Opening a coffee roasting business is exciting — you get to experiment with different roast profiles to create your own coffee flavors, and you have complete control over the green coffee you want to work with. If you’ve ever fallen in love with an origin or producing region and wanted to share their coffee with the world, as a roaster, you have the power to do precisely that.
But how do you translate your vision of sharing your favorite coffees into a scalable business? The critical factor in building a wholesale coffee program that offers excellent coffee (consistently!) is your relationship with your green coffee supplier. A good partner supplies more than just wholesale green coffee — they’re also the bridge between your roastery and the producers behind every bag of coffee you buy.
Genuine Origin (GO) is here to demystify the green coffee buying experience and dive into the world of forward contracts and ordering optimization for coffee roasters looking to expand their operations. The good news: there are sourcing solutions for roasters of all sizes.
Challenges Growing a Coffee Roasting Business
Running Out of Coffee — When your entire business revolves around one agricultural product, there are bound to be fluctuations in your operation. It’s important to stay flexible but maintain a line between fluctuation and unpredictable instability. The biggest issue that usually crops up is discovering a coffee you absolutely love and realizing your supplier is fresh out of stock when you need more. Careful planning can help mitigate unpleasant surprises like this, but as a growing business, it can be hard to accurately forecast how much coffee your roastery needs every month.
Running Low on Cash — Cash flow is another tricky topic to put in order. Most small-to-medium-sized businesses can’t afford to invest in one-time payments to secure large lots of wholesale green coffee, not to mention the shipping and warehouse costs that come with them.
Maintaining Consistency — If you’ve built a name for yourself with high-quality roasted coffee, maintaining the same level of consistency as your business grows can be challenging, especially if the green coffee you’re sourcing is unstable. And while discovering new coffees can be fun and exciting, the process is much more enjoyable when you know you have another stable product on the shelves. It’s much more stressful to work with new coffees as a contingency because your regular supply ran out.
SPOT Purchasing vs. Forward Ordering — Ordering green coffee from GO is all about flexibility. That’s why the SPOT coffee we offer comes in easy-to-handle 65lb boxes and is entirely free to ship within the continental U.S. Every coffee we offer has gone through intensive quality control from farm to port and to Genuine Origin’s warehouses.
With SPOT purchasing on GO’s website, you only need to create an account, add items to your cart, checkout with a credit card or Paypal, and your coffee shows up at your roastery door. There are no minimums, contracts, hidden fees, or mysterious quotations; it’s simply online shopping for green coffee beans.
However, like any other online shopping platform, sold out means sold out, and your only option is to wait for the next crop to enjoy the same coffee again. If you (or your customers) have developed a solid attachment to a particular lot of coffee, that can be a huge disappointment.
This is where forward ordering is the best solution for consistent inventory. Forward ordering with GO guarantees that the coffee you want will still be available when you need it. You can place green coffee orders now and, during checkout, select shipping dates up to 90 days in the future, plus you won’t be charged until the coffee is actually ready to ship. There are no warehouse storage fees and no contracts. For example, once every quarter, you can place separate orders for monthly delivery, locking in your green coffee inventory early and streamlining the sourcing process for months at a time.
“With forward ordering, we try to give roasters access to consistent quality, at a predictable price. We also give them the certainty that the coffee is going to be available when they need it.”- Mauricio Jimenez, GO General Manager.
Questions to Ask Yourself Before Expanding Your Coffee Roasting Business
GO’s regional sales managers, Jen Hurd (West Coast), Jay Vernalaken (East Coast), and Cyndi Chirco (Southern States), have some excellent questions roasters should ask themselves and advice.
