Listen to this NothingWasted! Podcast to hear from Paul Evers, CEO & co-founder of Riff, which is on a mission to “explore and celebrate 100% of the coffee plant’s agricultural value.” The company “loves coffee, and we love our planet. But we don’t love coffee’s impact on our planet, so we’re doing something about it by creating possibilities out of coffee beans and the whole dang coffee plant.”
We spoke with Evers about making beneficial products out of agricultural waste, the importance of the triple bottom line, having diverse advisors and more.
Here is a glimpse into our conversation:
Waste360: How did you end up co-founding Riff?
Evers: My background is actually creative services. I moved to Bend, Oregon back in 1990 and was working with an ad agency, but there was no upward mobility there. So I needed to figure out how to re-apply myself. I started my own agency with a few friends, which turned me into an entrepreneur. That led to…we ended up specializing in craft beverage, with an emphasis on craft beer. And that led to co-founding a craft brewery. I worked on that for about a decade. We ended up shuttering the agency, and I was thinking about a new venture. Got excited about what was going on with coffee, especially cold-brew coffee. So, with a few friends, co-founded Riff.
Waste360: You uncovered a “dirty secret” about coffee. Would you tell us about that?
Evers: When we were touring some coffee plantations, we saw how they were discarding the coffee fruit (cascara) once the bean was squeezed out of the cherry; just thrown into the back corner of the plantation. And you could see nearby trees that predated this practice, leafless and no longer alive. As we learned later, this fruit is high in sugar, high in moisture content, high in nutritional value, which creates microbial havoc and destroys the land for future agricultural production. Traditionally cascara is steeped like a tea, but we started doing our own research, trying to learn about the nutritional value, environmental impact, and other traditional uses. We reached out to climate-change scientists at Oregon State University and convinced them to partner with us on an environmental impact study, which validated our theory that there was a dirty not-so-little-secret about coffee production.
Waste360: What does Riff make with cascara?
Evers: We’re working hard on making sure we’re producing clean-label products and translating the optimal amount of nutrients into beverages. Ours have 120 milligrams of caffeine, 12 grams of total sugars, 40 calories—and we’re using real fruit-juice concentrates and purees as well as coffee-fruit juice concentrate. Really working hard to create really great products with an eye on human health and wellness, and then an eye on planet health and wellness, and also for the farming communities.
Waste360: Do you have any advice for people who want to do better with the products they are creating but hitting bumps along the way?
Evers: I guess the thing that’s been game-changing for us is that we basically stumbled upon this huge environmental issue with coffee, which led to a transformation of our company. To become purpose-driven about something bigger and greater than ourselves; that’s what really motivates us to see barriers every day to prove once again how passionate we are. It’s really hard for small brands, but we wouldn’t have come this far if we weren’t purpose-driven. Another thing that we do all the time is reach out to other people, experts in the industry, for their feedback and guidance.
Listen to the full episode above.
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