No longer just a pick-me-up, coffee today is an event
by Laurie Jones
As evidenced by the continual springing-up of cappuccino bars, in-house promotions of specialty roast blends, and add-ons such as chocolate-covered coffee beans and biscotti, coffee remains a multi-billion dollar industry. A reported 400 billion cups of coffee are consumed worldwide each year, and sitting down for a cup has become not just a break from the day’s routine, but an event in itself, with people being very particular about the style of preparation, and choices of flavoured additives.
Seattle’s Best Coffee is a well-known name in the coffee retail business, and continues to grow. They opened their operations in Vancouver seven years ago, and have been in Calgary for five years. In Western Canada, the company has been growing at a rate of about forty percent each year. “It comes down to what’s in the cup. The quality of the coffee has always been the cornerstone of our company, and it’s the passion of our founder,” says Jay Garnett, President of Canadian Operations. “Selecting the right beans and blending them in a unique way has created some dynamic flavour profiles for us. Behind that comes the brand awareness, marketing and packaging that allows the hotel or independent coffee house to compete with the chains that are out there.”
Garnett says the company operates with a team perspective, and in the larger centres such as Vancouver, Calgary and Toronto, they have designated people who just do promotions, or training, or account management which allows the customer to be in contact with 5 or 6 people from the office, outside of their sales rep. “The end consumer is very demanding now, and we can help our clients in the hospitality industry custom fit every different part of their business.”
Canterbury Coffee Corp., established in 1981, also continues to hold a well-earned place in the market. “The biggest growth period for us began in the early part of the 1990’s ,” says Vice-President, Eric Lightheart, “and we’ve since expanded considerably in both our product selection and our servicing capabilities.” The upscale Premio d’Italia espresso line was introduced last year, and is selling very well, says Lightheart, as are their lines of iced coffee beverages and organic coffees. Canterbury brings in their organics from Mexico, Costa Rica, Sumatra and Guatemala. The company is also involved in a unique program with their Aroma Nica product, imported from Nicaragua. Canterbury will donate $ .20/lb, over and above the purchase price, to a technical assistance co-op fund set up to help coffee farmers rebuild the plantations which were devastated by Hurricane Mitch.
Along with the evolution of consumer tastes in coffee blend preferences has come the addition of flavourings. R. Torre, makers of Torani syrups, began in San Francisco seventy-five years ago when founder Renaldo Torre made a trip to Italy, and came back with recipes for flavoured syrups. Torre and his wife, Zelda, began making and distributing the five original syrups to local cafes. At that time, flavouring was only used in Italian sodas. “When the coffee industry began to grow in the 1980’s, an associate of the company, “Brandy” Brandenburger, began using the syrups in coffee lattes, and the rest is history,” says Cindy Eckart, VP Marketing at R. Torre. Today there are over 60 Torani flavours, but vanilla continues to be the number one choice.