By Brynn Roach
When you ask a founder, CEO or investor what the most important lesson in entrepreneurship is, you will probably hear the phrase, “Don’t start a business, solve a problem.”
That’s exactly what TRU alum Max Rivest (BTM ’10) did, filling a gap in the beverage market with Wize, a low-sugar, antioxidant-rich tea made from coffee leaves. . His inspiration for the product that hit shelves in 2020 came from personal experience.
As a young college student, Rivest strained iced teas to keep him energized and refreshed. The more Rivest drank, the more he noticed the shocking amounts of sugar found in popular brands.
After an unsuccessful search for a low-carb alternative, he settled for black coffee knowing the bitter taste wouldn’t satisfy his palette.
Unfortunately, coffee was not the solution. Rivest suffered a caffeine overdose while studying for his master’s degree abroad, relying on the drink to balance his busy schedule. This experience would become one of the many justifications for Wize’s business case and strengthen Rivest’s desire to fill the crying void in the beverage market.
âBlack coffee contains more caffeine than most people think they need,â says Rivest. “I needed a clean, refreshing pick-me-up that wasn’t bitter like unsweetened tea or super caffeinated and intense on the body like black coffee.”
The solution? Coffee leaves – the dumped leaves of the popular plant that offer health benefits and a lower dose of caffeine.
After stumbling across the ingredient in an article, Rivest immediately recognized its potential and began developing Wize with its co-founder Arnaud Petitvallet.
The company has grown exponentially after launching tea bags in Whole Foods in 2016.
âIn two years, we went from six stores in Vancouver to over 1,200 in North America, but we were still a two-person team and no marketing budget – it wasn’t sustainable,â says Rivest.
The co-founders agreed to cut expenses and focus on the initial quest for a refreshing, healthy, and lightly caffeinated canned beverage.
Wize iced teas were launched in the summer of 2020 and are now sold in over 300 stores in British Columbia and Alberta.
Planet, people and profit
Wize was not only founded on the principle of health, it was also guided by sustainability and continues to deliver environmental and social benefits today.
âOnly 10% of coffee producers are employed for pruning during the nine months off-season,â explains Rivest.
Harvesting the coffee leaves allows Wize to add jobs to the local economy in their sourcing country (Nicaragua) and create a stable source of income for coffee workers who would otherwise be out of work. Since day one, Wize has generated over 100,000 hours of labor when farmers need it most.
The Rivest supplier is also the company’s third co-founder, making Wize the world’s only vertically integrated tea or coffee company to the farm with a single origin.
While the social impact is significant, Wize’s environmental performance is no less impressive.
By adding market value to underutilized leaves, Wize improves the efficiency of the global coffee supply chain. They also add new recycled ingredients to create world-class tea blends. Their best-selling loose tea, Chocolate Dream, uses recycled cocoa bean shells to achieve its signature milk chocolate flavor, a by-product of the cocoa plant that is also reportedly wasted.
Find Wize iced teas at Save-On-Foods Sahali and Valleyview in Kamloops, or find a store near you: drinkwize.com.
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