Following the pandemic shocks of 2020, this past year saw a fresh wave of investments and acquisitions in the coffee sphere, as companies and investors sought to capitalize on the “new normal.”
The year saw plenty of funding rounds and individual investments for coffee companies focused on tech-based green coffee solutions (Demetria, Farmer Connect), direct-to-consumer product development (Copper Cow, Aeropress, Bruvi, Cometeer, Riff), and even non-traditional brick-and-mortar expansion (Blank Street, Grind).
Meanwhile, numerous coffee companies were acquired by larger entities seeking to maintain the original brand or core product (Second Cup, Eversys, Vermont Coffee Company, Spyhouse Coffee, Campos Coffee, Cropster’s Hub platform.)
As some of those companies breach new markets, several large North American coffee players opted to double-down on their core businesses, making multimillion dollar manufacturing facility investments in the process (Westrock Coffee Company, Swiss Water, Lavazza North America).
2021 also saw some notable stories in terms of legal issues and labor, including the high-profile Hellbachs Coffee case in Wisconsin, additions to the Kona labeling settlement, and groundbreaking unionization efforts at Colectivo and Starbucks stores.
Below is a review of some of the biggest coffee business stories of 2021.
[Editor’s note: This feature is part of our ongoing 2021 year-end coverage. Click here for additional stories, updated daily through Dec. 31. To reach our editors with new equipment news or other company news, click here.]
Cold Brew Manufacturer BKON Gets $3 Million from GoodWest Industries
BKON burst onto the specialty coffee scene with the introduction of its negative-pressure-centered BKON Craft Brewer in 2014 before receiving a $2.5 million funding round to develop and produce its industrial cold brew production system called the BKON Storm. The system incorporates BKON’s proprietary “reverse atmospheric infusion” process, called RAIN.
Following Brexit, UK Joins the International Coffee Organization
As the world’s 10th largest coffee importing country, the UK’s immediate accession into the ICO presented some stability in a coffee year that was characterized by widespread price volatility, supply chain disruptions, political instability and a host of other factors affecting the global coffee sector.
Aegis Sells Canadian Coffee Giant Second Cup to Foodtastic for US$11 Million
It is the latest in a long series of ownership changes for the coffee business, which was founded in 1975 and now constitutes Canada’s third largest coffee-focused chain behind Tim Hortons and Starbucks. According to the latest quarterly report from Aegis, there are approximately 231 Second Cup locations throughout Canada, including 200 franchise locations and 31 company-owned-and-operated locations.
With AI-Powered Green Coffee Analysis, Demetria Closes $3 Million Round
The investment was led by Celeritas, a group of private investors split between Israel and Latin America, and the technology involves the scanning of green coffee with a small handheld device that collects and sends data into the cloud for automatic analysis involving artificial intelligence (AI).
Swiss Coffee Traceability Startup Farmer Connect Secures $9 Million
The investment was led by one of the world’s largest materials trading companies, Japan’s Itochu Corporation, along with private investors in the Americas and Farmer Connect founding partner, the Switzerland-based green coffee trading company Sucafina.
Kona Labeling Class Action Settlements Reach $13.1 Million
Costco, Marshalls/T.J. Maxx parent company TJX and Gold Coffee Roasters have joined the list of defendants reaching settlement agreements with a group representing farmers from Hawaii’s Kona region.
De’Longhi Acquires All of Swiss Espresso Machine Maker Eversys
De’Longhi, based in Trieste, Italy, purchased a 40% stake in the Eversys Group in 2017, and the new deal involves the acquisition of the remaining 60%. Del’Longhi said the 100% value of the acquisition is approximately US$160 million.
Stonewall Kitchen Acquires Longtime Roaster Vermont Coffee Company
Maine-based specialty foods company Stonewall Kitchen has acquired longtime organic coffee roaster Vermont Coffee Company. The coffee company, founded by Paul Ralston in 2000, joins a small portfolio of specialty food brands owned by Stonewall Kitchen, including the Stonewall brand, Village Candle, Tillen Farms (pickled and jarred foods) and Napa Valley Naturals (oils and vinegars).
Swiss Water Opens 82,000-SF Production Center Outside Vancouver
Following long-term growth projections for the decaffeinated coffee market, Canadian green coffee processing and trading company Swiss Water Decaffeinated Coffee has opened a new 82,000-square-foot production facility.
Lavazza Expanding Pennsylvania Factory for More US Roasting
Lavazza North America is expanding its West Chester, Pennsylvania, “Lavazza Professional” facility by about 1,000 square meters (10,763 square feeet) to make way for additional roasting capabilities. While Lavazza Professional caters to the office coffee segment, the new roasting operation is designed to expand the brand’s reach in the U.S. direct-to-consumer market.
With Single-Use Pourovers, Copper Cow Coffee Lands $8.5 Million Round
The $8.5 million infusion — led by food-focused Cultivian Sandbox Ventures and Arborview Capital with at least six other investment firms — follows a COVID-19 pandemic year in which virtually all market research suggests coffee brewing at home has ticked upward. The trend has become particularly apparent in the single-use, convenience-driven home coffee segment.
JDE Peet’s Acquiring Australia’s Campos Coffee as US Operation Folds
Campos Coffee generated revenue of approximately US$38.5 million in 2020, according to the company. Meanwhile, Amsterdam, The Netherlands-based JDE Peet’s says it generated some €6.7 billion (US$8.1 billion) in sales last year, while sourcing approximately 8% of the world’s green coffee in 2020, according to its most recent annual report.
