The health benefits of red wine in moderation are well known, thanks to the antioxidant resveratrol, which is thought to shield the body against heart attacks, cancer and other diseases.
Vera Roasting Company, based in Dover, New Hampshire, offers those same benefits in coffee, launching online in December 2015, after pioneering a way to infuse coffee beans with resveratrol.
Glen Miller, the organic chemist who figured out how to get resveratrol into a coffee bean after roasting through experimenting in his kitchen, immediately filed for a patent.
Miller describes the patent as “very powerful,” covering not only resveratrol in coffee, but also any other nutraceutical, i.e. an additive with health benefits. Vera already offers a “sunshine” blend of its coffee, with not only resveratrol but also Vitamin D added to the bean.
“Which people in New England need,” Miller says, thinking of the gray winters. “We’re certainly a pioneer in the field.”
Tom Polcaro, Vera’s CEO, said he’s particulary excited that the company is offering health benefits to consumers in something that’s already in their daily routine, given that 80 percent of Americans drink coffee every day.
“What better way to impart health benefits, and it tastes great,” Polcaro said. “So you’re getting not just health benefits, but also a good cup of coffee.”
One of the most common questions Vera gets is whether the infusion process affects the taste of the coffee, according to Miller. It doesn’t. I can vouch for that myself, having sampled Vera’s medium roast as one of those Americans who drinks coffee every day.
Miller says that while resveratrol doesn’t change the flavor of coffee it does affect its smoothness.
“I hear all the time Vera is the smoothest coffee people have ever tasted,” he said.
Miller launched Vera with about $10,000 of his own money.
“As the company started to grow and take off, I realized I’m an organice chemist, not a business man,” Miller said.
Miller took on an angel investor, a deal that included Polcaro as CEO. Polcaro says the angel investor, who prefers to remain anonymous, thought Miller’s idea to infuse coffee with resveratrol was “brilliant.”
“I’ve been in business all my life,” Polcaro said. “It’s rare to get an opportunity with a great product you have a patent on with a health benefit.”
Polcaro said the majority stakeholders in Vera are Miller and the angel investor, with a small percentage of the company given up to a campaign to raise money from small investors, in increments from $100 to $5,000. Polcaro does not have an equity stake.
“I’m working to get the company solid,” Polcaro said. “I’ve got a long relationship with the gentleman funding this, and I’m a strong believer in the company.”
Vera has a loyal base of customers who have enrolled in a subscription program to have coffee delivered on a regular schedule. The company also sells through Amazon.com, and has its own commerce platform.
Polcaro signed a deal for production and fulfillment with Flight Coffee Co. in Bedford, New Hampshire.
“It’s allowed us to single-source with a great partner,” Polcaro said.
Flight also sells to Whole Foods, which has given Vera a way in with the giant grocery store chain, which now belongs to Amazon. Polcaro said Vera coffee is now in about 20 Whole Foods stores.
“I wanted to get resveratrol into a drink other than red wine because most Americans don’t drink red wine every day,” said Glen Miller. “To keep (resveratrol) in the system so we don’t have early onset of disease, you need to drink it every single day, so let’s get it into a drink people do drink every day.”
“Coffee was perfect,” Miller added.