Bulletproof Coffee company Bulletproof 360 Inc. announced yesterday that it has raised more than $40 million in equity and debt financing, bringing its investment total up to $69 million over the past three years.
A statement a founding partner of the firm that led the investment, Rohan Oza of Cavu Ventures, declared Bulletproof as poised to be the “millennial Starbucks.”
Sure, that’s a nifty nickname for the benefit of the company’s financial backers, but it’s also a confounding proposition from a company that has blurred the lines between traditional coffee and the health and lifestyle segments further than any other.
While Bulletproof has positioned itself as a full-on lifestyle and “content” brand, its bread and butter, so to speak, remains coffee. Unfortunately, despite all the fancy branding and claims related to quality and physical benefits, little is known about Bulletproof’s core product.
As Bulletproof now offers a range of coffee products online and on grocery shelves — including ground bags, whole bean bags, single-serve pods, and single-serving RTD cartons — maybe it’s time for a brief analysis about what we actually know about Bulletproof’s coffee, based on a survey of their own marketing materials:
Claim: The company boasts that its coffee products are “Certified Clean Coffee.”
Analysis: No such third-party certification exists.
Claim: All Bulletproof coffees are independently lab-tested for 27 performance-robbing toxins.
Analysis: Wtf is a performance-robbing toxin? Independently tested by whom?
Claim: “Bulletproof coffee uses only beans from Rainforest Alliance Certified farms in Guatemala and Colombia, coffee estates that have a direct relationship with Bulletproof and that have been trained on the Bulletproof Process.”
Analysis: This is starting to resemble actual information, but wouldn’t it be nice to know some more details about the coffee? Who grew it? Milled it? Exported it? Imported it? What varieties are being used? What does a “direct relationship” with Bulletproof actually mean?
Claim: “Bulletproof uses a thorough, sustainable washing technique, rather than cheaper and more wasteful traditional methods that involve soaking coffee in large fermentation tanks.”
Analysis: Does this just mean some kind of mechanical removal of the mucilage? Or are they simply describing a traditional processing method? Either dry or washed?
Claim: “The coffee is then kept as dry as possible — under the bright sun and then in mechanical driers — to reduce moisture and opportunities for mold to grow.”
Analysis: Isn’t all coffee dried? Yes, yes it is. All coffee is dried.
Claim: “Experienced coffee harvesters hand-pick every only [sic] perfectly ripe coffee berries, and after harvesting, we use the precision Bulletproof Process™ to ensure a special upgraded class of green coffee bean with the lowest possible levels of harmful mold toxins and bacteria.”
Analysis: Here we go again with the “harmful mold toxins and bacteria.” There’s no scientific evidence showing that coffees produced through traditional methods — or any methods, for that matter — produce molds or toxins at a harmful level to humans. In fact, coffee is widely considered to be a healthy drink.
Claim: “Then we roast the beans in small batches here in the U.S. under the strictest conditions, further minimizing the formation of toxins from the roasting process. Roasting the beans enhances their naturally occurring antioxidant capacity and flavor to provide you with a healthier, tastier cup of coffee.”
Analysis: Enough with the “toxins.” Roasting does in fact bring out more desirable flavor attributes in coffee, but that’s true for virtually every coffee ever roasted on earth. It’s why coffee is roasted.
We reached out to Bulletproof 360 asking for more information about each of these claims but have not yet heard back. At this point, though, the company’s strategy toward its core product seems to be to fabricate a problem (performance-robbing toxins in coffee) then promote itself as the only solution to that problem (Certified Clean Coffee).
The coffee industry has its fair share of problems — many of them very real in terms of their social, economic and environmental impact to the many millions of people coffee touches every day. The last thing it needs is a new problem designed out of thin air to build brand loyalty in the pseudo-sciencey, quick-fix-health-ninny segment.
Nick Brown is the editor of Daily Coffee News by Roast Magazine.
Nick nails this as Bulletproof’s strong suit is weaving a story, mostly fluff, to build on its core messaging. No harm, just a bit foul…..
Smells like snake oil and fools money. Be coffee or be nothing. 0 stars.
What’s ridiculous is that Bulletproof outsources their entire coffee production process. They make it sound like they take all these measures themselves. In reality, Bulletproof Coffee is sourced, roasted, and packaged by Allegro Coffee Company in Colorado. It’s the same coffee as Allegro (a brand owned by Whole Foods), from the same lots, produced on the same equipment, and packed in Bulletproof’s bags to be sold at a markup. The same is true of David Lynch brand, and also the coffee used by all of the Snooze restaurant chain. Bulletproof, though, so far as I know, is the only private label going to great lengths to disguise their relationship with Allegro because, without the air of mystery and exclusivity, there’s no reason to buy a bag of Bulletproof’s “The Mentalist” for $14.99 at Whole Foods instead of the $9.99 bag of Allegro’s Mocha Java on the next shelf over.
Any more info on how you know it’s Allegro? Really interesting.. Thanks
thank you…..finally feel like I am getting somewhere in my personal investigations into Bulletproof and this ever growing market.
Wow! Interesting stuff! Thanks for the post.
I’m going to buy some Allegro and compare them.
FYI… I smell a class action brewing😱
Thank you for this; their claims are completely bogus and prey upon people who don’t know what goes into any normal cup of specialty coffee. I’m so glad someone from the industry is speaking up about it!
Hello! Yesterday before just before I was about to grind the coffee I discovered size of 4-5 beans rock that came out of Bulletproof Mentalist bag. I send the message on twitter with a picture. Today, I called customer service number several times and every time I start speaking it surprisingly gets disconnected. After dialing from another phone the same thing. I spoke twice at the extension #1 and one time at the extension #2. After those calls no one picks up the phone and it gets disconnected. Wow, this avoidance of the calls really seems purposeful.
Hasn’t anybody in the coffee industry heard of branding and marketing? A clever brand name with a story commands a 20% premium at point of sale. I’m not condoning falsehoods or lies, but the end user doesn’t buy a product based on logic, but rather emotion. Salesmanship requires finding a problem that no one else talks about and highlighting your product’s solution. People who are 60-plus are concerned about health, but most coffee companies don’t know how to talk about that particular benefit. The bean-picking process looks dirty to the end user. So why not emphasize a unique approach to cleaning beans? It doesn’t matter if everybody does it. Nobody knows that.
In short, the coffee industry should learn some lessons from Bulletproof: sell the benefit, not the features. Find an emotional problem to solve. Think harder about the end user’s mindset, not your roasting process.
The great business guru, Peter Drucker, once said, “There are only two things that matter in business. One is marketing. The other is innovation. Everything else is an expense.”