If you're a coffee addict like I am, you've definitely heard of Blue Bottle, one of the newest artisanal coffee brands to emerge in a big way over the last few years. Despite huge conglomerates continuing to dominate the mass coffee market--think Starbucks, Peet's, and Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, for example--smaller, niche coffee brands are beginning to take over.
In recent years, you may have seen names like Stumptown, Intelligentsia, and--naturally--Blue Bottle in local markets and hip cafes. Despite the fact that these smaller brands have a substantially smaller share of the market, it's clear that they've caught onto something that bigger brands haven't. Their coffee's improved taste, the intimate feeling of their branding, and their seeming simplicity in choices offered effortlessly draw customers in--and big companies are starting to notice.
Last Thursday, multinational food and drink giant, Nestlé, announced that it had acquired a majority stake in Blue Bottle Coffee. According to reports, Nestlé acquired a 68% stake in Blue Bottle, paying in the neighborhood of $500 million for the privilege. The action marks a monumental step for artisanal coffee lines. The deal also imparts a great deal of information about what we, as coffee drinkers and consumers, look for in our products: quality, simplicity, and beautiful aesthetic.
"It sounds very basic," Blue Bottle founder James Freeman said in an interview with the New York Times. "But people really like delicious coffee."
The most pivotal part of Freeman's work, however, might be that he combines the great taste of quality coffee with the convenience of your neighborhood café--it's all the ease of fast and easy consumption we look for in our fast-moving world, right alongside the kind of rich flavor we wish we had the time to cultivate.
Big companies like Nestlé backing smaller brands also says a great deal about the quaint, neighborhood feeling we've been missing in our daily goods. Coffee roasters like Blue Bottle and Intelligentsia offer an intimate, home-y vibe to our daily coffee run that much larger companies like Starbucks have struggled for decades to create.
Who knows, perhaps Nestlé's move is just showing us what we've already known all along--that, as consumers, we're seeking a return to the small, flavorful, and intimate.
And maybe coffee is the easiest way to start.