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Volcanica Coffee: From Costa Rica farms to Amazon success

CEO Maurice Contreras shares the family-owned brand's journey.

Volcanica Coffee: From Costa Rica farms to Amazon success

Photo via Twitter/@VolcanicaCoffee

Twenty years ago, Maurice Contreras visited a coffee farm in Costa Rica during a family vacation.

He immediately recognized the difference between the taste and quality of the coffee being grown there with that of the United States, where the purpose was most often just to drink coffee to wake up.

“I realized that there was an opportunity to bring great tasting coffee from Costa Rica to the United States,” Contreras said.

He ended up writing a business plan on the plane home.

It was the trip that launched Volcanica Coffee. Today, the journey continues. The brand was onhand at the NRF Big Show in New York this week as part of the Consumer Products Showcase, highlighting breakout products. Volcanica, which is USDA Organic certified, was nominated by Amazon to exhibit.

In an interview with The Current, Contreras shared the steps that the brand took to grow over the years.

Contreras started the business as a part-time venture while he was working as a regional director at AT&T. Coffee was sold through the brand’s website. Volcanica imported coffees from Jamaica, Kona and Costa Rica. In the beginning, it grew each year, sticking with the plan he laid out. Eventually, it grew out of the garage. Then, it outgrew a co-packing relationship. Contreras decided to build a coffee plant. Now, it has a 12,400-square-foot roastery in Atlanta, with 20 employees.

With each step, Contreras said it was important to prepare and seek expertise. When a business function is new, doing as much research as possible can be a guide in unchartered waters.

What started from a family vacation is now a business with the whole family involved. His wife Diane Contreras is VP of sales. Contreras’ son Aaron is the director of coffee. Adriana, his daughter, is the director of operations. Contreras’ mother painted the original logo.

Today, the brand imports coffee from 40 countries. It has 150 different flavors, each originating from volcanic regions of the world. On Amazon, it is a top-15 coffee vendor. It also sells on walmart.com, and still sells direct through its website.. Contreras is aiming to work with brick-and-mortar retailers, as well.

In 2023, it is looking to expand its private collection of coffees. Several varieties are fermented, and mix in fruits such as mango and orange with the coffee.

“That’s the next wave of coffee that we’re seeing because the coffee tastes really good,” Contreras said. “It's a fermented coffee that has different flavors that you wouldn't find at a convenience store.”

Sometimes, Contreras returns to the original business plan. He can see the notes he wrote on the plane reflected in a business that continues to grow today.

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Shipt is launching a new accelerator program designed to provide ecommerce tools for local retailers.Called LadderUp, the program is centered on equity. Target-owned delivery owned Shipt said conversations with business owners have revealed that local entrepreneurs face “gaps” in technology, but they also want to participate in ecommerce platforms. The COVID-19 pandemic was especially difficult for Black business owners, who saw earnings drop between 11-28% in 2019-2020, as compared to the earnings decrease of 5-17% for the rest of the population.

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