Buena Vista Roastery

Coffee and the Mountains

Darwinism and the Green Mountain

Green Mountain Roasters appears to be growing. The roaster out of New England bought up Tully’s out of Seattle. At least, it bought the wholesale arm of things, as well as the brand. The roasting facility is to be leased, and the brand will stay as Tully’s. I have not frequented a Tully’s, but see in the Seattle Times article that they are scattered all over the US and Japan. The article simply points out that there is a sale going on for bookoo dollars and that everyone of its 70 employees will remain employed. From my seat here in the mountains of Colorado, I am baffled over the corporate model and how a company can grow to the size of being worth $40.3 million.

I start thinking about the expansion and the market share of these companies. Green Mountain is in 5000 supermarkets. Tully’s currently has 500 retail stores. Let’s say one of those retail stores sells 100 pounds of coffee in a week – that comes to over 2.5 million pounds of coffee in a year just for the retail stores. Now, I’m making the number 100 up, assuming it’s a moderately busy place. I have no idea how many pounds a grocer sells in a week. Just 50 adds 13 million more pounds. Then, there are the retail stores that are Green Mountain. That’s 15-20 million pounds of coffee  -from just as many coffee trees- traveling around the country and overseas, green beans arriving on boat on the coasts, being roasted, then shipped on FedEx and UPS to the various places. I’ll need to research some of the carbon footprint associated.

The distribution arm of this company must be enormous, as must be the marketing budgets. I start to stagger at the implications, and at the potential markets share that can be acquired by small roasters like us, the Buena Vista Roastery. Annually, we roast beans that come from 30,000 coffee trees from various nations, mostly organic, what we can find as Fair Trade, and the rest conventionally grown. The five of us take care of servicing equipment, marketing, point of sale items, customer service, roasting, bagging, product quality, etc. We are stuffed into a space much too small for our expanding market, and have been using the same Diedrich roaster for more than 14 years. It works like a charm. We also visit and revisit our holisticgoal, address concerns and potential new clients as a company and work to monitor our progress to live according to our beliefs. Knowing how much work it takes to represent who we are at our core to our community, I wonder how the 800 pound gorilla can do it.

In our market research, we see people evermore supporting local and small companies that are socially conscious and community aware. The Bongo Billy’s Salida Cafe has already been on the forefront of this thinking and will soon be serving only 100% Organic and fair trade, shade grown, rainforest alliance espresso. It’s local, independently owned and operated, and very community minded. The carbon footprint for getting the beans where they need to go is about as small as you can get for the industry.

Anyway, jus tsome pontificating this morning as I read about yet another business struggling to stay afloat in our current economic situation. And that company being consumed by the larger fish. It certainly brings up a lot of questions, and many more curiosities that give me pause. There’s a little Darwinism going on an a corporate level, with niches open for us – the Galapagos finches – and global catastrophe hitting the farther-reaching businesses those that are more affected by density independent factors, such as a flailing economy. My two cents this morning…


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