Small Roaster, Big Potential: How A New Roasting Business Emerges

Carving out your path means refusing to walk down certain trails.

This sounds like conventional wisdom, and yet, you’d be surprised by how easily the prospect of a juicy sale gets in the way of it. As a new roaster you have the unenviable position of having to market to thousands of cafes who are then trying to market to millions of people. However…quality, not quantity, is what sets one roaster apart from the next. You wouldn’t expect to see a chocolate factory with the highest quality cocoa beans advertising their products for children’s birthday parties. Likewise, you wouldn’t expect an instant noodle brand to aim at five-star restaurants in upscale New York City.

Why would your roasts be a one-size-fits-all?

When you sell your roast you create a path for cafes and customers to wander down. Your specialty roast tells cafes which customers they appeal to. Customers are then told how this cafe will intersect with their busy lifestyle. Keeping this path clear of proverbial pitfalls means learning about every step of the way: getting in touch with the why and the how of your new microroasting business so you can sell that plain, ever-so-coveted what. We’re going to take a journey through all the little details that go toward creating a delicious and memorable specialty roast people want to buy.

Emphasizing the peripheral information surrounding your new roasting business, promoting lifestyle benefits and stressing the unique traits of your coffee are all small steps that add up to an unforgettable experience.

coffee roasting business

The past twenty years have seen new roasting businesses cropping up left and right.

Let’s start with a hard pill to swallow: sometimes you have to walk backwards to go forward.

It’s not exactly an easy thing to recommend to the new, time-strapped microroaster, is it? The breakneck pace of marketing — especially digital marketing — makes forward momentum seem like the only option. Hubspot, one of the leading content marketing agencies, revealed at least 45% of today’s businesses find regular blogging to be their most profitable method of advertising. Every new statistic that comes out about social media engagement, too, just adds more numbers to the pile — Facebook boasts over two billion users and remains the number one choice for video marketing efforts apart from Instagram. Mindlessly chasing after trends and stats to promote your new roasting business, however, is the opposite of wise.

You want to be a keen roaster — not just a reactive one — and that means remaining mindful of every step that goes into making that cup of coffee.

Some customers already know what they want when they walk into a cafe. Others are on the hunt for their new favorite thing. Navigating these nebulous possibilities isn’t just the job of cafes: you increase the lifespan of your roast when you provide classic and innovative traits to build a strong foundation. Take Counter Culture coffee, for instance. They’re a large roaster in North Carolina who provide coffee certification for baristas and recently founded the Coalition For Coffee Communities. That information hasn’t even touched on the quality of the coffee itself yet, and still, it’s vital peripheral knowledge that enhances the experience.

Starbucks is easily the most well-known example of a successful coffee chain, boasting over 30,000 stores spanning the globe and considered synonymous with convenient coffee on-the-go. As a microroaster, however, there is no shame in staying small (all journeys start with a single step, after all). Several microroasters today have carved out niches for themselves by stressing their business’s supplementary benefits of sending your hard-earned money their way. KLLR Coffee — sitting pretty in Oklahoma — is a new small roaster that’s made waves with their commitment to both specialty coffee and the stories of their growers. They’ve used their small name and minimalist environment in their favor, creating a next-door feel no matter where you purchase from.

Everywhere you turn there’s peripheral information that sets all these places apart from one another. Gear Patrol gathered up an impressive list of small to large coffee roasters across the United States, parsing out why each one stands out from the other. Panther is a specialty roaster that’s done their part to bring Florida to the forefront of the coffee scene (normally dominated by Washington and California), setting the stage for new roasting businesses to follow in their footsteps. ReAnimator all but redefines the word ‘niche’ by working primarily with limited-edition green coffee, proving no detail is too specific for today’s cafes. There are more than enough examples for you to explore as you inch your way toward a brand name that lingers in the hearts — and stomachs — of your buyers.

Why would a cafe — or casually browsing customer — reach for your coffee bag?

roasted coffee beans

Fresh coffee beans are always a plus, but they’re simply one detail of many in your new roasting business.

Customers are sharper than they’ve ever been. Having the entire world at one’s fingertips has a tendency to do that. They also have more coffee than ever to choose from, even if they live halfway across the country or are a tiny mom-and-pop shop.

