The pandemic has caused many small coffee businesses to shut their doors. This startup is hoping to give independent roasters in the US a new outlet to sell their coffee — and support their communities as they ride this economic rollercoaster.
Trade Coffee, started in 2018, is a marketplace of more than 400 independent roasters — from Kickapoo Coffee in Wisconsin, which made news for offering a staggering $2.70 per pound for green coffee when global coffee prices plummeted to $1.40 per pound to Red Rooster Coffee, a small roaster situated in Floyd, Virginia, a town of 450 residents. As customers cleared shelves at grocery stores, the coffee industry also experienced a surge in sales online. Trade saw traffic and sales increase on its site.
“In the first couple of weeks of coronavirus, we witnessed a bit of stockpiling mentality and worked with roasters to offer 5 lb bags, which they typically sell for wholesale only. After receiving some feedback from subscribers that they were going through coffee faster than normal and running out, we created a “Get it now” feature on site, enabling subscribers to order from roasters in their local area to expedite shipping time,” says Melissa Spencer Barnes, Chief Marketing Officer at Trade.
This was a welcomed addition to many coffee roasters who not only ran their own brick-and-mortar locations but also relied on wholesale revenue channels, supplying beans to nearby restaurants, hotels, and businesses. Equator Coffee Roasters in Northern California was one such business that had a variety of wholesale vendors who had to close up shop on government orders.
“Independent roasters, like many small businesses, have been hit incredibly hard — many were forced to close retail cafes or lost wholesale business from other cafes and offices, and that resulted in furloughing or laying off staff. While cafes have started to reopen in some places, there’s a long journey ahead transitioning to the “new normal” continuing to drive more sales through retail channels like Trade and figuring out how to create safe cafe experiences for those that re-open,” says Barnes.
Initially, Trade launched a donation drive that raised $50,000 for funds set up for roaster employees who had lost their jobs/wages. But Barnes says that Trade wanted to do more and help in a grassroots way. Thus, this month, they’ve partnered with over 20 roasters across the country to raise money for causes that are near-and-dear to their businesses. In their Come Together Coffee collection, a new lineup of customized limited-edition coffees are dropped each week. Trade will donate 100 percent of profits from these sales to the roaster’s cause.
For Oren’s Coffee in New York City, it’s a cause very close to home. Oren Bloostein, the owner and founder of Oren’s Coffee, had to shut his doors for the first time since the company was started in 1985 when the city went into lockdown. For the past few months, Bloostein has been single-handedly roasting the coffee in their facility to minimize the risk of exposure to the virus for his employees. But a few select staff were needed to ensure that the roasted coffee made it to customers. One of their truck drivers, who had been with the company for years, contracted the virus and unfortunately, passed away, Bloostein shared. As a result, the company is now raising funds through this campaign with Trade to further support his family as they navigate the coming months.
“The pandemic has been devastating,” says Bloostein, referring to the personal loss that the company experienced as well as the broader ramifications for New York City, which was hit the hardest in the early months of lockdown.
For Red Rooster Coffee, located in Floyd, Virginia, it’s a food-based initiative in their small community to make sure that everyone is getting healthy produce as grocery stores struggle with inventory and supply chains. “I’ve always been passionate about food security,” says Haden Polseno-Hensley, co-founder of the roastery. “We’re donating money so that [Sustain Floyd] can match food stamps at the farmer’s market. It’s a way to help local low-income families get fresh food that they couldn’t do otherwise from local farmers and organic farmers.”
Trade will continue this campaign through the end of June and Barnes says the company is committed to continuing to give back in a variety of ways. “Our brand is nothing without local roasters, their communities are our communities. While our partnerships with roasters had always been incredibly valued, our duty to play a bigger part came into sharp relief when COVID hit — we knew we had to give back to our immediate coffee community which was hurting.”