Historically, launching a coffee brand required business owners to invest in expensive equipment, real estate, green coffee inventory, and so much more—all without the guarantee of a return. To reduce the risk and upfront costs, many eager coffee entrepreneurs turn to private label partnerships, also known as white label, to get their businesses off the ground.
But while white label coffee provides several advantages, it may not be a sustainable business model as your business grows. Does it make sense both financially and operationally to have someone else roast your coffee as you scale up?
In‑house coffee roasting has become far more accessible thanks to advancements in technology, which rival the convenience and risk‑averse nature of white label coffee partnerships.
In this article, we compare white label coffee partnerships and in‑house roasting to help you determine which avenue is right for your coffee business.
White Label Coffee: Handing Over the Roasting Reins
When you don’t have the resources to purchase roasting equipment or source green coffee, partnering with a private label coffee supplier
ensures your coffee shop or company has freshly roasted coffee beans to serve and sell.
A third‑party private label roaster acts as your roasting team. They take care of everything involved in the roasting process, including:
- Sourcing green coffee
- Roasting coffee
- Crafting exclusive and unique blends
- Packaging and labeling coffee bags
- Shipping coffee to your shop or the final customer
Because this partner acts as an extension of your team—and bears the labor‑intensive burden and risk of roasting—the coffee itself will cost anywhere from $1–$3 more per pound than the average $8–$14 per pound wholesale price.
Since brand identity is a major component of building a coffee company, packaging is a key element of a white label partnership. Some private label roasters offer fully customized packaging options, while others require clients to supply all packaging materials including labels and bags. Keep in mind, custom packaging and labels may incur an additional charge.
White label roasters may also offer dropshipping services for the ultimate convenience. With this option, companies can sell coffee products online and the third‑party roaster takes care of the entire fulfillment process—from roasting to packaging to shipping directly to the customer.
What to Consider When Pursuing White Label Coffee Partnerships
At face value, having someone else do the manual labor behind roasting and packaging your coffee sounds like a dream come true. Sure, there’s a fee, but you don’t have to do the work!
In reality, it’s a bit more complicated.
Several elements of a white label coffee partnership can be considered beneficial, but others lead to headaches:
- Fee Structure — From per pound premiums to minimum order quantities to the price of bag labels, white label coffee roasters charge all sorts of additional fees. If you’re not careful, these expenses can get out of hand fast and lead to tighter margins. How much are you willing to spend on the convenience of having someone else roast your coffee?
- Control Over Coffee Quality — While your chosen white label roaster is a master of their craft, you are removed from the coffee roasting and quality control process. Many third‑party suppliers will allow you to be involved in crafting blends and selecting single‑origin coffees to sell, but the final product quality is in their hands. Are you comfortable with not controlling the outcome and quality of your coffee products?
- Green Coffee Sourcing — Some white label coffee suppliers offer toll roasting, which lets you source and supply a desired green coffee and/or create specific profiles for them to roast. Other suppliers control the entire sourcing process. How much control do you want over the green coffee used in your products? Do you want to direct the sourcing or trust a professional roaster to take care of it for you?
- Brand Packaging — Third‑party private label roasters know the ins and outs of coffee packaging. They understand what must be included on a label, what design elements help sell a product, and what packaging works best for shipping, delivery, and consumption. Find a private label roaster that will work with you to develop the best possible packaging for your brand.
In‑House Coffee Roasting: No Longer Out of Reach
Those who want total control over the coffee served and sold by their brand find that roasting in‑house is the best option. Roasting your own coffee used to require a massive upfront investment in roasting equipment, green coffee, packaging supplies, real estate, and the largest cost of all: time to learn how to roast coffee.
This meant that coffee roasting companies would spend a minimum of 4–6 months getting set up, learning to roast, and perfecting roast profiles. After all was said and done, companies could spend anywhere from $50k–$200k—or more!—on setup before making a single sale.
Not anymore. Today, electric coffee roasters, such as the Bellwether Roaster, have made it possible for everyone to roast coffee in‑house.
Rather than spending precious time and money learning to roast coffee, business owners can plug in an electric roaster and roast coffee right away.
Flexible financing and cost structures make it easier for new roasters to afford electric roasting equipment. For example, a Bellwether Roaster can be financed for as little as 0% interest, making it accessible to new businesses. And without the need to invest in gas hookups to accommodate a traditional gas‑powered roaster, coffee businesses don't have to worry about redesigning their back‑of‑house to accommodate a large, complicated machine. Simply plug the Bellwether Roaster into an outlet and start roasting!
