On Wednesday, Bellwether Coffee announced that it had received a $40 million cash infusion. The Berkeley, California-based startup received Series B funding from venture capital firm DBL Partners (Tesla) and Solar City co-founders Peter and Lyndon Rive. The organization indicates that it will use its new capital to bolster its manufacturing capabilities and expand its customer-facing team.
A New Approach to Coffee Roasting
In an interview with TechCrunch, Bellwether CEO Nathan Gilliland explained why he thinks his company will revolutionize the coffee industry. The executive notes that his company is working to bring about the premiumization of java. Instead of aiming to be the next Bud Lite, his firm wants to become the next Yuengling.
Bellwether is pursuing that goal via its eponymous eco-friendly coffee roaster. The 70” x 34” x 30” machine can process 7 pounds of coffee in just 15 minutes. Moreover, the firm’s roasters use direct heat, hot air, and precision agitation blades to grind its responsibly sourced beans. As such, its method produces 90 percent less greenhouse gas than traditional techniques.
The company’s equipment also comes with intuitive software that allows clients to roast their coffee beans to perfection without prior experience.
The innovative startup’s equipment retails for more than standard roasters at $75,000. It does lease its machines for $1,150 a month over a period of five years.
When organizations partner with Bellwether, they also gain access to its network of coffee bean farmers. The firm’s clients, including grocery stores, cafés, and retailers can select from more than 20 plus providers to source their beans. Since there is no wholesaler involved, the company’s farmers earn high profits while purchasers enjoy the reduced pricing that comes with a simplified supply chain.
The firm also maintains an iOS app that allows its customers to track their inventory and collect sales analytics.
Conquering a $680 Million Global Market
According to MarketWatch, the coffee roasting industry is going to experience explosive growth in the next five years. The analytics firm reports that the market is currently worth $470 million but will reach $680 million by 2024. Bellwether has established a brand that is uniquely positioned to take advantage of that rapidly expanding sector.
To start, the company’s green-friendly roasting process sets it apart from its competitors. The firm’s ecologically sound roasting process is a great selling point for consumers, especially among Millennials. According to the Shelton Group, a market research agency, 90 percent of Generation Y buyers prefer to do business with brands that care about the environment.
Furthermore, Bellwether’s unconventional method of sourcing its beans directly from farmers should also appeal to Millennial coffee drinkers. It also gives retailers access to detailed information about partners’ sustainable agricultural practices.
Nielsen reports that 73 percent of Millennial customers will pay more for sustainable goods, as will 60 percent of consumers overall. As such, the startup’s retail partners can charge more than Starbucks—and buyers will be happy to pay the premium.
Founded in 2013, Bellwether has raised $56 million from outside investors. Because of the firm’s ecologically minded policies, its backers will likely see a significant return on their money. Indeed, the company reported that it sextupled its year-on-year revenue in 2019. With an eye towards breaking into thriving the Southeast Asian and European coffee markets, the startup is on the path to great success.