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How Karen Danudjaja created superfood latte company Blume

Danudjaja combined her love of coffee shop drinks with wellness to create her popular blends
Karen Danudjaja
Karen Danudjaja. Photography by Tanya Goehring

In 2013, Karen Danudjaja graduated from The University of British Columbia’s commerce program and started her first full-time job in commercial real estate. Danudjaja’s role had her visiting cafés often for meetings over coffee. “I loved coffee shops, but everything was super caffeinated, based in syrups and full of sugar,” she recalls. 

At the same time, Danudjaja was getting more interested in wellness, exploring superfoods and supplements. However, she found the supplement aisles difficult to navigate. “I wasn’t feeling represented in that space,” she says. “It was really inaccessible. You kind of have to be an expert or a nutritionist to understand ‘why should I take maca?’ or what moringa is and what it’s good for.” 

Eventually Danudjaja came up with the idea of combining her favourite hot beverage flavours (such as pumpkin spice and salted caramel) with organic ingredients and the benefits of superfoods to concoct a guilt-free, powdered drink blend.

READ: How Naked and Saucy’s founder left his corporate job to give entrepreneurship a fair shot

By 2017, while still in her commercial real estate job, Danudjaja had launched Blume’s first product – a turmeric latte blend – selling it at a smoothie shop that she often passed by on her way to work. “It was super scrappy,” she recalls. “We made them in a commissary kitchen, using hand-labelled bags that we bought off of Uline [a packaging company].”

Less than a year later, Danudjaja quit her real estate job to go all-in on Blume. “I had always wanted to do something entrepreneurial,” she explains. “I loved connecting with other business owners and founders and hearing what customers were saying. All of my brain space and free time was dedicated to Blume.”

At this point, Danudjaja had expanded Blume’s reach to about 50 small retailers, mostly in British Columbia with a handful in Ontario. But when the pandemic hit in 2020, Danudjaja launched Blume’s website and started selling direct-to-consumer, which saw the company’s sales grow by 300%. “People were thinking of health in a totally different way,” says Danudjaja of the pandemic. “We were shopping online and looking for comforting things.”

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Blume’s growth was also thanks to the loyal customer base that Danudjaja had steadily established. “We have a really close-knit community of supporters,” she explains. “People who are customers of Blume are really long-term customers that try all our different flavours.”

The year 2020 was a huge one for Blume in several other areas, too. Danudjaja made the move from a commercial kitchen to a co-packer and also launched new flavours: Matcha Coconut Blend and Blue Lavender Blend. With the company growing, she was able to make her first full-time hire who, to this day, works for the company on everything from customer service to logistics and innovation. 

By the end of 2020, Blume had grown to a team of four full-time employees. But it wasn’t until 2022 that Danudjaja began targeting larger grocery retailers. Her first was Whole Foods Market, where Blume launched nationwide into 14 locations. “They had said ‘no’ to the product a couple of times, so at first it was very discouraging,” Danudjaja recalls. “But when we finally got the ‘yes’ from Whole Foods, we were so excited.”

READ: How Cove Drinks’ founders took their home-brewed kombucha to major grocers coast-to-coast

Next was Loblaws (in May 2023) and another nationwide launch that saw Blume available in 400 stores. “The first time I saw my products at Loblaws with my parents was a really special moment,” explains Danudjaja. “It’s a grocery store they shop at regularly and all of a sudden, Blume was on shelves there.” 

Selling in grocery stores was a move that came out of Blume’s community – customers wanted the product to be more accessible so they didn’t have to wait for it to be shipped. “We do a ton of surveys, customer interviews and phone calls,” says Danudjaja. “We’re always listening and that’s what’s been key to our success.”

By the end of this year, Blume will be available in more than 4,000 stores across Canada and the United States, including a recent fall launch in Target. Next year, Danudjaja says she will continue to grow and expand Blume’s reach in North America. “We’ll be launching a new product line in the new year, as well as adding additional flavours to the [current] lineup,” she says.

Looking back at her journey, Danudjaja recognizes the risks she took to start her own business. But she’s grateful for the support she has had along the way from her dedicated customer base – and her parents, too. “I was quitting my stable job to sell latte powders,” she says. “I’m sure my parents were scared for me. I was scared, too, but they were extremely supportive. Every time they buy a product, they tell their friends and they’re extremely proud. I’m very lucky to have their support.” 

This article first appeared in Canadian Grocer’s December 2023/January 2024 issue.

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