“This business would be a fairy-tale story if I said that I grew up on a Nicaraguan coffee farm and I always had this deep passion for it, but it just wouldn’t be true. We just don’t have that dream story, where I was a surfer and discovered a delicious new fruit that I could bottle. I kind of wish that was my lifestyle, but at the same time, it has been a really fantastic journey. It might not be as romantic, but certainly the integrity is there, you know?” Ben Heins, cofounder of Bean & Body, told me over the phone as he drove to Wisconsin.
“When I met Erik Lucas, we had both just been through all four years of college, and he was just one of those guys you meet through other people in your life, and you want to hang out. We had taken a class together. Usually when I had presented an idea in the past, it was to my dad, and the questions after I pitched always resulted in from him, ‘Well, where’s the business plan in this?’”
“But when I decided to finally pitch this business idea about an energy drink to Erik, which was essentially the beginning of Bean & Body, I told him I had this idea and that we should do something together. The next day, Erik came back after spending like $500 on weird powders getting FedExed overnight in his shabby college dorm room. I was just flabbergasted. Erik just jumped in with both feet, and he turned out to be a really special and important person in my life,” says Heins.
They found someone to sponsor Bean & Body, but the potential sponsor pulled out. Heins recounts that they told him, “No, we got bought out by Rockstar, they’re going to do a similar product, just so you know. So we won’t be able to produce your product. You’re going to have to find somebody else.”
Heins and Lucas started to explore the health, social and economic ramifications of coffee and took a new tack. “Health-conscious coffee. A better option for the average coffee drinker. Lower calories. Higher antioxidants,” says Heins.
They developed a line of coffee products, each sold in an eight-ounce can. The line includes an antioxidant coffee, with pomegranate, acai berries, and blueberries, an energy coffee with extra caffeine from yerba mate, and a coffee “marTEAni,” with green tea and spices. The beverages are currently distributed at the likes of Whole Foods, Jewel-Osco, and Fox & Obel.
Heins says Bean & Body wants to make their coffee ethically, and uses shaded coffee beans to create their product. Today, most coffee growers mow down rainforests and use herbicides, pesticides and fertilizers to grow their beans. However, eight percent of coffee is shade-grown, under the canopy of a rainforest, a more sustainable way of growing coffee that preserves the natural ecosystem.
“If the average person switched their entire coffee consumption for a year—three cups a day—to shade-grown coffee, that’s 2,500 square feet of rainforest per person that would be saved,” Ben says. “Everybody in coffee knows there is a way to do it the right way and a way to do it the wrong way.” (Desiree Cole)