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The Private Label Coffee Sourcing Guide: Pricing, Contracts, Profitability, and More

Who doesn’t want brand equity without having to initially front $120K+ in equipment and real estate for a conventional roastery? That is the bridge that private label coffee suppliers offer.
Private label coffee can be a quick and easy way to brand your own coffee without the logistics of sourcing equipment, hiring a roasting team, and buying a space to house everything.
In this article, we will cover:
  • Overview of the private label concept
  • Pros and Cons of partnering with a private label
  • What to look for in a private label partner
By the end, you will know how to evaluate the private label coffee opportunity for your business.

Overview: The Private Label Coffee Opportunity

A private label supplier is a third‑party, wholesale coffee roaster that does all of the heavy lifting in getting beans to your shop with your branding on them. They source green coffee beans, take care of roasting, packaging, labeling, and shipping (either to your shop or drop shipped straight to the customer.)
Since it’s your branding—and sometimes a custom blend or roast—on the bag, private label roasters typically charge an extra fee on top of the standard $8‑12/lb wholesale rates, usually around $1‑$2 per pound of coffee. This covers the additional effort involved to use your packaging and roast preferences on top of the roaster’s own branded coffee.
Here are a couple of services offered by private labels that are important to know about. These services will be a seamless step toward getting coffee that is ready to sell on your shelf:
  • Toll Roasting — A service where you source your own green coffee beans and send them to the roaster to turn into roasted coffee. You tell them your roast profile, and they roast the rest. Some even offer a service in which you may send in a sample of a coffee blend that you enjoy, and they will match its flavor profile. This lets you retain green coffee sourcing while leveraging the private label’s roasting expertise!
  • Dropshipping — An additional service that allows you to ship directly from your private label partner to a customer that orders online, eliminating the need for lots of storage in your shop if you sell a lot online.
These services sometimes come with additional fees.

The Pros of Private Label Coffee

There’s a lot to get excited about when it comes to offering coffee beans with your own branding on them!
  • Build brand equity through branded beans. By adding the label of your shop, you are further building brand equity. Equity turns into loyalty through selling whole bean bags of coffee with your brand’s name, increasing sales, without the expense of building a roastery.
  • Provide a sense of community and ownership by creating a signature blend with branded coffee. This is exactly what happened with Seabird Coffee in Cohasset in Massachusetts: , the local community felt a sense of ownership and pride surrounding Seabird’s roast. Their sales increased threefold by creating a signature blend with branded coffee.
  • Signature blends can be unique to your shop. Work with a private label by communicating via samples to dial in your roast profile. If anyone wants your signature blend, they have to come to you.

The Cons of Private Label Coffee

What you don’t pay for in a roasting facility, equipment, training, and roasting staff… you’ve gotta pay somewhere else.
  • Most private labels have a minimum as to how much you have to buy. If you do not meet that minimum, they charge a premium so you might have to buy in bulk before you make any overhead or suffer the increased price (unless you do dropshipping)
  • Private Label Coffee doesn’t always yield a large profit margin after overhead. For wholesale beans, you will be looking at ~$10, where the toll fee sits around $1‑$2 per pound, and dropshipping is also an additional $1‑$2 per pound.

The Economics of Private Label vs Roasting Yourself

The cost of conventional roasting setups adds up quickly, often reaching upwards of $100,000 or more when you account for basic equipment, green coffee, warehouse setup and ventilation, professional training, and all the waste that’s associated with the learning phase of roasting.
Naturally, this price tag leads many to seek out wholesale coffee suppliers instead ($10+ per pound of coffee) and private label suppliers ($12+ per pound after the toll fees).
By roasting yourself, though, your margins drastically increase. Instead of paying $10 per pound plus a $2 toll fee in private label, you could be looking at $4‑5 per pound by roasting yourself. If you are in this for the long run, roasting in‑house just makes sense, and a Bellwether roaster makes it more accessible than ever.
The massive startup cost for coffee roasting is no longer a problem with a Bellwether Roaster, a simple, all‑electric commercial roaster that plugs right into your existing cafe and can be operated by baristas already on‑shift.
Here’s a look at how it works out economically:
A Comparison of Coffee Supplier Options
Buying Wholesale
Buying
Private Label
Traditional Roasting
Bellwether Roaster
Equipment
N/A
N/A
$20,000 to $75,000
Starts at $1,150/mo
Buildout/Rent
N/A
N/A
$3,000/mo
N/A
Coffee Costs
$10‑12/lb
$10‑12/lb
$4‑5/lb
$4‑5/lb
Service Fees
N/A
$2‑4/lb
N/A
N/A
Gross Margin on a $20 Bag
$8‑10
$6‑8
$14‑15
$14‑15
A Bellwether roaster cuts through all those barriers, keeping all the pros and shedding all the cons. It’s a lot more approachable than roasting used to be because it requires:
  • No training
  • No warehouse or facility buildout
  • No venting installation
  • No special permits from the local health department
The Bellwether is available at an affordable monthly rate, opening doors to roasting where it previously would have been inaccessible. You can start selling roasted coffee immediately with full control over your brand and coffee quality; it’s truly yours.

Private Label Coffee Suppliers: What to Look For in a Partner

Finding the perfect private label partner can be a little tricky. There are so many to choose from, and when you type in ‘private label coffee’, you are flooded with ads. Here we will look at some qualities to look for in a partner, as well as some must‑ask questions to ask them.
When it comes to finding an ideal supply partner, your shop’s needs come into play. The biggest questions to ask yourself to determine who will fit your needs are:
  • How much are we willing to spend on coffee on a single order?
  • What is our storage capacity for housing coffee?
  • How fresh and how quick do we want our beans?
  • How much control do we want over the coffee origin and roast level?
  • How many different coffees do we want available to buy and serve?
We want a partner that has credible roasting experience, fast and clear customer service, aligned values and mission, ethical sourcing, and a good reputation for quality and consistency.
Here are some questions to ask a potential partner:
  • Do you offer subscription fees or do we pay per order?
  • What is your cart minimum for a single order?
  • What is your roasting capacity?
  • What might be some additional costs (like toll fees and shipping)?
  • Do you offer dropshipping?
  • For label designs, do you have a design team that I may consult with?
  • Do you offer any additional business support (like cafe consulting and gear)?
  • Do you offer more than whole beans? (Some offer compostable pods and cold‑brew pouches.)
This list isn’t exhaustive but is a good starting point in vetting quality partners on your coffee journey. A quick email or discovery call should do the trick in getting the information that you need.

Common Private Label Coffee FAQs

Are white label and private label coffees the same?
Yes, these terms are often used interchangeably. There is a minute and distinct difference between the two, though. A white label coffee is distinct in that you pick your beans from an existing catalog of coffee. In a private label coffee, you can request different roast levels or blends to make it more your own. In both, the labeling and packaging may be altered to fit marketing needs.
Where’s the best place to find private label coffee suppliers?
The best place to find private label coffee suppliers is through connecting with local roasters, calling/emailing national roasters, and finding partners at trade shows. Networking with other shop owners to trade sources is always a great way to see what is out there.
Where can I find private label coffee with no minimum?
Finding a private label that doesn’t require a minimum cart can be a little tricky, but it can be done. The quickest and easiest way would be to scour for dedicated blogs that talk specifically about the subject of minimum‑less partners.
Curious about how Bellwether can save your company time and money? Book a call with our team to learn more!
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