Surviving the Coffee and Nut Butter Business in a Pandemic

You might not have thought about it, but surviving the coffee and nut butter business in a pandemic turns out to be a pretty accurate bellwether of what’s going on in the economy.

Coffee and Nut Butter, Round 1

Kevin Bratcher, Eliot Guthrie and Peter Ricchiuti at Commander's Palace BC

Kevin Bratcher, Eliot Guthrie and Peter Ricchiuti at Commander’s Palace BC

In the second week of March of this year, 2020, I sat down at a table at Commander’s Palace for what I thought was going to be a regular Out to Lunch show. It turned out to be a great show. I had a very interesting conversation with two fascinating people who were both building successful businesses.

One of my guests was Eliot Guthrie, co-founder of Congregation Coffee. Eliot told me how they roast their own beans and supply coffee to over 70 New Orleans restaurants, including Brennan’s, Patois, Paladar 511, Marjie’s Grill, and Donald Link’s restaurants. He also told me how he started up two coffee shops – one in Algiers and another in the CBD – that capitalized on his culinary background.

My other guest that day was Kevin Bratcher, co-founder and Director of Business Operations at a company called Supreme Specialty Foods. Among other items, the company’s signature product is a healthy alternative to peanut butter, called Beyond the Equator. It’s a totally nut-free butter that’s made with five seeds – chia, flax, pumpkin, sunflower, and hemp. Kevin told me Beyond The Equator is available in over 600 stores in 25 states. And on Amazon.

Then, after our conversation, Eliot, Kevin, and I walked out of Commander’s Palace, and the whole world changed.

Coffee and Nut Butter, Round 2: the pandemic

Today, as a result of the ongoing pandemic, Commander’s Palace is still closed. And Eliot Guthrie’s Coffee business and Kevin Bratcher’s seed butter business have changed too. So, to find out how the global pandemic is affecting New Orleans business, we’re meeting up again today. This time not at Commander’s palace, but around our virtual lunch table.

Eliot Guthrie at home in the Covid Coffee Closet

Eliot Guthrie at home in the Covid Coffee Closet

For Eliot and Congregation Coffee, with a reliance on supplying coffee to restaurants and having their own retail outlets, they have had some challenges since we last spoke back in March.

For Kevin’s business, things are a little different. During the lockdown period of the pandemic, the only retail outlets open were grocery stores. And a lot of people who wanted to avoid going out at all, and who may have never even thought about buying groceries online, got very familiar with Instacart.  Both of those new realities have had an impact on Supreme Specialty Foods.

Kevin Bratcher, seeing pandemic seed butter success Beyond The Equator

Kevin Bratcher, seeing pandemic seed butter success Beyond The Equator

Photos by Jill Lafleur. For more conversations about the New Orleans food business in the pandemic check out our podcast and radio show Louisiana Eats.