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Bellwether Coffee Launches Financial Assistance Program for New Customers

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A Bellwether Coffee roaster on display at the 2018 SCA Expo. Daily Coffee News photo by Lily Kubota.

Berkeley, California-based roaster maker Bellwether Coffee has launched a financial assistance program for new buyers or leasees through which the company is covering the first two months’ worth of payments.

According to a company announcement yesterday, the program is designed to allow coffee retailers who have been negatively affected by the COVID-19 response to alter their business models by selling their own roasted coffee directly to customers.

The idea is — and we have actually seen this — retailers who are reselling others’ products, they don’t have very much value to sell right now,” Bellwether Chief Coffee Officer Arno Holschuh told Daily Coffee News. “Their value was as a provider of excellent retail experiences, and those are risky or outright prohibited. But people who roast their own have a much bigger value prop to market — they have a unique product. A lot of our customers are actually increasing their roasting volumes right now.”

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Daily Coffee News photo by Nick Brown.

Some 70 Bellwether machines have been installed throughout the United States and Canada, according to Holschuh, following the company’s public debut at the SCA Expo in 2018. Since then, Bellwether has received at least two major funding rounds, including a $40 million injection last September.

Bellwether’s core product is a home-refrigerator-sized electric roasting machine that’s accompanied by a range of digital services for green coffee procurement, inventory management, roast profiling, and more. Since its inception, the company’s pitch has been towards smaller specialty coffee retailers who want to begin roasting in order to capture more value while further building their brand.

“We understand this is a difficult time for coffee retailers,” Bellwether Coffee CEO Nathan Gilliland said in yesterday’s company announcement. “We’re seeing our customers successfully get through these tough times by roasting on-site, and we want to make sure that same success is available to more businesses by investing in a roaster without the immediate capital expense.”

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The Bellwether Coffee roaster hopper. Daily Coffee News photo by Lily Kubota.

According to a spokesperson for Bellwether, the financial assistance program for new customers amounts to about $2,500 based on a typical lease term of 60 months, although exact agreements vary by customer. The purchase price for a Bellwether roasting machine and accompanying software and services is $75,000.

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