We’ve taken a look at business identity and the wealth of competition. Now let’s keep that ball rolling with all the details you can cobble together. Coffee is not just delicious, but nutritious, and stressing lifestyle benefits is a common thread that links roasters and buyers. It’s easy to learn about the extraordinary health benefits of coffee — even the most recent news linking regular coffee consumption and a reduced risk of Alzheimer’s feels old hat. That said…just because something is simple doesn’t make it any less profound.

Alongside health benefits, dark roasts and light roasts offer their own unique appeal, though you should be very careful not to fall victim to misconceptions. HuffPost is just one of many news sources that has recently debunked the common stereotype that dark roasts have more caffeine than their lighter counterparts. Even Arabica or Robusta, the two primary types of coffee grown worldwide, are seeing another contender for top dog. The particularly bold new roasting business can consider the underdog of coffee bean varieties: Liberica. These are a much smaller source that hail from Western Africa, boasting a heavy, smoky taste compared to the nuttier Robusta and the more acidic Arabica — they’re starting to see renewed interest among several growers and could boast a very interesting niche in a few years’ time.

It all sounds well and good to review the basics, but does that mean there’s nothing new for you to offer? It’s here where you’ll start to get a little personal. For all you hear about this microroasting business innovating package design or that new roasting business creating the freshest flavor, there’s something they all have in common: why they do this in the first place. Some roasters had an epiphany while drinking an in-house latte at a hole-in-the-wall cafe. Others worked in similar industries beforehand, seeing roasting as an old dream that’s only become possible thanks to digital media. It’s not uncommon to find stories that don’t have anything to do with coffee in the first place.

Those seemingly benign little tales? That is what buyers remember.

coffee brew

Scent is the closest sense tied to memory. A new roasting business that can inspire fond thoughts with just the scent of their coffee is one that will stick around.

Heart Coffee is a Portland-based roaster that stresses the delicate flavor of their beans, creating an entire business model that revolves around gentle cultivation methods. They go to great lengths to stress the roots of the roaster’s journey, from cultivating the finest green coffee beans to every measurement and adjustment in the roasting process. Camber Coffee in Washington is a small roastery that is all about the individual stories that create the business. Each bag has its own unique story, detailing the daily grind, fond memories and even the living situations of several of their farmers. New York’s Peaks Coffee is one of the more stark examples on this list, its founders stressing the bumps on life’s road and how coffee is a common support system. Their business statement is open about discussing mental illness and how it played a big part in shaping their name, their branding, and, yes, their coffee.

Rarely does the specialty coffee experience end with the last drop. A new roasting business makes sure their dollar keeps traveling.

I only roast my coffee in the state.”, a new roaster might say. “My packaging design eschews conventional shapes in the industry.”, could be another. “We take extra care when bagging and distributing our coffee to create the freshest flavor around.” is a basic one, sure, but no less appealing for the buyer. Herein lies one of the most beautiful elements about microroasting: less truly is more. Specialty coffee doesn’t have to be the most plentiful. It just needs to, as the name suggests, have something special about it.

There is always something that makes one roaster stand out from another, even if it’s not much more apparent than the different labels. Your competition isn’t going anywhere. If anything, it’s only going to get more fierce. Statista has documented the growth of the worldwide coffee roasting market, finding it rising steadily year-after-year with no signs of slowing. Roast coffee out of the home dominates, but there is a significant niche for home brewing equipment and ingredients.

Your coffee roast personality and foundation for success? They germinate here.

latte art

A single cup of coffee represents several histories, interests and goals.

The fears you have for the future, the concerns you have for the now…you shape them by getting in touch with your roots. Buyers aren’t just picking up a bag of coffee and taking it home. They’re also taking with them a reflection of their values. A promise for more to come. This is reaffirmed through your microroasting’s social media presence, blogging efforts and all the little ways you enrich the lives of the people you work with. Your gentle reminder every time they read the back of your packaging label as their drip brews.

There have never been more resources for new roasting businesses to get a foothold. You have plenty of comprehensive guides to fill you in on the basics of setting up shop, from choosing a grower to learning the business numbers game. You can actively track the growth rates of stateside, nationwide and international coffee. The flexible nature of coffee means those with backgrounds in tea and even alcohol can see niche success. The sheer wealth of options on the table can be intimidating. On the contrary…the little details are where you can truly shine.

Where else will your journey take you…and where will it take others? Keep moving forward — or backwards — and learn more about the industry to help your new roasting business take shape.

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