BIG suppliers vs. smaller ones

Juliann Castell

New member
Apr 25, 2006
14
0
OK - Really would appreciate thoughts / feedback on use of BIG suppliers e.g., Imperial coffee; Van Houte etc. VS. smaller suppliers e.g., Equator or local roaster.

Here's what I've heard:

- smaller ones - variety in roast quality; no equipment; potentially higher costs; no marketing

- big guys - equipment and service provided (not to worry I would't use their ESPRESSO machine - only coffee brewing equip. and servers); marketing support

- some big guys such as Imperial are now teamed with folks that provide fair trade and certified organic coffees e.g. they carry Reunion Island coffees (HOWEVER - I got a quote of approx. $7-9 lb. for this "high quality" from a big guy.... )

Please respond if you're looking at this. :grin: :D sharing :grin: is great. thanks.
 

morrisn

New member
Mar 27, 2006
126
0
Suppliers

The problem with the big suppliers is quality, when was the coffee roasted, what were the quality of the beans. The other problem is they sell to everyone. Do you want your brand to be one that is sold at the supermarket or worse yet at your local gas station. It is partly about perceived value and truely about quality.

We use a micro roaster uses quality beans and who roasts to order so we know our coffee is never more than a week old. We own all our own equipment so we are not obliged to anyone. Do you think that brewer is free, no they just tack a extra buck or so a pound to cover the equipment. A busy shop with use at least 400 lbs a month. That money will buy some good equipment.

Also build your story for your customers, we use these beans because they are the best, we use this equipment because its the best and then charge for the product. Our prices are in most cases more than SBucks but our customers tell us all the time how much better our product is.

The best beans, the best equipment, the best training, you can't go wrong
 

cafemakers

New member
Nov 3, 2004
576
0
I've just written an article that addresses this topic; email me and I will send you a copy when it is published next month. In the meantime, perhaps this passage will help:

We suggest that a small batch artisan coffee roaster is often a good choice for outstanding product quality and attentive customer service. In addition to a better taste resulting from their craftsman-like approach to coffee roasting, small roasting businesses often have access to limited premium crop harvests that due to their size are simply not practical for industrial coffee roasters to pursue. Small roasters are generally flexible and motivated to help you sell more coffee by maintaining high quality standards.

I can expand further on a few of these points:

"craftsman-like approach" - From my experience, many smaller roasters develop roasting profiles that are custom tailored to each unique origin or blend, allowing the best characteristics of each coffee to be fully expressed -- like an artist that uses a fine tipped brush to paint his or her works. I find that most industrial roasters have very rigid roasting guidelines that are universally applied to many coffees for the expedience of their processes -- like a broad brush or spray can of paint.

"access to premium limited crop harvests" - It is just not practical for the industrial mega-roaster to pursue some of the best coffees available each year, since there is just not enough crop to economically justify marketing the batch or re-tooling machinery.

"flexible and motivated" - Likely your contact at a small roaster or the roastmaster him or herself has a personal financial stake in the success of their business; meaning, that flexible business arrangements are more easily obtained than with big roasters. Simply stated: you're more than another account number.

Morrisn presents another good point on which I would like to comment:
The other problem is they sell to everyone.

Even in situations where a certain small roaster is well represented is a certain geographic area, I have found a willingness for these companies to develop unique solutions for my clients; for example, by developing a custom blend or making other adjustments to a roast profile in order for the client to have a unique flavor.

On the topic of so-called "free" equipment from that same article:

Whether amortized over the duration of an unfavorable supplier agreement or buried within the cost of your coffee, “freeâ€
 

Night Guy

New member
Jan 28, 2006
52
0
Winnipeg manitoba Ca.
the small roaster have flexibility to give you what you want where in the large roaster will not even give a hoot about what your wants are they have no flexibility for custom blends or roasts they are only worried about their big clients
 

aeneas1

New member
Mar 22, 2005
31
0
i couldn't disagree more with the following comment mentioned above...

"Whether amortized over the duration of an unfavorable supplier agreement or buried within the cost of your coffee, “freeâ€
 

cafemakers

New member
Nov 3, 2004
576
0
aeneas1 said:
i couldn't disagree more with the following comment mentioned above...

the only negative (imo) is that you have to commit, of course, to only using the provider's product. and when it comes to coffee, i believe that this is a real deal breaker.

Are we not in agreement? It seems that we are approaching two sides of the same argument.
 

H Man

New member
Jun 21, 2006
29
0
NYC
Finding 'em

Hello,

I am in the early planning stages for a shop in NYC. From the get-go, I've been thinking that I would REALLY like to go with a small(ish) roaster and that I would REALLY prefer them to be local. Does anyone have any advice as to how I might go about finding them though?

Like I said I'm pretty much at the start of the process so I haven't really tried yet but a few steps "shaved" off anywhere in this daunting process would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks
 

kimbica

New member
May 1, 2006
40
0
Tucson, AZ
finding roasters

H Man,

I suggest asking other local independent shops who they use - this is how I found my roaster. A few owners actually just volunteered this referral when I told them my intention to open a store. Often there is no mean spirit of competitiveness in this area since small roasters can develop special blends unique for each shop they supply, and everyone wins. In my city, probably almost half the independent shops are roasting with the same local roaster, who has a great reputation and helps each shop get started, too; he even advises on locations to avoid conflict of interest between/among owners who roast with him. (if shops would be too close together geographically, he won't sign on with the newcomer out of respect for the first shop in a small radius.)

Many of the small microroasters deliver free locally when you roast with them. This can also help with your costs. When other roasters offer "free" shipping, it is never free for them; they must pass costs on to you in the beans or other products/services. I also think their beans are fresher and sometimes better quality than ones from big roasters.

Have fun - "shop" all your local competition and try their drinks. See what you like and dislike, and note which ones are thriving and which are empty. Ask owners about their experiences with startups, especially ones that are a little further away from your chosen area to set up shop yourself. (they will feel freer and less threatened.) You can glean an amazing amount of info this way, and even get some other referrals to use in your own business. Many owners are happy to help out, especially if you are an "indie" and not a franchise type operator.

Good luck!
-Kimbica
 

H Man

New member
Jun 21, 2006
29
0
NYC
Hey Kimbica,

Thanks for the reply!

I have been going to a bunch of shops in the past couple of weeks and actually did find out about one roaster that way. A roaster that I'm getting a good feeling about before even officially "meeting" them which will happen soon.

Thanks again and good luck to you too!

Have you opened yet btw?

-H
 
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