Coffee companies: so easy a celebrity can do it. And the latest of the glitterati to try their hand is none other than Robert Downey Jr.
The Iron Man and Oppenheimer star has teamed up with Craig Dubitsky of personal care and hygiene brands Eos and Hello Products to launch the new brand Happy Coffee (not to be confused with the now-closed iconic Denver coffee bar by the same name). Officially announced on Tuesday, January 30th, Happy has the “mission of bringing joy to everyone through its products,” which is nice except for the fact that in their exclusive interview with People, the pair more or less suggest that joy comes at the expense of shitting on everyone else’s coffee products.
Though both describe themselves as big time coffee fans, their views on the subject are often something else. “We didn’t want to be, we made up this word, baristacrats. We didn’t want to be snobby,” Dubitsky says. “It was important for us to make something that could elevate the every day.”
Baristacrats! Damn those coffee elites, says the serial entrepreneur whose company sold for $351 million dollars and the actor believed to have made over $100 million from the last Avengers movie alone.
Their interview with People continues. “Coffee has become such a massive industry,” says Robert Downy Jr, “where you’re either getting stuff that tastes like pencil shavings, or you’re getting the [artisanal] stuff that was passed through the small intestine of a yak.” If those actually were my only choices, I too would probably think the vast middle ground was ripe for disruption vis-a-vis some 2018 looking CPG coffee pods.
But, at least Happy—coming in a matrix of light, medium, and dark roasts in whole bean, ground, instant, and pod form, all in “futuristic, ergonomically-designed” packaging (because regular coffee bags are not ergonomic?)—is coffee for a cause. The brand wants to raise awareness of and given an undefined “equity stake” to the National Alliance of Mental Illness, “the largest grassroots mental health organization in the U.S,” per the press release.
“Coffee sparks conversation. And loneliness is another big, big epidemic in this country. In some ways, we’re not in the coffee business, we’re in the happy business,” says Dubitsky, of his new coffee company.
It’s not that celebrities are necessary ill-equipped to start a coffee business, it’s just that they’re uniquely positioned to show their whole ass to a very large audience when discussing why they think their coffee brand is such a big deal (and there doesn’t appear to be anyone to tell them no). The whole thing sort of feels like if you made that cringey video of celebrities singing Imagine during peak COVID into a coffee brand identity.
Which would be annoying enough on its own, but shitting on the existing world of coffee as an opening marketing choice feels very poorly conceived. There’s something oddly dystopian about the whole thing: two multi-hundred-millionaires teaming up to launch a coffee brand of indeterminate origin with products that look like everything looked at Target 8 years ago alongside some sort of cause-washing financial peg benefitting “loneliness” announced in People Magazine. Look too closely at it and there’s an opportunistic coffee-as-a-widget darkness to the whole thing, there just beneath the surface. Damn if that doesn’t make me feel a little bit lonely.