January 31, 2023

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As big as Flutie Flakes? Challenge Tim Hortons? How Josh Allen will become a coffee brand | Business Local

Buffalo Next

Josh Allen picked a good time to start drinking coffee

Josh Allen is a relatively new coffee drinker, but he’s been consuming a lot more of it lately.

That’s good timing, since he’s launching a line of coffee called JA’s 17 Blend Single Service Coffee Pods.

Center of attention

Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen (17) is the center of attention after the Bills’ 31-10 win over the Rams.

The new coffee brand, to be sold exclusively by Wegmans, is the result of a deal struck between Allen and PLB Sports & Entertainment, which has been the Bills star quarterback’s partner for three years on Josh’s Jaqs cereal.

JA’s 17 Blend is scheduled to go on sale Wednesday, though a number of Wegmans stores already have them available.

“Josh just started drinking coffee fairly recently but has gotten kind of hooked on it,” said Ty Ballou, president of PLB. “He really got into the process and is completely in on this and supportive. This is truly a blend that he picked.”

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Josh’s Jaqs is the No. 1 selling cereal at Wegmans, Ballou said, and it’s expected to reach 500,000 boxes sold by the end of the NFL season.

Ballou said the new coffee, offered in medium roast in 10-count and 36-count boxes, is likely the biggest thing his company has done since Flutie Flakes, which sold 3.2 million boxes. Coffee has a higher ceiling for sales as a staple, everyday product line, he added. The goal is to become a bigger seller of coffee pods in the area than top-seller Tim Hortons, Ballou said.

“We’ve never had a product like this and certainly with how Josh has ascended, we have extremely high expectations,” Ballou said. “There’s only one Doug Flutie and Flutie Flakes is my Cabbage Patch Kids and Rubik’s Cube – I’ve been chasing Flutie Flakes for 24 years … but I think this product has the feel that it can be almost as big.”

So how did it come to be?

Ballou was in Los Angeles for the Super Bowl in February, where he met with Allen’s agent Tee Stumb of CAA and they brainstormed ideas for a product to offer in addition to the latest iteration of Josh’s Jaqs. They decided on a coffee and received support for it from Allen and Wegmans.

Allen coffee pods

JA’s 17 Blend Coffee pods are available at Wegmans.

“I said, ‘Why don’t we do another category that Josh can own and we’ve never done before?’ ” Ballou said. “If this was going to work, with coffee being such a big deal in Buffalo, it really had to be a tremendous coffee. We’re the No. 1 cereal brand up there, but the coffee mountain is a little bit higher to climb.”

Toronto coffee roasting company Mother Parkers, which makes many private label brands, sent a variety of coffees for Allen to try. He decided on a medium roast – the No. 1 flavor profile for coffee – using an arabica bean that is mountain grown.

“Josh went back and forth with about four or five samples,” Ballou said. “We all concurred that if we can’t bring something to market with the ilk of a Tim Hortons or Starbucks, we shouldn’t bother.”

Ballou said they had hoped to bring the coffee to market before start of the NFL season, but packaging issues held it up until this week.

The 10-count of pods are $6.99 each and a 36-count is $24.99. Coffee mugs can also be purchased at Wegmans. The coffee is also available in a 10-count online at ja17coffee.com or plbse.com.

The package features a photo of Allen and a coffee-bean-shaped football. The JA17 Allen logo is on the lid of the pods.

Ballou said he hopes to extend the line of coffee products after this season, potentially getting into dark and light roasts and whole beans.

“This product category lends itself to so many different iterations of products,” said Ballou, who also works with Bills wide receiver Stefon Diggs’ line of hot sauces and blue cheese.

A portion of the proceeds from the sale of the coffee will benefit John R. Oishei Children’s Hospital in a similar arrangement with proceeds from the cereal. Allen has been the face of the hospital since shortly after his arrival in Buffalo in 2017. A wing there recently opened in honor of his late grandmother Patricia Allen after more than $1 million was raised in her name.

