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The third-wave coffee company will continue to operate independently, founder James Freeman explains.

Elisabeth Sherman
September 14, 2017

Blue Bottle Coffee has announced that it has sold a majority stake of the company to Nestlé, a deal which values the company at $700 million, according to the Financial Times. Blue Bottle will still retain 32 percent of the company, and be allowed to operate as a “stand-alone entity,” according to a joint statement. Their leadership will also stay the same, with Bryan Meehan staying on as CEO and James Freeman, the company’s founder, continuing in his role as Chief Product Officer.

Blue Bottle Coffee comes from humble beginnings: Freeman was bottling coffee in a 183-square-foot potting shed and making home deliveries in the company’s early days. It has since enjoyed an astonishing rise to success; 25 new Blue Bottle cafés will have opened by the end of 2017.

“We opened in Washington D.C., we were about to open in Miami, and we’re planning on opening in Boston in a month or two,” Freeman told Food & Wine. “We have already been interested in expansion, and this [partnership] will let us do that.”

Freeman thinks that one the biggest benefits of partnering with Nestlé is that the corporation will help Blue Bottle expand its reach to customers.

“We are going to have better infrastructure. If we have big fans in certain neighborhoods in Los Angeles, for instance, we'll be able to serve people in new regions,” Freeman explains.

Freeman hopes that with the help of a well-established food brand like Nestlé, his company will get the resources it needs to “build cafés faster,” and get green coffee to Blue Bottle roasteries faster so that the coffee tastes fresher. That change, in particular, has been a priority for Freeman.

When Nestlé first approached Blue Bottle, Freeman says that he would already “get emails from various entities, sometimes it [seemed] like every week.” He ignored them and decided to pursue the opportunity with Nestlé in particular because of the company’s history and the attitude of its leadership.

“It’s a 153-year-old company, and they have a patient outlook. They wanted to let us continue to improve without a lot of backseat driving, they didn’t think they knew our guests better than we did,” he says. “I appreciated that modesty. It takes a lot for someone who runs the worlds largest food company to admit he doesn’t know something.

At the moment, Blue Bottle is working on a “few new products that I can't talk about yet,” says Freeman, but he can say that he’s looking forward to working with a company that will offer Blue Bottle coffee beans from places it wouldn’t be able to reach without some Nestlé's help.

“[Nestlé] can buy coffee from Cuba, and so we might be able to utilize their network and have a great access to interesting and delicious coffee sources,” says Freeman.

In the meantime, he and his colleagues are simply looking forward to continuing to expand Blue Bottle, under the guidance of a company which can help them get into more grocery stores and give them the tools they need to build a better business.

“We’ll continue to serve delicious coffee, improve our coffee and make beautiful cafes."