CoffeeCandy Brings Caffeine Boost in Bite-Size CandyApr 25, 2023 12:45PM ● By Angelia Davis
Don Chunshen Li has created a way to enjoy the benefits of coffee without having to drink it.
His edible creation is CoffeeCandy, a “unique blend of coffee, shaped into a bite-sized candy, that is easy to take on-the-go.”
It’s a convenience born out of what Li saw as a need. For many years, Li’s job as a software engineer had him driving to companies in multiple states.
Li said he needed the caffeine boost to stay alert, minus the hassle of frequent bathroom runs.
He was on the road in late 2021 when the idea of an edible coffee hit him. But the idea didn’t initially translate into candy.
Li initially experimented with a baked coffee brownie. It looked good, tasted good, and the people who tried it, liked it, he said. The problem: brownies have a short shelf life.
“It’s good for a couple of days,” he said. “I need this (product) to be shelved in stores so I pivoted to coffee candy because candy can last for months.”
In doing so, Li also pivoted again into entrepreneurship. He founded Greenville-based COG LLC in 2022 to launch CoffeeCandy.
CoffeeCandy is Li’s second entrepreneurial project. Over a decade ago, he created a software package tool, Knowledge Notebook, for college students.
The venture didn’t pay off, Li said. “I got a little bit carried away, I didn’t know the importance of making sales, and ran out of cash.”
Things will be different with CoffeeCandy, he said, because “I learned from my mistakes and all of my customers love this product.”
The product also earned him an invitation to compete in the Inaugural $30K PowerUp competition for start-up companies in South Carolina. Presented by Integrated Media Publishing and Eric Weir, the competition is offering entrepreneurs an opportunity to win from $5,000 to $15,000.
“It’s a very interesting program,” said Li, when asked why he decided to participate in the competition.
“We want to bring this product to the marketplace. The more resources we have, the faster we will be able to bring this product to the marketplace.”
Li is waiting for a permit from the South Carolina Department of Agriculture to produce CoffeeCandy on a larger scale. That would allow the product to be distributed to the likes of Walmart or Target, he said.
CoffeeCandy completed lab testing at Clemson University in June 2022 and was available for sale the following August online at eatcoffee.net and in some local stores.
“Our customers love Coffee Candy,” Li said. “Some of them told us they’ve tried all sorts of coffee candies but ours taste the best.”
CoffeeCandy is produced in a commercial kitchen in Pelzer. It comes in packets containing three firm, but chewy candies. Each packet has a total of 96 milligrams of caffeine.
The average eight-ounce cup of coffee has about 95 milligrams, according to Healthline Media, Inc.
Li’s family immigrated to the United States from China years ago. Li himself has lived and traveled to many states, from north to south, in the eastern United States.
Li, who now lives in Greenville, has spent the last couple of years working as a consultant.
When the idea of CoffeeCandy came to him, Li said he felt he couldn’t miss the opportunity.
“I’m going full force with this product,” he said.