Understanding the Roots of an East Vancouver Coffee Company’s Brand

Branding Vancouver looks at some of the more interesting logos and icons that appear in Vancouver’s food and beverage scene. Some of the explanations will be long and others short, but the goal of deeper understanding will be constant. If you want the backstory of a particularly compelling local brand revealed, let us know via @scoutmagazine and we’ll try to figure it out.


The Brand: This week we’re getting a double shot of brand backstory and espresso, as we get to the roots of the cool little Agro Roasters sprouting mug logo. The East Van cafe and roaster’s co-owner, Dusty Smith, recently filled us in on the story of Agro and its rebranding, from inception to full bloom…

“I got into coffee by accident. I got a contract with Salt Spring Coffee when they were moving from the Island to Vancouver, and everything happened from there. During the following six years, I became involved with many aspects of coffee — from installing and fixing coffee roasters, espresso machines and brewing equipment, to production management and green coffee buying. Eventually, I became a Q grader and started traveling throughout Central and South America buying coffee. Through this experience, I developed many relationships with farmers, which made me realize that they have the hardest and most important role in coffee, and often receive the least amount of recognition. That had a huge impact of how I see the industry and what I want to be able to do with Agro. It’s also what made the fall in love with coffee.”

“Marina is originally from Brazil and coffee has always been a big part of her life growing up. Brazil is the world’s largest exporter of coffee, so that is basically part of everyone’s life there! When she moved to Canada, her first job was a cafe in Gastown and that’s actually where we met. She’s always been into social justice and was fascinated by the stories I shared with her after each origin trip. The idea of how we, as a small company in Canada, could impact the lives of these farmers and their communities got her fired up.”

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“We literally stumbled upon Agro. We live in East Van and I used to drive by Agro coming back from work at Salt Spring Coffee everyday. We tried going there on the weekends a few times, but they had really odd hours and we were never able to actually go in. We heard from neighbours that Agro was actually for sale and everything after that happened so quickly and naturally, that a month or so later we were signing the papers.”

“My wife Marina and I considered changing the name and starting fresh, but we ended up deciding to keep the brand name and its roots. The name originated from an acronym for “Agricultural Growers Resource Organization”, but we prefer the actual dictionary definition of the word, which is “a combining form meaning field, soil, crop production, used in the formation of compound words”. This translates quite well what we’re all about — the people who grow our coffee.”

“The logo had to be changed though — I mean, there wasn’t really a logo before. We heard about Bruno Couto from our friends at Beiju Foods and after a few Skype calls, we knew he was our man. Bruno has this funky, unconventional style, but it’s also not too out there, which was what we were looking for. We wanted a logo that was unique, but also accessible. We love how he designed the font himself (with his wife, I think), and how the curves of the cup match the style of the font. Those small details!”

“The idea of the sprout in the mug came from our mission to have people think beyond the cup of coffee that they are consuming — i.e. to put thought into how and by whom the coffee was grown and what that means to these communities that work so hard to produce and harvest the beans we roast.”

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