With dual experience in industrial engineering and live sketch comedy — neither of which were particularly hilarious during the pandemic year — Chicago-based entrepreneur Soroush Yousefi recently turned to an industry that thrived in 2020: coffee subscriptions.
Along with longtime friend and former Northern Illinois University classmate Sandeep Degala, Yousefi recently co-founded and launched Boomerang Coffee, a sustainability-minded coffee subscription service focused on the Chicago market.
The soon-to-be-piloted Boomerang model centers around the use of reusable containers for vehicle deliveries of coffees direct to consumers.
“Our focus is on reusability,” Yousefi recently told DCN, noting that single-use coffee packages represent a sizable portion of waste within coffee’s seed-to-cup stream. “It’s even more waste now with k-cups and with the coffee industry growing. The studies that have been done about reusable containers are always positive –– that over time it will have a net positive impact.”
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For subscribers, Boomerang offers three different basic types of coffee: filter coffee blends, single-origins, and espresso blends. Each month, the customer chooses which one they want and schedules it for delivery.
There are currently 17 specialty coffee roasters enlisted in Boomerang’s pilot program, and each is based no more than 30 miles outside of Chicago. Boomerang features coffees from multiple roasters each month.
Coffee is ordered by Boomerang in bulk, then repacked in washable, reusable containers for vehicle delivery. The startup is currently obtaining licenses from the city as it builds a pool of initial subscribers for a pilot launch, expected to take place later this summer.
The containers are composed primarily of stainless steel with hard plastic lids and a degassing valve in the middle. All of the parts are eventually recyclable, Yousefi said.
“That’s why I went with this product,” Yousefi added. “We try to reduce any plastic in our operation. We don’t even want to use plastic gloves –– we’re going to use compostable gloves. We’ll also offer for customers to be able to put coffee grounds [back] in the containers so they can be composted. We’ll work on recycling them in the future, like with soaps made of coffee grounds.”
Boomerang also plans to have its canisters available at participating roasters’ shops, giving those coffee companies the option to market the reusable solution.
“They can be more sustainable by partnering with us, which on its own is a marketing strategy to say you are doing sustainable practices,” said Yousefi. “We know roasters are doing sustainable practices in roasting, but this is a practice with bags and packaging.”
Looking to the future, Yousefi said the company hopes to someday introduce a hybrid or all-electric fleet for delivery, while also possibly expanding to other cities.
Chelsey Dequaine-Jerabek is a writer and digital marketing professional working and living in Madison, Wisconsin.