Black Rifle Coffee Company. You probably know them for the skits they regularly produce to market their products, which, depending on who you ask are either laugh-out-loud funny or deeply offensive.
Or maybe you remember them as the company who took on Starbucks last year in a very public, very controversial do-gooder tug of war. Public perception aside, their roast to order coffee is regarded by many as among best in class, and their mission to support those who have served our country is a hard sentiment to disagree with. It’s likely a combination of the aforementioned factors that has lead the company to unprecedented growth since the first beans were shipped in early 2015.
As the company has grown though, they have attracted the ire of some left-leaning media outlets and social media critics who have taken jabs at the troupe of outspoken coffee roasters led by Evan Hafer. Evan, a former Special Forces soldier turned founder and CEO of BRCC, sat down to talk about some of the negativity leveled at his company recently.
When you founded BRCC, did you anticipate the backlash that has been directed at your company’s mission and marketing materials lately?
Evan Hafer: Of course I understood that our approach was edgy, and that our brand of humor is not what most people expect from a coffee company. But I’ll admit I have been taken off guard by some of the accusations that have been leveled at us lately. At my core, I have always been just a coffee roaster that loves my country, the constitution, and the veteran community. My hope is that this is how people view the company as well.
A recent article painted you as an “Iraqi war veteran who presumably began roasting coffee beans in his combat helmet outside Fallujah.” Is there any truth to that?
Evan Hafer: I wish there was, but I started roasting coffee on a stovetop burner from my home. I eventually graduated to a one-pound fluid bed roaster and then a larger 12-kilo drum roaster. Obviously I have taken my passion for good coffee around the world with me on my various deployments over the years, but I’ve never done something so grandiose as roast coffee in the middle of a city under siege.
What is the company’s relationship with NRA spokesperson Dana Loesch, and media personalities like Sean Hannity and Buck Sexton?
Evan Hafer: We have no relationship with Dana– though I hear she is nice. Sean Hannity and Buck are friends, and we sponsor their shows. We are friends and/or do business with a variety of high profile personalities, some of which might surprise the critics if they bothered to look beyond the people that they can use to further their narrative.
There are frequent comments made online asking how your company could be so anti-hipster, since you seem like kind of a hipster yourself. What do you say to those people?
Evan Hafer: It’s kind of funny isn’t it? I mean yeah, I wear flannel and have a beard, and roast coffee. I enjoy reading books. Does that make me a hipster? It’s kind of a sad state of affairs if it does. But look, what we do in a lot of our marketing is social commentary through satire. Do we poke fun at hipsters? Absolutely. But we also know there are veterans who fall into the hipster category, as well as other genuinely good people who are contributing members of society. Ultimately, I’m not concerned about the people who don’t understand our humor. And trust me, we are far more harsh towards each other than we are with the hipster crowd.
Evan Hafer: Well, considering the fact that my COO and I are both Jewish, I have a huge issue with people who compare us to or accuse us of being Nazis. It proves just how crazy some people are, and how far they are willing to reach in order to criticize a company they don’t like. They are literally willing to call a Jew a Nazi in order to get traffic to their blog article, or gain more Twitter followers. It seems that many in our country these days will automatically default to accusing people of being a Nazi, or being a racist, misogynist, or… the list goes on. I don’t think we’ve earned or deserve to be compared to Nazis by any stretch of the imagination.
Accusations of misogyny and gay-bashing have been repeatedly leveled at BRCC based on the company’s multimedia content. Has this affected BRCC’s approach to marketing and branding at all?
Evan Hafer: Once again, we use satire to convey points. Is there stuff that we have taken down because we realized people were interpreting our intentions differently than we expected? Yes, absolutely. But we believe that all people are created equal. We believe in freedom of speech too. It surprises me that people can watch SNL every week, and their sketch comedians can act feminine or make fun of specific demographics in U.S. culture, and people understand that it’s humor. However, BRCC can’t do the same thing without people misunderstanding the intent. I think everyone needs to relax a little bit, laugh a little more, and remember that we are joking. We aren’t the evil monsters that some are making us out to be.
With the recent school shooting in Parkland, Florida and companies backing away from the NRA in response, what is BRCC’s stance given its clear pro-gun foundation?
Evan Hafer: Being pro-Second Amendment is something I and our company will always be. Mainly because I don’t believe that we should sacrifice our individual freedoms for security. In 1755, Benjamin Franklin said, “Those who would give up essential liberty, to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.” I agree wholeheartedly with that sentiment. To specifically address the NRA though, look, it’s a massive organization. We support the positive initiatives they have like their focus on gun safety and educating our youth on proper handling of firearms, among other great programs they have. I’m sure there are things I disagree with them on too, but I could say the same about any organization of that size.
When you see negativity about your company, what goes through your head?
Evan Hafer: I think the country has gone a little crazy. People from both sides of the political spectrum have abandoned efforts to come to legitimate solutions, based on facts, that will help our country. They seem to be more consumed with proving that they are right rather than solving the actual problem. And we have some serious issues that need to be addressed in this country.