Ditting USA Bids Farewell as Hemro Group Shifts US Operations
A daily grind that lasted more than half a century has come to an end as grinder distributor and service provider Ditting USA has closed up shop while founder Albert Bezjian heads fully into retirement.
Fairwave Acquires Minneapolis-Based Spyhouse Coffee Roasters
Fairwave Holdings CEO Dan Trott declined to provide details on the terms of the transaction, although he told DCN via an email request that Spyhouse will maintain its operations and branding, while now tapping into Fairwave’s existing network for best practices and business growth.
Canadian Firm Tiny Capital Invests in Aeropress Inc.
Manual coffee brewer maker Aeropress Inc. has received an undisclosed investment from Canadian firm Tiny Capital. A spokesperson for Palo Alto, California-based Aeropress (styled by the company as AeroPress) declined to disclose the amount of the investment, although the companies say founder and inventor Alan Adler is retaining a minority ownership stake while continuing to be involved in operations.
Vollers Buying Green Coffee Marketplace Cropster Hub, Launching V-Hub
German logistics service provider Vollers Group is purchasing Cropster Hub, the six-year-old online green coffee marketplace created by coffee roasting and inventory software provider Cropster.
Jimmy Butler’s Big Face Coffee Buys Top Lot at El Salvador Cup of Excellence
From humble beginnings as an unlicensed operation selling $20 any size coffee drinks inside a hotel bubble at Disney World in Orlando, Jimmy Butler’s Big Face Coffee is now smiling upon the specialty coffee world. The fledgling coffee business created by the five-time NBA all-star yesterday shelled out top dollar for two 90+ microlot coffees at the 2021 El Salvador Cup of Excellence (COE) auction.
Olam International Plans IPO for Food Business Unit That Includes Coffee
Olam Coffee and Olam Specialty Coffee both fall under the OFI umbrella, which covers other ingredients coming from the cocoa, dairy, nuts and spices sectors. OFI was created last year as part of a broad re-organizational plan by Olam International.
Colectivo Coffee Workers Vote to Unionize 106-99
Following a contentious election process, employees of Milwaukee-based Colectivo Coffee have voted to unionize by a count of 106-99. Should negotiated contracts be ratified, Colectivo would become the largest unionized coffee chain in the country, according to International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 494, the union facilitating the effort.
London Coffee Company Grind Raises $30 Million, Plans US Expansion
The company, founded by David Abrahamovitch and Kaz James in Shoreditch, in East London in 2011, said the investment will be used in part to fuel an “ambitious international expansion drive, specifically to the [United States].”
Single-Serve Brewer Maker Bruvi Raises $7 Million More
Los Angeles-based single-serve coffee maker startup Bruvi says it has raised an additional $7 million in funding, bringing the company’s total capital raised to $10.8 million. The company says it will use the money to pay for manufacturing, further software development and advertising as it prepares for pre-orders of the Bruvi brewing system beginning this November, with sales expected in the first quarter of 2022.
New York Coffee Startup Blank Street Lands $25 Million, Plans 100 Small Shops
New York City-based coffee shop startup Blank Street this morning announced a $25 million Series A funding round. The company, which offers small-format stores and mobile carts for quick-service convenience, says it hopes to operate 100 retail locations throughout New York City by the end of 2022.
Frozen Coffee Capsule Maker Cometeer Scores $35 Million More
Gloucester, Massachusetts-based coffee technology and manufacturing company Cometeer has closed a $35 million Series B funding round, bringing the company’s running total of raised capital to $100 million.
Cold Brew and Cascara Drink Maker Riff Lands $2.5 Million Seed Round
Bend, Oregon-based coffee drink maker Riff has closed a $2.5 million seed funding round with investments from 35 parties, including 2-time NFL Pro Bowl tight end Vernon Davis and former Anheuser-Busch president Dave Peacock.
Federal Judge Dismisses Key Claims in Helbachs Coffee Lawsuit
A United States District Court judge has dismissed key arguments made by Wisconsin-based Helbachs Coffee in its lawsuit against the City of Madison, Dane County and multiple public officials. The coffee company filed the lawsuit after it was cited for repeatedly violating local emergency public health orders last year.
Workers at a Buffalo Starbucks Store Make Historic Vote to Unionize
In a high-profile moment for the labor movement in the post-pandemic United States, workers at a Buffalo, New York, Starbucks store have voted to unionize. Ballot counts from three different Buffalo-area Starbucks locations were completed yesterday by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), with the vote for unionizing at the Elmwood Avenue location being the first of its kind in the history of the Starbucks company.
Kamala Harris Names JDE Peet’s as Part of Private Coalition Investing in Central America
JDE Peet’s is among seven new companies and 10 companies total — including fellow coffee giant Nespresso — that have made concrete pledges to invest in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. Combined, the companies have committed to investments of more than $1.2 billion in the “Northern Triangle” region.
Westrock Coffee Announces $100+ Million in Facility Expansions
The company’s new facility in Conway was for decades a manufacturing center for feminine hygiene products under the previous owner, Kimberly-Clark. Prior to the factory closing — part of a facilities restructuring by the paper industry giant — the facility held some 350 employees.
Colombia-Based Green Coffee Company Closes US$9.6 Million Funding Round
Medellín, Colombia-based coffee production company The Green Coffee Company has closed a US$9.6 million Series B funding round. The company has also announced plans to purchase 946 hectares of coffee farmland adjacent to its existing farms, which nearly doubles the company’s land holdings.