Coffee Roasting Becomes Politically Correct:
Black Rifle Coffee Use Smart Branding Targeting Selected Group.March 16, 2021 Coffee Geography Magazine
Salt Lake City based Black Rifle Coffee said its revenue doubled in 2020 to $163 million, 70% of it from e-commerce. Of its 450 current employees, 55% are military veterans.
With firearms-themed branding, AK-47 Espresso Blend, unabashed support for police and the military and an irreverent founder who hasn’t shied away from political debate, Black Rifle is a prime example of the way some businesses are capitalizing on politically engaged consumers in the U.S.
“I know who my customer is. I know who I’m trying to serve coffee to. I know who my customer isn’t,” said Evan Hafer, the company’s 44-year-old founder and chief executive.
Big American firms historically sought to stay
above the partisan fray. Now more consumers want CEOs to take a stand. In 2019,
60% of American consumers would make a decision about whether to buy or boycott
a company’s product based on its stand on societal issues, according to a
survey by public-relations firm Edelman—up from 47% in 2017.
In an increasingly divided country where people are feeling one away or the other, taking a stand can build a lot of brand loyalty.
Mr. Hafer said in an interview that as he has increasingly focused on military veterans’ issues, he has been trying to move Black Rifle beyond being affiliated with a particular political party.
“I’ve got an incredible opportunity to affect veterans’ lives for the better, and I’m not going to squander it in the gutter of partisan politics,” said the former Green Beret. “If we’ve done it in the past, it’s probably just based on you know, I was carrying a rifle five years ago, I’m not a sophisticated businessman.”
Mr. Hafer said he began roasting coffee on a tour of duty in Iraq in 2006 and later got the idea for the company while working for a Central Intelligence Agency contractor, training former special forces soldiers. He named it after his service rifle, which was usually by his side while roasting coffee between training sessions. “Black rifle” is a phrase used to describe military weapons like M16s and their civilian counterparts, AR-15 style rifles, which have become a potent symbol in the gun-rights fight in America.
“It dawned on me later, like ‘Oh this is going to piss people off,’ ” he recalled. “And I just kind of embraced it.”
The company’s roasts are named for various firearms, political stances (“Thin Blue Line”) and jokes about coffee snobbery (“F— Hipster Coffee”). To market the brand, the company posts over-the-top YouTube videos that poke fun at liberals, but also at macho gun guys.
Its following grew by plan and happenstance. In 2017, when Starbucks Corp. promised to hire 10,000 refugees in response to Mr. Trump’s executive order barring more of them from entering the country, Mr. Hafer grabbed headlines by vowing to hire 10,000 veterans. Later that year, after Keurig dropped its sponsorship of Sean Hannity’s show over comments the Fox News commentator made about sexual abuse allegations against then-Alabama Sen. Roy Moore, Mr. Hannity and Donald Trump Jr. promoted Black Rifle Coffee on Twitter.
Mr. Hafer said the spike in sales in 2020 was helped by his company’s direct-to-consumer and subscription model that appealed to coffee drinkers stuck at home during the pandemic. But the company wants to expand its nascent retail operation, too. In addition to a small shop at its headquarters in Salt Lake City, the company currently has one location in San Antonio, with two more set to open this spring in Dallas and Clarksville, Tenn.
Black Rifle Coffee’s 12-oz. bags sell for around $13 to $15 at the retail stores. Mark Lamprecht, 50, said he bought his first bag this past Valentine’s Day at a gun range where he had gone shooting with his wife. The Atlanta-area financial adviser said he liked the company’s support for law enforcement and the military. The $15 he spent on a bag of Blackbeard’s Delight dark roast represented something of a splurge for him. “That’s definitely more expensive than the $6.50 a pound at Costco, ” he said.
Surprisingly Black Rifle Coffee is primarily using washed Yirga chefe Beans from Ethiopia which makes the poor farmers unwary of the entire political correctness in the U.S.