Becoming a Roaster Is Easier Than Ever
The thought of roasting coffee in‑house may be nerve‑wracking for those making the leap from a wholesale partnership. But it’s easier than it ever has been!
Jeff Gauger of Beans n Cream Coffee
in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin, says, “I was hesitant because I didn’t really think that I could be trusted to roast all the coffee for the shops, but it’s actually a really easy thing to do. Starting up was really, really easy. Knowing the machine was going to come preloaded with roast profiles for our coffees was a huge benefit. It allowed us to have the machine delivered, plugged in, and then we were roasting.”
Similar to white label coffee partnerships, there are a few factors to weigh before making the leap into roasting in‑house.
- Total Control Means Total Control — When you roast your own coffee, you’re responsible for every aspect of the process, from sourcing green coffee to packaging each bag. The success of your roasting process is on your shoulders. While this means you can control all elements of roasting and therefore the final product, it also means added responsibility.
- Investing for the Long Run — Roasting in‑house requires a commitment. Not just to your team, your company, and yourself, but to the financial investment necessary to make roasting in‑house a reality. Whether you opt for an electric roaster or take the traditional roasting route, the switch will involve a significant expense. Keep in mind, however, that you’re investing in your company for the long term.
- Supply Chain Logistics — Roasting coffee in‑house also means you’re responsible for managing the supply chain. This includes sourcing green coffees, coordinating deliveries of hundreds to thousands of pounds of green coffee, ordering packaging supplies, and much more. Be prepared to develop new supply chain processes to accommodate your roasting goals.
While roasting in‑house means more responsibility and work, it can also be the factor that unlocks a wealth of sales opportunities for your brand. As you roast in‑house and control costs, you can expand to new sales channels like wholesale
, and opening cafés without incurring more fees associated with white label coffee.
White Label Coffee vs. Roasting In‑House: A Comparison
Let’s compare these two roasting options side‑by‑side.
Third party may provide packaging and brand supplies for a fee.Not focusing on roasting allows you to solely concentrate on brand building and sales.
Responsible for all elements of branding, on top of roasting.Full control over brand experience, including packaging, shipping, and delivery.
Supply Chain Control
Green coffee sourced by white label coffee suppliers.Toll‑roasting options are available for an additional fee at most suppliers.
Retain full control over sourcing activities, giving you the flexibility to choose coffees that meet your budget and flavor preferences.
Ownership of Quality
Possible to be involved in blending and single‑origin selection at the beginning of the partnership.No ownership over actual roasted coffee quality.
It’s all on you! Every aspect of the roasting and quality control process is your responsibility.
Finances and Profitability
No equipment investments.Various fees, including per pound premiums, minimum order quantities, toll roasting, and service fees, can cut into profit margins.Coffee costs are similar to, if not more expensive than, partnering with a wholesale roaster.
Requires an investment in roasting equipment, real estate, supplies, and other assets.Total control over the costs, meaning you can set your budget, target margins, and more to achieve profitability.
As you can see, while roasting in‑house may require a larger upfront investment, it leads to the greatest chance of long‑term success and profitability. Roasting your own coffee gives you total control of the costs throughout the sourcing, roasting, and sales process—unlike the multitude of fees imposed by white label roasters. This control provides coffee companies with the freedom to explore unlimited growth opportunities and sales channels.
Best of all, electric roasters like the Bellwether reduce the initial investment needed with monthly financing, expedited training time, and a fully automated roasting process. Dax Johnson at Capitola Coffee
found this to be extremely beneficial for his coffee business:
“I was planning on doing a community co‑op roasting in Portland where I could basically just rent time on a roaster. The Bellwether was a much better fit because of the shorter learning curve, the flexibility to roast on the fly, and the ability to train my staff to roast. Now we’re known as a legitimate roaster, which adds a lot to our brand. It put us on the map.”
Roasting Your Own Coffee Makes the Most Sense
White label coffee suppliers manage the roasting processes so you don’t have to. But that convenience comes with a multitude of fees that cut into profit margins. For many business owners, convenience isn’t worth lost dollars.
Roasting with the all‑electric Bellwether Roaster gives coffee businesses control over the quality, flavor, and cost of coffee—all while building a brand customers love.
In‑house coffee roasting is more accessible than ever. Instead of spending time and money learning to roast, an electric coffee roaster gets you set up and roasting on the first day.