Supersonic Coffee, the East Bay roastery that burst onto the U.S. specialty coffee scene last year through dynamic branding and innovative approaches to potential wholesale clients, has parted ways with its initial investor.
The company will continue to roast and ship coffees from its production facility at 2322 Fifth Street in Berkeley, Calif., while maintaining its current approach to roasting and sourcing, including relationships with green coffee suppliers Nordic Approach in Oslo, and Red Fox Coffee Merchants in Berkeley, among other importers.
Supersonic coffee Brand and Design Director Brian W. Jones — one third of the current three-headed Supersonic leadership team that also includes co-founders John Laird and Björg Brend Laird — told Daily Coffee News that the company wanted to announce the investment partnership split after photos of the Supersonic roastery began appearing in social media content held by another brand, Berkeley Co-Roasting (BCR). In essence, Supersonic no longer has full run of the Berkeley roastery facility, but it has signed on as the initial tenant for BCR, which will also be leasing time at the production space to other, smaller roasters.
“Our [previous] investor actually owns that space, so we’re separating and he’s basically transforming it into a co-roasting space,” said Jones, adding that Supersonic’s existing wholesale business development has afforded the company the ability to self-sufficiently keep up with current wholesale demands, much of which has come from the multiroaster café segment of the coffee retail world. “Sales is kind of a constant game — it’s a very big part of the business,” Jones told Daily Coffee News regarding Supersonic’s wholesale plan. “There are a lot of good roasters out there, too, so you have to have a product that is very unique. It’s a buyers market, in a sense.”
While Supersonic says the dissolution of the investment relationship is not affecting current operations, Jones says it has affected retail ambitions. When the business launched last Spring, plans called for a fully restored 1965 Airstream trailer for mobile coffee service, plus a flagship café somewhere in the East Bay. Jones told Daily Coffee News that plans for a Supersonic-branded brick-and-mortar shop are still in the works, though considerably scaled back. He said the Supersonic team is actively looking at spaces in Berkeley and Oakland to plant the Supersonic flag. Said Jones, “We’re really looking forward to that retail component.”
Incidentally, Supersonic just this summer reimagined its retail packaging, featuring Supersonic’s characteristic neon green accenting sleek silvers and whites in a remarkably low-height-profile designed to maintain freshness for lighter-roasted coffees through decreased headroom and a one-way valve.
The packaging is the latest reflection of a brand that plans to reap the benefits of its newfound autonomy. Jones said the decrease in overhead and creative freedom made possible by the break-up with the investor will allow the company complete independence moving forward. Said Jones, “We’re looking forward to that.”
Nick Brown is the editor of Daily Coffee News by Roast Magazine. Feedback and story ideas are welcome at publisher (at) dailycoffeenews.com, or see the "About Us" page for contact information.