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Where the coffee shop meets the cubicle

Michael Thompson September 23, 2013 4

A local coffee shop and roasting company wants a bigger piece of the office crowd.

Richmond-based Black Hand Coffee Co. is developing its own branded single serving coffee pods, which are used in popular Keurig-style coffee machines.

Black Hand owner Clay Gilbert with an example of the new product. (Photo by Michael Thompson)

Black Hand owner Clay Gilbert with an example of the new product. (Photo by Michael Thompson)

Black Hand owner Clay Gilbert said the new products could be in full production by the end of the year.

“We’re looking for a bigger footprint,” Gilbert said. “We’re looking to be in the offices of those companies with 200 people and give them a local option when they go to use the [the single serving pods].”

Gilbert, who bought Black Hand in 2009 and moved it to 3101 Patterson Ave. in 2012, said the idea of targeting coffee pod users occurred to him about a year ago.

“I wanted to expand the wholesale side of my business,” Gilbert said. “I thought, ‘What’s not out there? What about a local [single serving pod]?’ Why not do something that operates kind of like a small craft beer?”

Gilbert said he reached out to a contract coffee manufacturer last spring about producing pods with his coffee. The deal is still being negotiated, he said.

Black Hand Coffee roasted 36,000 pounds of coffee in 2012, 30 percent of which was sold for at-home brewing. A pound of Black Hand coffee runs about $11.

Gilbert wouldn’t disclose the cost to develop Black Hand’s new product but said he plans to sell an 18-count package for about $15. He is speaking with coffee distributors and hopes to be in full production by the end of 2013.

He also said he welcomes any competition.

“If five other roasters get in on this, then great,” Gilbert said. “Then we’ll have a category.”

Clarification: This story has been updated to clarify that Black Hand is developing a single serving coffee product that is not specifically a K-Cup brand. K-Cup is a trademarked brand owned by Green Mountain Coffee Roasters. 

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4 Comments »

  1. Jennifer Carnam September 23, 2013 at 8:43 am - Reply

    Our office has fewer than 30 people, but I’d absolutely buy your K-cups (for home and my office). Love supporting local #RVA merchants!

  2. Lori Bush September 23, 2013 at 12:22 pm - Reply

    I have a friend who uses K-cups with his large vending company. He even has a vending machine designed to put the K-cups in. They are a big part of his business. He would probably be interested in your product.

  3. Eric Coté September 24, 2013 at 5:27 am - Reply

    I would welcome a K cup with your excellent beans!

  4. Stephen Long October 3, 2013 at 10:14 am - Reply

    Sounds like a good business decision, but I wonder how it will affect the quality- it’s difficult to know how long presealed cups have been sitting on a shelf.

    Other suggestions that have occurred to me:
    - see if you can get onto Relay Foods or local food coops that deliver to subscribers. Intelligentsia does direct subscriptions, but the shipping is crazy.
    - try to get into Kroger and Martin’s locally, if that’s even possible. At least be sure that Whole Foods and Elwood Thompson are stocked (WF is often out).
    -Do some merchandise to get your name out there, like coffee mugs or decals.
    -Cosponsor some bicycling or other charity events.

    Just ideas. Your coffee is the best in town, and I think it’s as good as Intelligentsia’s.

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