TOMS Shoe Company Announces Coffee Roasting

03.12

toms_coffee_roasting

Yesterday at Austin’s grand technology orgy known as South by Southwest (SXSW), TOMS founder Blake Mycoskie announced the next step for his pioneering “one for one” shoe company—specialty coffee. The plan includes more than just a pop-up cafe in a shoe store, the new category of the TOMS brand will include wholesale roasting, a chain of retail outlets and a subscription club. The coffee, just like the company’s shoes and eyewear, will continue following the company’s model of giving to someone in need for every product sold, in this case water. Fortune has the scoop.

Generally, a celebrity’s foray into coffee isn’t really worth noting. However, Mycoskie specifically mentions specialty coffee pioneers like Intelligentsia, Stumptown and Blue Bottle as their competition and has tapped Angel Orozco, founder of LA’s Cafecito Organico as their new master roaster:

TOMS says it’s not targeting Starbucks so much as “third wave” artisanal roasters like Blue Bottle, Intelligentsia and Stumptown, cult coffee brands that keep cropping up in places like San Francisco and Portland. But TOMS Roasting Co. will have one major distribution channel most of those niche brands don’t: outside of its own cafes and website, the beans will only be available in Whole Foods. -Fortune

It pays to know people, and TOMS brand awareness combined with their existing distribution channels may give them a running start. With over 2 million social media followers and a loyal fan base, those who support the TOMS model of one for one giving may find the coffee attractive, even more so if the product tastes good.

toms_one_for_one

In an interview with Fortune, Mycoskie talks about wanting their new cafés to feel more like someone’s home that can become community centers where people can bring their dogs, have a coffee (and buy shoes and glasses). Although they see the “third wave” coffee shops as their target market, they admit they will fall somewhere between Starbucks and Stumptown, offering a less intimidating atmosphere.

The TOMS Roasting Co sweet spot is high quality beans (single-origin, free-trade) at a lower price ($12.99 per 12-oz. bag compared with $16 to $18 for cult coffee brands). Rachel Halliburton, the TOMS marketer who led “project burlap,” says the hope is to play somewhere between Starbucks and Stumptown. “I’m intimidated to walk into Intelligentsia,” she says. “We want you to feel okay about walking in and saying, ‘I just want a cup of coffee, and yes, I’m going to put sugar in it.’” –Fortune

I find it curious that TOMS will sell its “high quality” coffee at up to 25% less than other specialty companies. Does this mean they will pay the farmers less only to offset those lower prices by giving water? On a certain level I truly admire TOMS and how they’ve changed the conversation of corporate responsibility, however my primary critique of business models like theirs is that they rely on the “westerner as savior” mentality instead of paying someone the true value of their product, allowing communities to build their own infrastructure. Instead of empowering a community, TOMS comes across more like a foreign hero giving things to those deemed in need.

toms_coffee_origin

I believe this new venture from TOMS has all the potential to be quite successful. With over  a year of planning, it seems like the company has done its research and remains humble about entering a market they have no experience in. If they can provide a quality product that creates a stepping stone between the likes of Starbucks and other specialty coffee companies, I see this as a benefit to the entire industry, further validating the widespread appeal of better coffee. If however, simply adopts the marketing language and design cues of specialty coffee to market a mediocre product, it won’t be much of a surprise. Keep it real Mycoskie.

Read more at Fortune and TOMS Roasting Co.

posted by on 03.12.2014, under Misc., Videos

The Coffee Addiction: A Documentary

09.28

Tomorrow is “National Coffee Day” in the US and CNBC is premiering a one-hour documentary called, The Coffee Addiction. I won’t be able to see it, but it should be interesting to watch. The previews suggest it will follow coffee from farm to cup, which is great for people to learn about, with a heavy focus on coffee as a tradable commodity.

There will be interviews with Starbucks CEO, Howard Shultz (plugging his book) and the founder of Green Mountain Coffee, who shares the moment he realized great coffee would be an upcoming market (before cutting to footage of a k-cup factory).

The producers of the show did research the more progressive quality-driven segment of coffee, including a lesson in latte art from David Schomer at Vivace and chatting with M’lissa Owens at Intelligentsia. However, that footage was relegated to “web extra” clips.

Premiers at 9PM/ET. More info on CNBC.

posted by on 09.28.2011, under Misc., Videos

CNNMoney’s 17 Best Small US Coffee Companies

09.24

The growth of small roasters and independent coffee companies in the USA is a great thing. I remember a time when everyone thought Starbucks would put all the independent coffee shops out of business, and it some places they may have come close. But it also inspired a revolution among smaller companies to experiment, progress and offer something the chain coffee shops weren’t—better quality.

As these companies become more prevalent, more of the mainstream media outlets will attempt to write about them—generally using every coffee pun and nickname they can imagine. However, any press is good press and CNNMoney has recently prepared an oddly numbered list of the USA’s 17 best small coffee makers. Really, why 17? While I agree with most of the list, there are a few shockers as well as some glaring omissions.

Read more about the companies on the list at CNNMoney.

 

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posted by on 09.24.2011, under Misc., Recommended Roasters