Saint Joseph's University
When examining how a small coffee company can innovate toward a better world, Backyard Beans starts with sourcing. Backyard Beans takes great pride in working with an importer in order to make sure that they only use responsibly sourced coffee beans. Since coffee is mostly grown internationally, the supply chain can be very extensive with many different processes. These processes can frequently result in individual farmers not getting a fair cut of the purchasing. Knowing this, Backyard Beans emphasizes suppliers who participate in fair trade. Even though this could cost them more money, they understood a few years in that it costs the farmers money as well which means that it is the right thing for both sides in the long run. What can help with this is importers paying well without a logo to be the best so that the farmers do not have to pay more.
Being aware of this, Backyard Beans makes sure to ask the right questions to importers. This can include who the importer is working with, what procedures were used to grow the coffee, and where the money from the payments are going. What this coffee company innovates can be described best in the UN SDG number 12, responsible consumption and production. Unless Backyard Beans feels comfortable about an importer's intentions regarding responsible sourcing, then they will not work with them. This is why they have built a strong relationship with suppliers with a strong sense of trust. With 100% responsibly sourced coffee products, Backyard Beans hopes to contribute to a better world one step at a time.
Pictured above is coffee being harvested from Segundo Rupay Guevara. Backyard Beans sourced this coffee by way of their importing partner Royal Coffee NY. Segundo Rupay delivers his parchment (dry coffee) to Sol y Cafe which is an organic and fair trade certified mill. This lot has been separated out from the larger Sol y Cafe blended lot because of the quality that Segundo delivered. Segundo was paid fair trade and organic premiums for this coffee, as well as a premium on top of that for achieving micro-lot status with a higher cup score evaluated by the team at Sol y Cafe.
We spoke with Laura, one of the co-founders of Backyard Beans for our interview. From her, we were able to hear the story of what inspired the creation of Backyard Beans. Laura owns the business with her husband, Matt. She put it the most simply when she stated, “Matt loves coffee” during our interview. That love started early and was encouraged further when Matt's friend introduced him to European espresso coffee for the first time. Following that experience, Matt and Laura bought an espresso machine and used a popcorn popper to roast coffee in their home.
Soon, they moved to the Lansdale area and took to the local farmers market to find good coffee in order to fuel their growing passion. Unfortunately, they came up empty in their searches and decided to fill the space in the market themselves. They started roasting coffee in their backyard on their grill, giving way to the company name, Backyard Beans. They sold their roasted coffee beans at farmers markets, and eventually worked their way to selling their product at local co-ops, then grocery stores. In 2015-2016, the company grew to where Matt and Laura took it on full time. Currently, they are sold in almost 100 farmers markets and stores. They also now operate a café on Main Street in Lansdale, where they sell local baked goods along with the coffee. Matt and Laura continue to be inspired towards growth, as they make plans to expand their operations in the coming years.
Backyard Beans has left a positive impact on a variety of their stakeholders starting with their suppliers. Their concern with the supply chain has set them apart from many other small coffee roasters in the country. The first thing that people think about when it comes to coffee is always Fair Trade, but Backyard Beans has taken it one step further by thinking about the lives of the coffee growers who cannot afford a certification. By choosing these farmers as their suppliers, they have created both a short term and long term impact that encourages systemic changes.
Laura has also created a positive impact not only on the coffee industry, but on all industries. She has set an example for all business owners by inspiring them to always go one step further than they have to. She decided not to just sell a “fair trade” product knowing that this is what consumers are looking for, but decided to sell a product that allowed her to do the right thing. A positive impact has been left on the lives of the coffee farmers and their families, supporting their hard work and giving them an opportunity to make a living doing what they do best. Overall, Backyard Beans has challenged what people have expected by doing something innovative and better for all of those involved.
Backyard Beans’ focus on sustainable sourcing allows the company to connect with consumers and develop a distinct brand image. By using certified organic and free-trade coffee beans, the business takes advantage of the growing emphasis on ethics in the supply chain. The sourcing is a value-added that people feel good about, and clearly there is a growing market of customers who are willing to pay for it. More and more, consumers desire to know not only what is in their food products, but how they came to be, and the story behind them.
BYB utilizes the blog on its website to keep customers informed and build an intimate relationship with customers. The detailed online information also helps the business to reach new markets and share their values. For example, a recent post is about the Las Perlitas blend of coffee. It describes for consumers not only the superior taste and unique flavors of the beans, but how the inclusion of both top-scoring and mid-tier coffee lots “provides a more sustainable future for the producers, providing a market to sell their coffee to where they will get paid more than the commodity market price.” This further instills in customers’ that by purchasing from BYB they are doing something good. The focus on creating a sustainable future is shared with consumers and becomes a partnership that all stakeholders are invested in. Beyond this, the high level of information and transparency positions Backyard Beans clearly in consumers’ minds as a delicious beverage and an ethical choice.
Backyard Beans puts a focus on being more than the norm. There are third party certifications most are familiar with such as fair trade, which is where BYB started when creating a responsibly sourced product. Fair Trade assures there are good working conditions, fair pay, no child labor, and additional resources available to farmers such as educational support. However, through further research, Laura and Matt learned that there are many farmers paying for their Fair Trade certification who can barely afford it, and it takes away a lot of the profit they’re able to make from selling a premium product. The commodity pricing for coffee is currently very low, and causing a lot of loss for the farmers. To support those farmers that are operating just as responsibly but may not be able to afford the certifications, Backyard Beans works with their importers to assure that the farmers they are doing business with are creating a product that meets their standards.
Coffee bean growing can be taxing on the environment because of the large amounts of land used, the water usage, agrochemicals, and genetically modified organisms to ensure a better harvest. By having a third party certification or intention to operate responsibly, farmers have greater focus on proper waste disposal, water conservation, intercropping to support land fertilization, and avoiding deforestation. By having a company like Backyard Beans support good farming habits, whether third party certified or not, they are supporting a larger focus on sustainability within the industry.
Laura Adams, Co-Owner
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Lansdale, Pennsylvania, US
Business Website: https://www.backyardbeans.com/
Year Founded: 2014
Number of Employees: 11 to 50