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Maker of Toms shoes expands into coffee roasting

Whole Foods MarketSouth by SouthwestGlaucoma

Toms, the Los Angeles company known for its comfy, eco-friendly footwear and its shoes-donating ways, is tiptoeing into an unusual product line: coffee.

The philanthropic business, which sells shoes and eyewear under a One for One business model, made the announcement Tuesday in Austin, Texas, at the South by Southwest Interactive conference.

For every bag of coffee purchased, Toms said it will be able to provide a week's worth of clean water to a person in a developing country. 

"Through my travels, I found that some of the greatest coffee comes from developing countries," said Toms founder Blake Mycoskie in a statement. "I learned that the largest ingredient in coffee is water, and that in many of the countries producing coffee, there are huge populations of people without access to safe water."

Citing a 2012 University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill study, the company said 1.8-billion people globally do not have access to safe drinking water. [For the record, 1:20 p.m. March 12: An earlier version of this post said that 1.8-million people don’t have access to safe drinking water water.]

Toms Roasting Co., as the business will be called, will sell six coffee varieties from countries that include Honduras, Peru and Malawi. The 12-ounce bags of coffee will retail for $12.99 and will be sold at Whole Foods Markets, on Toms' website and at Toms cafes. 

Toms, founded in 2006, began selling shoes with philanthropic intentions. For every pair sold, it donates a pair to someone in need in a developing country. In 2011, it expanded into eyewear and sales of those products helped the company donate glasses and fund glaucoma surgeries for people in other countries. 

To date, the company has donated more than 10 million pairs of shoes and restored the eyesight of 200,000 people. 

For its latest expansion, the company will work with Water for People, a nonprofit group that works to provide safe drinking water abroad.  

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Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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