Owner of Keurig and coffee chains is hoping you’ll buy good beans online

By Tim Nelson
Updated April 06, 2018
Credit: Busakorn Pongparnit/Getty Images

If you’ve had breakfast in the past year, there’s a solid chance you’ve given JAB Holdings your money. The massive coffee-oriented conglomerate owns brands like Keurig, Caribou, Stumptown, Panera and Intelligentsia, just to name a few. While their recent acquisition strategy has centered on snatching up IRL properties like Au Bon Pain, their latest business venture wants to fundamentally change the how and what of consumer coffee tastes.

This week, JAB launched Trade, an online marketplace for roasted-to-order coffee. The site offers more than 300 types of high-end varieties of beans and grounds provided by a wide range of America’s most reputable roasters (though the beans are from around the world, only domestically-roasted varieties are available for now). Their business model emphasizes freshness, claiming that everything will ship within 24 hours of being roasted. Prices range anywhere from a reasonable $7.50 all the way up to an indulgent $54.

In addition to beans, Trade sells a slew of coffee making equipment. If you’re willing to spend enough, you can essentially get all of the power kettles and $139 grinders you need to start your own coffee shop in a rapidly gentrifying neighborhood. They also have how-to’s covering various brewing methods, perfect for anyone who wants to start using a chemex and instantly become more pretentious.

Though not the first to try the online coffee store model (Starbucks closed its webstore last fall), what could set Trade apart is its coffee recommendation service. By answering a series of six questions covering everything from your go-to preparation method to desired flavor profile, you can find out exactly what coffee fits your tastes. It’s a system that hopes to demystify high-end coffee for the uninitiated consumer and get more people drinking the good stuff.

Obviously, it’s a bit curious that a holding company with multiple billions of dollars tied up in brick and mortar coffee shops would push consumers to purchase beans online and make coffee at home. That’s not to mention the fact that JAB owns Keurig, the most famous purveyor of (mediocre) single-serve coffee pods.

But with Trade, it seems JAB has found a way to tap into the market for quality-conscious consumers who prefer the economical choice of at-home brewing to buying a pour over from Stumptown every day. And if you’re going to bet on anything in these anxious times, you could do much worse than banking on our insatiable thirst for caffeine.