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Setting up Your Wholesale Coffee Business

Wholesale coffee?! You most likely already have what you need to get started!

Have you ever considered selling your roasted coffee online or setting up a wholesale coffee business? Setting up a wholesale coffee program is a great way to utilize the full value of your Bellwether Roaster. You can engage with a variety of new revenue‑generating avenues, like online sales and subscriptions, and stock your retail shelves. Also, you can reduce risk if brick‑and‑mortar operations are disrupted (like during a pandemic), or when business is slow.
While it can seem like a big undertaking, if you break it down into steps it’s actually fairly straightforward. Here are a few key things to consider when breaking into wholesale or e‑commerce for your roasted coffee:
  • Cost and pricing
  • Where to sell and what to expect
  • Starting off simple
Factory Coffee, Kalamazoo MI

Cost + Pricing

A typical wholesale coffee menu includes pricing for both 5lb bags and 12oz bags. Most often, the 5lb bags are priced by the pound, and 12oz bags are priced by the bag. Here’s a typical cost breakdown per pound of coffee that would be ready to sell to a prospective wholesale customer:
Here’s a typical menu with pricing that includes “bulk” coffee pricing per pound, packaged into wholesale 5lb bags, wholesale 12oz bags, and 12oz retail bags.
Factory Coffee in PFC Natural Grocery & Deli, Kalamazoo MI

Who to Sell to & What to Expect

Now, you’re roasting your own delicious coffee. You have bags and labels ready to go, and a menu to show prospective customers and wholesale partners. What’s next? The next step is reaching out digitally or in‑person to let people know what you have to offer.
For help getting your store online, check out our post on A Guide to Setting up an Online Coffee Business. For help sharing your online store, check out Marketing + Community.
Aside from individual orders or subscriptions from your online store, typical wholesale coffee relationships include:
  • Coffee retailers
  • Restaurants
  • Hotels
  • Office buildings
  • Your friend’s start‑up
  • Your community center
  • And so much more!
Here is an article from Daily Coffee News that has some salient points about roasting coffee for the Hospitality Industry. It also talks about what a customer could potentially ask for or require as part of a wholesale coffee relationship. In the current landscape of specialty coffee, there are many “traditional” wholesale outlets. These include coffee shops and a growing number of “non‑traditional” wholesale relationships, like hotels, that are emerging every day. Keep that in mind when you are brainstorming who you could potentially sell your coffee to.
Finally, the average US non‑chain coffee company can expect to serve and sell around 100lbs of roasted coffee per week. When forming these wholesale relationships, be mindful of how much green coffee you’ll need to keep on hand. You’ll want to make sure you can keep up with roasted coffee demand!
Factory Coffee, Kalamazoo MI

Start Simple & Take It One Step at a Time

One thing to remember when you are setting up your wholesale coffee program is: start simple and take it one step at a time.
Many successful wholesale coffee programs are built on the foundation of two or three delicious blends or single origin coffees. Think of an espresso blend, a drip coffee profile, and a decaf offering. This is also a great way to save on purchasing different bags or labels for many different coffees. It also allows you to streamline your shipping and reduce your shipping costs.
Start with a small menu. If a customer is looking for something specific, that’s an excellent opportunity to build a solid relationship. Roast what they’re looking for. Keep track of special requests. If many customers are requesting the same thing, that might just be a new coffee to put on your menu. Your Bellwether Roaster and the Bellwether Marketplace already offer you the ability to be nimble and respond quickly.
Setting up a wholesale coffee program can feel like a complicated process. But, knowing what to expect and taking one step at a time helps lower stress and prepare you for success. Remember, setting up a wholesale coffee program allows you to utilize the full potential of your Bellwether Roaster. It’s a great way to form new relationships, strengthen community, and add value to your business for years to come.
Featured customer: Factory Coffee, Kalamazoo MI
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