When starting a private label coffee business there are many things that need to be considered. For the purpose of this post, I will identify a few items to help get you started and on the path. For the tldr crowd, see the bullet list below.
Private Label Coffee In a Nutshell
- Identify your target market / consumer
- Determine the type of coffee you would like to sell
- Find a roaster to partner with that can fill orders within your range of quantities
- Develop your name, branding, logos, packaging
- Develop your website and social media platforms
- Work on sales channels and networks
- Deliver excellent customer service
If I were just reading the above list, I would think that starting a company and setting everything up would be easy. But the reality is, that it isn’t. Working with our clients over the years, we have seen broken dreams and shattered expectations, and weve been there to help walk them through it. We’ve prepared them for what’s to come. And those that decided to move forward, found the resulting business to be a rewarding experience, full of personal growth and most importantly, fun. So lets jump right in and work our way through the above list.
Identify your target market / consumer
The first question you should ask yourself after making the decision to sell private label coffee is, “Who do I want to sell coffee to?”. I don’t mean where do you want to sell your coffee, but to who. Who is your intended customer? Do you want to sell to the tech / gaming crowd, hipsters, coffee geeks, your average joe? Who can you identify with, who do you understand? Honestly answering those questions is a good start to getting you on the path. Not answering the questions honestly will prevent you from connecting to your target and making a lasting impact. There is soo much noise out there in any industry and you need to be able to cut through that noise and get the attention of your target customer. It’s not as easy as you think unless you can speak their language.
Determine the type of coffee you would like to sell
Once you have identified your target market, you can determine what type of product you need to sell. In the ever expanding world of coffee, there are thousands of coffee and coffee related products available. Having your target consumer in mind, what would they buy? What would they drink? How would they prepare their coffee? How much would they drink on the daily basis? Would there be time constraints on their enjoyment? I would ask myself these questions in determining the type of coffee I would want to sell to my target market. If my target market market was young professionals with high income, I would try and push commodity coffee in pods to them. You would be trying to sell them something that they didn’t want and at the same time not getting their attention. Your target should have been lower income families, possibly with kids, busy jobs, with little time to enjoy a quality cup of coffee.
Find a roaster to partner with that can fill orders within your range of quantities
Personally, I would consider this to be the most important part of the process, but I am a coffee geek. All kidding aside, you can’t expect to have continual growth in sales if your product quality is inconsistent, not delivered on time, or a host of other issues that you can run into with the wrong partner. It’s essential that you really do your homework here. Ask for a few references you can call, try their product, talk to one of their retailers, and pay attention to the details. These days one bad customer experience can mean loosing hundreds or possibly even thousands of sales. It’s also important that you find someone who you can develop a relationship with. Professional chemistry or whatever you want to call it, is a very effective tool to help you meet your goals and keep your roaster in line with your vision.
Develop your name, branding, logos, packaging
Branding for any product is essential. Building a brand means building trust in your product. Trust in your brand is what drives repeat sales. Sales is what keeps your doors open. You get where I’m going with this? Logos and packaging are an extension of your brand. They help with recognition and perception of quality of the product. A logo and packaging that is not in line with your brang will be ineffective. This is where the identification of your market is super important. Your branding needs to speak to your customer. Selling your coffee in a bag covered in colorful Toucans is not going to be effective if your target consumer is a hipster. It’s not going to catch their eye as its not in line with their style or how they perceive quality. Put that same coffee in a kraft bag with hand stamped textual based logos, and Boom, youre now speaking their language. It’s also important to note, as I did in the “Identify your target market / consumer” bullet point, that your brand should be in line with you and you should understand your consumer.
Once your have a handle on your brand, your logo is the next logical step. Logos are easily created once you have clarified your brand. There are thousands of logo sites that will do a great job for cheap. You want to use one of the sites that has examples of logos that you find appealing. They generally create a few for you to pick from and if you do not like any of them, have them create more. They are usually very willing to work with you and the additional time spent will result in a logo that will reflect your brand and be visually appealing to your market. Don’t spend a lot of money on a logo. I personally like Fiverr. In addition to your logo, you can find people to help you with your copy for your website and social media platforms, as well as a host of other things.
Packaging is a whole other animal. It may seem like its just a container with your logo that holds your coffee, but I can assure you that the wrong packaging can ruin your product and convey the wrong message to your consumer. You have a few options when it comes to packaging, kraft paper bags, black metalized lined bags, bags with zippers, gusseted, stand up pouches, etc. Your going to want to pick the material and design of the bag that best fits your brand and message. You can also have hand stamped bags, stickers, hot stamped, or full color printed bags. The options are limited by your creativity. You’re going to want to spend some time here trying out the various bags and seeing what works best for you. Also, make sure that whatever bag you pick has a one-way valve as an option, the last thing you need is bags filling up like balloons on the shelf, unless that’s inline with your branding.
Develop your website and social media platforms
The options these days are a plenty. Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Pinterest, etc. Pick a platform that your comfortable with and reflects your target market. Depending on the age and other factors, your market might use one of the platforms more often and be more engaged in that platform which will make them easier to reach. Social media is very important in conveying your message and offers “social proof” or a certain type of legitimacy to your brand that you cannot get through any other medium. It also helps you gain traction and expand your market faster, helping some business have “explosive” sales when their social media campaigns are properly done. Social media is also, free media. Carefully crafted campaigns can have a huge impact and cost you nothing. Social media and also break your business, so its important to keep your best foot forward, don’t take bad reviews personally, and whenever you feel like you need to answer a bad review, don’t. It usually backfires causing unintended results. Just be careful, we’re all human, but people don’t quite understand that sometimes.
Work on sales channels and networks
I feel like this is fairly self explanatory. Sales, sales, sales. At the end of the day its going to make or break your business regardless of your branding, logo, packaging, or how good your are at social media. A sales plan, sales script, some cold calls, and walking into a cafe are essential to success. If your not a salesman, learn to be. Getting out of your comfort zone here will help you be a better business person in the long run and with the sales process being so important, will guarantee the success of the business.
Deliver excellent customer service
I cannot say enough about this. Customer service should always be on your mind, once you get customers. Once you understand your customer, you know how to serve them better, handle issues better, and keep them coming back as happy customers willing to be an ambassador of your brand and pay you to do it. When issues arise, and they will, handle it with humidity. Do not approach an unhappy customer with the attitude that they are wrong, even if they may be. They are unhappy, and a lot of times its as simple as acknowledging that and offering a simple solution to their grievance. They don’t want to be unhappy, so just give them a way out. It’s as simple as that. Ensuring that every order goes out on time, that every bag is of the highest quality, that online orders are correct; all of these are customer service and all of these items can affect your brand positively or negatively. So spend some time thinking about how you can serve your customers better and not just handle a customer crisis.
I hope all this offers some insight into selling your own private label coffee. Most of these principles can be applied to any business venture, not just coffee. If you are looking for a good partner, give us a shout.