Allen has become one of the NFL’s hottest pitchmen as well. He has already been featured recently in national commercials for Gillette and Frito Lay/Pepsi.

Allen, who is ranked fifth by Forbes among earners in the NFL, is slated to make $51 million for 2022, with $47 million on the field and $4 million off the field. Forbes said Allen is sponsored by at least 10 brands. He was listed as the highest-paid athlete in the world under 25 in the spring by Forbes. He turned 26 in May.

“It’s good to be Josh and it’s good to his agent right now, and I say that with a lot of respect, with all of the deals that are out there,” Ballou said. “I’m very happy that Josh and the CAA people want to work with us.”

Welcome to Buffalo Next. This newsletter from The Buffalo News will bring you the latest coverage on the changing Buffalo Niagara economy – from real estate to health care to startups. Read more at BuffaloNext.com.


Recent news tied to Buffalo Niagara’s economy

The Perry projects in downtown Buffalo are in line for a major makeover that will replace boarded-up buildings with new apartments.

Plans to renovate and expand the Eliza Quick boarding house are being scaled back.

A city panel has approved demolitions that are needed to clear the way for the Main Street Lofts project.

The Elmwood Crossing project received approval for changes to its planned unit development designation.

More than 200 jobs could be coming to the former Dresser-Rand plant in Olean.

Four more local nursing homes have reached deals with their unionized workers, leaving only two of the 12 facilities that were threatening to hold five-day strikes without agreements.

Unionized workers at Kaleida Health are taking a high-stakes vote this week on whether to authorize a strike as contract talks continue.

Take a closer look at the making of Bison Dip, a local tailgate party stable.

New Mercy Hospital president Marty Boryszak says the hospital’s recovery and success will be about progress. “It’s going to take time,” he says.

Farmers in New York State face having to pay their workers overtime after they put in 40 hours of work a week under a plan recommended Tuesday that would be phased in over a decade.

ECC will spend $5.2 million to migrate to the Banner planning system, after the previous failed system, WorkDay, cost the school $12 million in the last five years.

Buffalo Niagara is getting $25 million for a technology hub as part of the federal Build Back Better program.

Buffalo toolmaker is eliminating 18 jobs after a merger means its operations are shifting to Wisconsin.

Valu Home Centers is closing three of its Western New York stores as it refocuses on more lucrative markets and building its online sales.

Workers at four Western New York nursing homes have approved a new contract, but unionized employees at other facilities are gearing up for five-day strikes as their contract talks continue.


Five reads on the Buffalo Niagara economy

1. Pickup in WNY housing inventory means more opportunity and time for buyers. Homebuyers in Western New York are starting to breathe easier and take more time before making their decisions, now that there are more homes for sale on the market and less need for them to act quickly. But they still can’t dawdle. And it doesn’t mean they’re getting a deal on houses, which are now priced much higher than they would have been a year or two ago.

2. Why so many apartments? Buffalo area seeing an explosion of growth. From the Elmwood Village and Allentown to South Buffalo and the West Side, from Tonawanda and Amherst to Orchard Park and Hamburg, developers are putting up new apartment buildings or converting old industrial warehouses and offices. The apartments are highly desirable – with new units filling up almost as soon as they come online.

3. A remote possibility: living in Buffalo, working for out-of-town employers. The pandemic has opened up job possibilities that were relatively uncommon before spring 2020, like working from home for a company far from the Buffalo Niagara region. It’s a welcome twist on the all-too-familiar story of local workers finding jobs elsewhere.

4. Spotlight on the economy: Slow growth in average pay in Buffalo Niagara region. After spiking during the Covid-19 pandemic, the earnings of Buffalo Niagara workers have settled back into slow-growth mode.

5. Business People: See who’s moving up in the Buffalo Niagara workforce

The Buffalo Next team gives you the big picture on the region’s economic revitalization. Email tips to [email protected] or reach Deputy Business Editor David Robinson at 716-849-4435.

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