I say not to focus exclusively on wholesale. Retail is a big deal because you get face to face with customers and I think there's a lot of appeal in that. Plus, more in your pocket. A lot more. It's also easier to ensure customers are getting the product in exactly the form you intended. You can give advice, build relationships, and potentially fill new markets.
As for your statement, "Do some market research", I am an MBA and have completed market research in the local area as well as in the wider region. There is definitely a market (as per my original post stated), but I am more interested how professional roasters have tackled this specific obstacle (I stated above) in the past and what may have worked best for them.
I'm not looking for inspiration, a pat on the back, or talk about "uphill battles" rather I'm looking for ways to tackle a specific issue.
Keep posting, I appreciate anyone taking the time to read and submit their opinion.
First, thank you for accepting my response to your post.
In your original post, you asked what market you should go after and where to focus selling. That made me think that you did not do market research. Perhaps the market research that was conducted did not serve you well because the original post can be construed by persons like myself to be a request on how to go about doing a specific market research or how to add perhaps overlooked opportunities to research already conducted. As you know better than I do, the contents of MBA programs are extremely variable (I am not speaking about quality, just breadth) and certain graduates will capitalize on market research to the point of genius while others emphasize many of the other numerous facets of business theory and practice and just pursue the minimum training on market research. That there is a market in your original post is undeniable, but I was impressed by how eloquently and completely you described the saturation achieved by your competition and, in addition to quantity, you indicated that the quality was up to your standards, as well. In evaluating your options for online sales (which I believe I understand) and local sales (which, despite my opinions, I admit I do not understand) and taking into account the downward pressure on online sales and the trends that seem to be encouraging home roasting (admittedly a niche-niche market, for now), this lead to my original, pithy response to your post.
I would not have responded if I had understood that you were really reaching out to other professional roasters and perhaps specifically those who had some experience in doing some effective market research prior to establishing their business. You have my best wishes for good luck.
Here in Hamilton Ontario, Tim Hortons dominates the retail coffee market. Yet there are 4-5 coffee roasting companies (including Detour, Red Hill, and Speakeasy) who run successful businesses. They sell to the "coffee culture" (the independent shops) and have a small but thriving retail presence.
I suspect that not being self-limiting in terms of market reach may help you grow your business. Your physical location should not be an impediment to selling regionally.
My local supermarket in Thornhill Ontario Canada is Longo's. They feature a coffee roastery right in the middle of the store.
The guy who runs it drinks coffee with me a few times a week elsewhere. He tells me that, not only does he roast to order from a dozen or 15 barrels of greens, he also roasts for the ordinary coffee dispensers (like you find in any supermarket) and claims they are fresh-roasted and refilled every 3 or 4 days...
No thread-hijacking intended. I replied to the OP.
I'm so impressed by Longo's. An innovative company. I've bought a few of their roasts and can attest to quality. JKalpin, is your Longo's roastery roasting for the ordinary dispensers in the same store? Since moving to Hamilton I haven't been in a Longo's in quite some time.
zane9, the guy who runs the roaster in Longo's claims to fill the supermarket-type dispensers twice a week with fresh-roast coffee. He is not a coffee expert himself; his equipment is fully automatic and looks like this gear. He claims that the setup cost around $15k and I assume it includes the vent piping.
One of my sons buys there regularly (when I can't supply) and claims it is decent ...but not as good as mine :)
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