A new home coffee service called Trade launched today, selling roasted, bagged coffees from dozens of prominent, quality-forward U.S. roasters, as well as related brewing equipment.
Yet unlike many of the multiroaster direct-to-consumer services that have come before it — mostly self-funded, small operations — Trade is backed by one of the world’s largest coffee empires, JAB Holding Company.
Like the launch of the Starbucks Reserve concept, Blue Bottle Coffee’s numerous funding rounds followed by its eventual acquisition by Nestlé, or JAB’s own acquisition of brands such as Peet’s (now owner of Stumptown and Intelligentsia), it’s the latest example of what was previously considered “third wave” coffee becoming the object of big business — this time in the direct-to-consumer online segment.
“Coffee is a $45 billion industry, with 59 percent of that now attributed to specialty coffee — an all-time high. However, today’s urban millennial that drinks specialty coffee is two to three times more likely to drink non-specialty coffee at home,” the company said in a launch announcement today. “With its introduction to the market, Trade is serving an unmet need in specialty coffee — providing a way for today’s coffee drinker to brew better coffee at home, while providing an opportunity for specialty coffee roasters to broaden their customer base nationwide.”
While the announcement does ignore the fact that dozens of direct-to-consumer and subscription services focusing on the specialty segment have launched over the past six years alone, the list of roasters supplying coffee through the platform reads like a who’s who in contemporary American coffee. The 50 initial roasting companies with coffees on the Trade site include primarily regional brands such as Anodyne Coffee Roasters, Passion House Coffee Roasters and Tandem Coffee Roasters, as well as more nationally prominent names such as Intelligentsia, La Colombe, Verve and Stumptown.
Longtime coffee professional Marcus Boni — formerly of Intelligentsia and Kaldi’s Coffee, among other coffee-related industry and trade organizations — is serving as Trade’s head of coffee.
The Trade platform allows consumers to initially select coffees by type (single-origin or blend) or by roaster. Users are able to see an estimated weekly roasting schedule for that coffee before selecting one to three bags for delivery. The purchase page also includes the coffee’s vitals (harvest time, region or farming organization, coffee variety, elevation, etc.); a paragraph or two on the coffee and/or its producer supplied by the roaster; a detailed note on the roast level; and tasting notes that lead with phrases such as “surprising and unconventional,” “hints of something new” or “smooth and balanced.”
According to today’s announcement, the venture is backed by JAB Holding Company along with the Boston-based business incubation and investment firm Launch. JAB Holding Company is a Luxembourg-based investment firm owned by the German billionaire Reimann family. The company has made major investments in the traditional and specialty coffee segments since 2012 through numerous high-profile acquisitions, including buying a controlling stake in Keurig Dr Pepper (owner of Green Mountain Coffee Roasters and others), Caribou Coffee, Peet’s Coffee and Panera Bread, among others.