The rise of local coffee shops and coffee culture has been beneficial to the economy in all parts of the world. Local farmers are happier, businesses thrive, and people can enjoy a cup of coffee at a cheaper price. But what about their benefits to the environment? We’ve seen green cosmetic/beauty brands that source coffee ground waste for their material. But, you might find eco friendly coffee roasters around you soon.
Bellwether Coffee was founded in 2013 with a goal to transform the way coffee is roasted, distributed, and sold. In 2018, the founder, Ricardo Lopez, convinced investors to fund over $10 million for his project. Recently, Bellwether has announced that it’s raised $40 million. Additional contributions from other investors have raised the total funding to nearly $60 million.
Nathan Gilliland, the CEO, said that the funds will tremendously increase Bellwether’s efforts to boost incomes for coffee farmers and eliminate roast processes harmful to the planet, and to meet global demand for its coffee roasters.
“We are thrilled to be working closely with DBL, Lyndon and Peter Rive to help accelerate our already rapid growth. We expect in-store roasting at cafes and grocery locations to become the rule, not the exception. We are proud that the Bellwether Roaster has become the most consistent and controllable commercial coffee roaster available,” said the CEO.
So why exactly is the roaster eco friendly?
When compared with the traditional ones, the company’s roaster, called the Bellwether Roaster, is able to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by up to 90%.
The startup company developed a system that solves three problems facing the rapidly-growing coffee market, which are freshness, margins and sustainability. According to the company, 80% of coffee in the US, more than seven billion pounds per year, is roasted at large and highly-centralized roasting facilities.
Then the roasted coffee beans delivered to retail locations via long and expensive supply chains, emitting a lot of carbon footprints. It seems that a lot of backers agree with Bellwether’s vision.
Josh Posamentier, managing partner of Congruent Ventures, one of the backers, said, “Congruent is excited to work with Bellwether Coffee and its outstanding leadership team to help bring innovation and sustainable business practices to the coffee industry from farms to cafés. Bellwether offers the only emissions-free commercial coffee roaster, enabling customers to grow sales in a higher-margin, socially-responsible fashion.”
Also, this roaster leverages a combination of hot air, direct heat, sensors, and precision agitation blades to eliminate the need for gas lines and ventilation. The machine can process up to seven pounds of coffee in 15 minutes.
Not only that the roaster is environmentally friendly, it’s also high-tech. There’s an intuitive, programmable software accessible via iPad that allows users to roast their coffee beans to perfection without prior experience. Perfect for people who want to have a roastery business but don’t have any coffee-related experience.
Bellwether Roaster also has a companion app for iOS. Users can access inventory management tools and data analytics as well as source Bellwether’s curated marketplace for different, customized profiles.
“We are evolving the coffee industry by making it more inviting and open to the ideas from farmers, roasters, baristas and consumers. Our technology makes sourcing and roasting coffee more accessible, promoting transparency throughout the value chain. We enable our customers to roast with confidence and create with expertise,” said Gilliland.
There are around 20 kinds of coffees curated by Bellwether. They come with recommended roast profiles and information about the coffee, the farmer who produced it, and small information such as whether the coffee is organically certified or other things.
This companion app also enables users or customers to contribute to coffee farmers directly. Bellwether stated that even just one in twenty-five customers tipping $1 can double the average farm’s revenue per pound.
“DBL is pleased to work with Bellwether Coffee to accelerate the reduction of coffee’s carbon footprint and drive positive social impact across the supply chain, all while offering consumers a higher quality coffee experience,” said DBL Partners founder and managing partner Nancy Pfund, who plans to join Bellwether’s board of directors.
“Whether it is cars or coffee, the move to electricity away from fossil fuels whets consumers’ appetite for a planet-friendly, premium product, creating large, high-growth markets in the process,” she continued.
Starting at $75,000 (more expensive than standard, conventional roasters but admittedly it does have its perks), the company leases its machines for $1,150 a month over a period of five years.
Producing the roaster globally
If you think coffee culture is just a trend and will die out soon, it’s safe to say that you’re mistaken. According to MarketWatch, the coffee roasting industry is going to experience explosive growth in the next five years. It reported that the market is currently worth $470 million and will reach $680 million by 2024.
Of course, there are other companies that make similar products. A coffee delivery startup called Luckin Coffee has raised over $200 million and there’s an equipment called Bulletproof 360 which has gathered $40 million in July this year. There will also be an internet-connected roaster that doesn’t require ventilation as well. The competition is there.
However, Bellwether has established a brand that is going to stand out in this rapidly expanding sector. As you know, this roasting machine is eco friendly and efficient, making it a great selling point for consumers who happen to love coffee and are eco conscious at the same time. According to the Shelton Group, a market research agency, 90% of Millennials prefer to do business with brands that care about the environment.
73% of Millennial customers will pay more for sustainable goods and 60% of overall consumers are willing to pay for them too. So it’s lucrative for the clients, convenient for the consumers, and planet Earth suffers less.
For now, Bellwether is focusing their sales on the US first. They’ve announced that the company has more than $6 million in pre-orders, which include a leading US grocery chain. “We help put the roaster profit margin back into our customers’ business and use proprietary data analytics tools to gain insights, saving an average of 25% on coffee bean costs,” said Gilliland.
I personally believe that when business owners have another purpose besides earning a lot of money, they might have difficulties at first, but in the end all kinds of sacrifices are paid off. Bellwether’s investors as well as the company itself will likely see a significant return on their money.
Now that funding is secured and all, this company is trying to break into the Southeast Asian and European coffee markets. If they succeed, then we’d get to have more eco friendly coffee!