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Odd Couple, or Where Coffee Grounds and Mushroom Meet

Bill DiBenedetto | Thursday November 12th, 2009 | 0 Comments

BTTR_venturesBTTR (as in Better) Ventures has a thing about mushrooms, while Peet’s Coffee & Tea of course has a very big thing about coffee (and tea). This unlikely duo has joined forces in a clever and delicious waste-to-food recycling venture that produces gourmet mushrooms out of coffee grounds.

Some 16 billion pounds of coffee beans are used each year, most of which eventually wind up in landfills. Cal Berkley Haas School of Business grads Alejandro Velez and Nikhil Aorara founded the company to turn one of the largest waste streams in America into sustainable local food. They do this by using coffee grounds as the substrate to grow different varieties mushrooms.

BTTR, which stands for “back to the roots,” donates 10 percent of profits back to the community. In addition, the venture is creating new jobs in local urban areas.
Peet’s, based in Emeryville, CA, is the primary source of BTTR’s coffee grounds.

BTTR oyster and shitake mushrooms are available at select Whole Foods Markets in the San Francisco Bay area. Their mushrooms are also available for online ordering.bttrventures

BusinessWeek recently selected Velez and Aorara for its Top 25 Entrepreneurs in America Under 25, and they were one of the OG25 – the 25 most innovative start-ups – at Opportunity Green.

Proving that coffee is sustainable in more ways than one, and also virtually recession-proof, Peet’s earlier this month announced the acquisition of the Irvine, CA, wholesale coffee roaster and distributor Diedrich Coffee in a cash-and-stock transaction valued at $26.00 per share, or approximately $213 million.

With the acquisition, Peet’s says it will enter the rapidly growing single cup coffee market with “strong specialty coffee brands helping to drive household penetration of the K-Cup brewer system.” Diedrich is almost exclusively focused on the production and sale of K-Cups for Keurig Incorporated’s top selling single-cup brewing system through a license with Keurig. Peet’s also will acquire Diedrich’s portfolio of brands including Diedrich Coffee, Coffee People and the single serve rights to the Gloria Jean’s coffee brand.

Peet’s asks the question, “Can an urban mushroom company save the world?” Probably not by itself, but BTTR is pointing the way to a new and better way of necessary thinking about what needs to be done. Mushrooms with a brew, anyone? Starbucks, where are you?

Check out the BTTR video:


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