“Based on your target market, what coffees and prices fit the market’s needs? Many roasters like to build their menu around a few core coffees or flavor notes, but with that comes some unpredictability in price and availability. As hard as we work to keep roasters continually informed about coffee quantities, sometimes they have to scramble to find a replacement. Forward ordering would mitigate a lot of this frustration for roasters.” — Jen Hurd
“Before increasing your green coffee orders, ask yourself what the goals for this coffee are. Is it for single origin, blends, cold brew, espresso, etc.? Better yet, is it a coffee you can use for multiple purposes? Additionally, how much of this coffee are you currently using per week or month? Forecast your needs and order accordingly, but also allow room for growth.” -Cyndi Chirco
“How often do you discuss inventory levels with your green coffee supplier sales representative? Will you have enough notice before the coffee starts running low? Do you have coffee in reserve as a safety net for when things go sideways? It’s always better to have a little extra and not need it than to need it and not have any.” -Jay Vernalaken
Once you have a good understanding of your coffee roasting business needs, then you’re ready to ask yourself, “How can I buy the same coffee I love and have it delivered year-round to my roastery?”
Growing with GO
There are green coffee sourcing solutions for roasters of all sizes with GO, and the path to growth is simple:
Buying one box at a time
GO’s “click & go” online ordering platform offers maximum flexibility and convenience for buying green coffee with minimum commitments. Shipping is always FREE!
Big batch discounts
On the same online platform, quantity discounts are automatically applied to purchases of 3, 5, 10, or 24 boxes. You can mix and match coffees from different origins and immediately enjoy discounts up to $0.30/lb.
Forward ordering scheduling
Forecast your coffee inventory with forward ordering. When you place an order, you can choose a shipping date up to 90 days in the future. You can even schedule monthly shipments of the same coffee, and you’re only charged when the coffee ships — there are no extra storage or hidden fees.
“With forward orders, my goal is to just make it easier for my customers. For many of my roasters the stress of having to dial in a new coffee can be heavy, so buying forward gives them peace of mind that they can work with this one coffee for a certain amount of time before having to switch. Buying forward also allows them to properly plan for printing labels and making commitments to their customers.” -Cyndi Chirco
Tailored toolkits with your sales representative
There is always a solution, and GO’s sales representatives are happy to go beyond the online ordering system to help customize a plan for your green coffee sourcing.
“We can run data on purchases and help roasters understand the quantities and timelines that influence their coffee purchases. We can also help roasters set up a schedule that works for their cash flow and inventory space, while focusing on consistency and seasonality.” -Jen Hurd
GO-ing Beyond with Volcafe Specialty Coffee
Volcafe Specialty Coffee (VSC) is GO’s sister company and larger organization for wholesale green coffee sourcing worldwide. If your coffee roasting business is ready for contracting prices, long-term storage spanning more than 3–6 months, direct contracts with origin farms, our sales team can make that happen — more on that below.
Go All the Way to Origin with VSC
While GO’s model is a perfect solution for many roasters, other green buyers feel more comfortable with contracts, booking their own freight, and locking in C-Market prices for long-term planning. These roasters might want to move over to forward booking contracts through VSC.
VSC is a more traditional green coffee supplier. Roasters can contract a coffee or a specific quality and lock in a price months or even years in advance. Contracts are generally predicated on samples to confirm the quality before fulfilling a contract. This method allows roasters to enjoy the same consistency and pricing for the long run — which can mean more consistency for the P&L.
“Both GO and VSC offer coffees that allow a roaster to build relationships with specific geographic regions and producers. VSC may offer a bit more opportunity there in being able to contract with specific producers, farms, and co-ops year over year,” says Jen.
With VSC, a contract generally starts at a minimum of 100 bags at 60kg each. Unlike purchases from Genuine Origin, Roasters need to be ready to coordinate storage, delivery logistics and sign contracts. VSC coffees will — most likely — not show up in boxes either. Instead, you’ll receive shrink wrapped pallets with jute bags of varying weights depending on the origins. But the extra planning is just part of business growing pains.
Whether its VSC or the GO website there is a solution for roasters of all sizes. Roasters can find competitive prices, effortless delivery, long-term contracts and relationship coffees. And all of the above is complemented by dedicated service from coffee professionals who will work with roasters to help them craft their green buying for success.