innovative coffee brands
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In 2023 alone, many international coffee chains made their debut in Singapore, notably Indonesia’s Kenangan Coffee, Canada’s Tim Hortons and China’s Luckin Coffee, spurring the coffee craze in the city-state further.

As the industry becomes increasingly competitive and saturated, smaller coffee startups and chains need to be innovative with their product offerings to ensure long-term business sustainability.

With that, here are five homegrown coffee brands that are making waves with their one-of-a-kind coffee products.

1. Prefer

Prefer bean-free coffee
Prefer bean-free coffee grounds and bottled beverages / Image Credit: Prefer

If you thought coffee could only be made with coffee beans, Singapore foodtech startup Prefer will prove you wrong.

Founded in 2022 by Jake Berber and Ding Jie Tan, Prefer aims to disrupt the coffee market by offering a new substitute: its “bean-free” coffee, which is created by fermenting excess bread, soy pulp and spent grain.

Prefer fermentation bean-free coffee
Prefer’s fermentation process/ Image credit: Prefer

Jake Berber, co-founder and CEO of Prefer, explained that the demand and price of coffee are expected to increase exponentially over the years. However, by 2050, about 50 per cent of the land used to grow coffee will be unable to.

By leveraging food fermentation, he believes that Prefer can provide an affordable alternative to coffee that does not exacerbate climate change and food waste issues.

“We believe Prefer is the next generation of the commodity we know as coffee today,” shared Jake.

Unlike harvesting fresh coffee beans from plantations, which can take months to grow depending on the season, Ding Jie Tan, co-founder and CTO of Prefer, shared that their coffee grounds can be created within 48 hours with their fermentation technology.

Ding Jie added that Prefer’s coffee grounds are compatible with standard coffee machines. The company has since partnered with various F&B establishments, including Foreword Coffee Roasters and SaladStop!, that want to diversify their offerings for their customers.

The startup raised US$2 million in seed funding last month and plans to use the funds to expand its production facility and market reach in Southeast Asia.

2. Crown Digital

Ella robot barista
Ella, the robot barista created by Crown Digital / Image Credit: Crown Digital

Two major ongoing issues faced by the Singapore F&B industry, especially the cafe scene, are high employee turnover rates and operating costs.

Coupled with the change in dining behaviours caused by the advent of technology and delivery apps, many establishments—including Crown Digital — have turned to automation to address these issues, hoping to increase their profit margins.

Crown Digital is an Internet of Things (IoT) startup and the brainchild of Singapore’s first robot barista, Ella.

Keith Tan, the founder of Crown Digital, shared that Ella is powered by Artificial Intelligence (AI) and robotics to independently brew 200 cups of coffee per hour, which is about four times faster than a human barista.

In 2021, Ella made her first international appearance in Japan, serving coffee to busy commuters in Tokyo and Yokohama train stations until February 2022. The startup then launched another kiosk at Raffles Place station soon after.

Customers can order coffee through the one-stop mobile app and scan their unique QR code, which leads to a “pigeonhole” where they can collect their drinks. As of now, there are seven Ella machines in Singapore, notably at Changi Airport.


We often get our kopi—the Malay word for coffee—fix at our local kopitiams or coffee shops. But Simon Lieberum, the German founder of NO HARM DONE, aims to revolutionise our kopi drinking experience with their local-flavoured coffee capsules.

Coffee capsules were first popular in Western countries and then expanded into the Asia-Pacific region, where they have become the fastest-growing market. However, most are packaged in unsustainable materials, leading to a potential extreme rise in global pod waste.

On a mission to provide Asian consumers with a sustainable Asian alternative to Western coffee for their capsule machines, NO HARM DONE was launched in 2018 with a bootstrapped capital of S$1,000.

NO HARM DONE kopi capsules
NO HARM DONE coffee capsules/ Image Credit: NO HARM DONE

Simon shared that all ingredients used are sourced from Asia, and their capsules are produced in Singapore. “There is no need for us to ship coffees around the globe when we have great Asian coffees with minimal environmental footprint,” he added.

NO HARM DONE’s coffee capsules are made with compostable pods and recycled boxes—an idea that was conceptualised after consulting with environmental consultants and industry experts.

The capsules are sold based on a subscription model in limited amounts to prevent wastage, with each pod costing as low as 54 cents. Their products are also sold in supermarkets and e-commerce sites, including Shoppee and Lazada.

4. Morning

morning coffee machine
Morning machine / Image credit: Morning

Another startup with innovative coffee products is Morning, which created a coffee tech ecosystem for businesses and consumers.

Simply put, Morning provides a marketplace of the world’s best speciality coffee capsules and launched its coffee machine, Morning Machine, which has precision-brewing features.

Control settings on Morning’s mobile app / Image Credit: Morning

Leon Foo, the co-founder of Morning, shared that the team borrowed product features from professional coffee equipment to widen the machine’s brewing parameters leveraging IoT, from temperature precision to pressure profiling.

The brand has announced that it will open its first brick-and-mortar store in May 2024 as one of the tenants in hospitality company Lo & Behold Group’s new lifestyle complex, New Bahru.

5. MAD coffee

MAD Foods MAD Coffee
Image credit: MAD Foods via Facebook

As convenience has become a selling point, many coffee chains have introduced ready-to-drink (RTD) coffee products, creating another saturated market within the industry.

Singapore foodtech startup MAD Foods decided to create its take on the RTD cold brew trend by offering a 100 per cent plant-based and dairy-free canned coffee called MAD Coffee in 2019.

Unlike many RTD coffees that contain whole milk, MAD’s coffee is entirely made with oat milk sourced from Europe across all three variations: Decaf, Single Shot, and Double Shot. Their coffee cans are also made with BPA and plastic-free aluminium, keeping in line with their image as a sustainable brand.

The startup entered an exclusive partnership with 7-Eleven for its launch in Malaysia last year. Its products are currently sold in online and offline supermarkets, such as Cold Storage and GrabMart in Singapore.

ANEXT Bank, a Singapore-based digital bank regulated by MAS, empowers startups with easy and accessible financing to fuel their business growth and expansion.

Featured Image Credits: Prefer, MAD Coffee, Morning, Crown Digital

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Vulcan Post aims to be the knowledge hub of Singapore and Malaysia.

© 2021 GRVTY Media Pte. Ltd.
(UEN 201431998C.)