz Cocoa.
The hot chocolate is delicious and has a pleasant zing to it. It can also be easily put in a travel mug to help you get through your morning class. Mostly, I was thrilled that I now have a hot beverage to wake me up while all my friends are making their daily cups of coffee. I also had the pleasure of being able to talk to the creator himself and ask a few questions about his product and his food preferences.
How did you start developing Buzz Cocoa?
Zachary Barden: My inspiration came from a situation where I reached out to meet up with a friend. I suggested we meet at Starbucks, and he mentioned that he did not like coffee or tea. When I asked him what he did like, he said water… and hot chocolate.
Then it dawned on me: hot chocolate with the effects of coffee. BRILLIANT! From there, I set out to do my research and brand development. I had to do my homework and research different cocoa blends, suppliers, tastes, and the like. Figuring out the blending and packaging was a herculean task alone. I played around with names like Power Cocoa and Jolt Cocoa, but ultimately ended up settling on Buzz Cocoa – it just sounded right.
Fast forward to today and you can see why it was a great pick. My product is creating quite the buzz, and I’m loving every second of it.
What have been some of your greatest challenges in marketing and selling your product?
ZB: The challenge has been to grow organically at a steady pace and high return rate. We’ve spent $0 on marketing and have been pushing organic growth via social media for the past 6 months. Surely we could have thrown piles of money at our marketing budget, but by alleviating this cost we have been able to focus on the product, the people, and the potential.
Do you have an eventual goal for Buzz Cocoa?
ZB: This type of product will be commonplace in the future. Some think this is a niche market, and at the moment it certainly is, but even coffee drinkers were a rarity several hundred years ago. Now you can get a latte on almost every street corner.
Do you have any other food inventions on the horizon?
ZB: Variations of BUZZ COCOA? Certainly. Although I’d like to leave it as a surprise.
Who are some of your role models, food or otherwise?
ZB: I’ve always liked Ghirardelli’s cocoa packaging (smooth, matte, and colorful) and the vibe Death Wish Coffee brings to the table. As far as non-food interests, I’ve always thought that a promo video with O.T. Genesis’s “I’m In Love With The Coco” would be pretty funny.
What are your favorite foods?
ZB: BUZZ COCOA, of course. Although I do fancy some grilled chicken and delicious avocados.
What’s the weirdest food you’ve ever eaten?
ZB: Oxtail in Jamaica several years back. It was very tough and chewy.
If you could be any food (aside from Buzz Cocoa), what food do you think you would be?
ZB: Definitely an avocado. I’d live in a tropical climate and go well with everything!
It’s so inspiring to hear from young foodies and entrepreneurs. You can order some Buzz Cocoa on their main website, and who knows? In a few years, you may be able to get one on every street corner.