‘Black rifle capitalism’: Left’s crackdown drives enterprising business models

by WorldTribune Staff, March 16, 2021

If you are boycotting Starbucks coffee and don’t care for the stale drip stuff at the local diner or gas station, read on.

The Black Rifle Coffee Company states on its YouTube channel that it is “dedicated to great coffee, great guns and the veteran community.”

Black Rifle Coffee Company founder Evan Hafer / YouTube

A review of Black Rifle on The Darkest Roast website notes: “You’ve probably heard of them, perhaps for their plan to hire 10,000 veterans within six years or their incentive to send one bag of coffee to an American serviceman on deployment for every one bought by a customer. Black Rifle is by its own definition the anti-PC, pro-forces coffee company that is looking to provide a brighter future for America’s veterans.”

Evan Hafer, a former Green Beret and military contractor, founded Black Rifle Coffee Company in 2014. While serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, Hafer said he became accustomed to roasting his own beans and producing his own blends of coffee.

Hafer told the Wall Street Journal that he got the idea for the company while working for a CIA contractor, training former special forces soldiers. He named it after his service rifle, which was usually by his side while roasting coffee between training sessions. “Black rifle” is a phrase used to describe military weapons like M16s and their civilian counterparts, AR-15 style rifles.

“It dawned on me later, like ‘Oh this is going to piss people off,’ ” Hafer told the Journal. “And I just kind of embraced it.”

When he returned to the United States, Hafer started Black Rifle in part to provide roast-to-order coffee to pro-Second Amendment and veteran groups.

The company, based in Salt Lake City, gained national attention in 2017 when, in response to Starbucks saying it would hire 10,000 refugees in response to President Donald Trump’s executive order barring more of them from entering the country, Hafer vowed to hire 10,000 veterans.

“I know who my customer is. I know who I’m trying to serve coffee to. I know who my customer isn’t,” Hafer told the Wall Street Journal in an article published on March 12. “I don’t need to be everything to all people.”

Black Rifle’s roasts are named for various firearms, political stances (“Thin Blue Line”) and jokes about coffee snobbery (“F— Hipster Coffee”). Many of the company’s YouTube videos poke fun at liberals.

The company notes that its AK-47 Espresso Blend “is here to conquer your taste buds.” Its extra-dark Murdered Out roast “will fuel your midnight ops or your morning commute.” Another Black Rifle blend promises to “keep your freedom engine running.”

“With firearms-themed branding, unabashed support for police and the military and an irreverent founder who hasn’t shied away from political debate, Black Rifle is a prime example of the way some businesses are capitalizing on politically engaged consumers’ hyperpartisan shopping habits,” the Wall Street Journal report noted.

Black Rifle said its revenue nearly doubled in 2020 to $163 million, 70 percent of it from e-commerce. In 2015, its revenue was $1 million. Of its 450 current employees, 55 percent are military veterans.

The Journal noted that today’s consumers want CEOs to take a stand. In 2019, 60 percent of American consumers would make a decision about whether to buy or boycott a company’s product based on its stand on societal issues, according to a survey by public-relations firm Edelman — up from 47 percent in 2017.

But the Journal also noted that “playing politics can have its pitfalls.”

The article cited Kyle Rittenhouse, the 17-year-old who was charged with killing two rioters in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Rittenhouse was photographed wearing a Black Rifle Coffee T-shirt when he was released on bond in November. A widely circulated photo from the Jan. 6 Capitol breach showed a man in tactical gear and a Black Rifle Coffee hat leaping over a railing with a handful of plastic handcuffs.

Hafer “has sought to distance Black Rifle from such incidents, angering some fans in the process,” the Journal report noted. After Hafer said in a video that his company had no ties to Rittenhouse, a small roaster that also targets more conservative buyers, Stocking Mill Coffee, praised offered Rittenhouse one of its own T-shirts.

“In an increasingly divided country where people are feeling one away or the other, taking a stand can build a lot of brand loyalty,” said Nicholas Guy, a spokesman for Virginia-based Stocking Mill.

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