Ken Lewis is serious about his coffee. He has to be. He’s a partner and Chief Marketing Officer at Sun Coffee Roasters in Plainville, CT, a triple bottom line company just as dedicated to satisfying taste buds as it is to people, planet and profits. Sun imports the highest quality, organic Fair Trade coffee from all over the world, and then custom blends it for colleges, universities, wholesale suppliers and retailers including Stop ‘n Shop, Whole Foods and Big Y.
According to industry statistics, despite a recession the North American organic coffee market grew to $1.4 billion in sales in 2009, topping growth in the conventional coffee market and making it the most valuable imported organic product on the continent.
Sun Coffee Roasters is currently one of a handful of roasters in the country using a 100% Made in the USA, state of the art, energy-efficient roaster that incorporates computing technology designed to perfectly roast made-to-order blends for each customer, every time. Once roasted, the coffee beans are cooled, then either left whole or ground, packaged into brick or fractional packaging using environmentally friendly packaging film with a nitro valve to ensure freshness. Sun’s just in time inventory system is designed to get coffee to their customers within days of roasting to ensure a premium cup of coffee by the end consumer. According to Ken, coffee will begin to lose its freshness 12 days after being packaged.
Sun ships coffee in single pot fractional packaging bi-weekly to coffee distribution specialists who provide point of sale services to restaurants, hotels, coffee shops and business offices in the form of delivery, equipment and servicing. Ken stressed that these specialists help ensure the freshest and highest quality product for the end consumer.
Colleges and universities, however, constitute the bulk of their business and Sun offers a comprehensive program exclusive to this market that creates three different revenue streams for the school- margin on the coffee sold on campus, licensing fees, and a scholarship program – plus marketing and promotional support. Under this private label program, colleges and universities create a custom label for their coffee that’s branded with their school’s logo and color scheme, enabling them to highlight their commitment to the organic Fair Trade movement. Sun Coffee Roasters not only pays the college a royalty for using the college name and logo on the label, but also donates a percentage of every pound of Sun Coffee Roasters coffee sold on campus to a university-controlled scholarship fund to promote sustainable living.
Sun works with schools to create point of sale collateral to promote organic Fair Trade coffee via education. An easel at the point of sale might talk about the organic Fair Trade movement and how it helps farmers move out of vicious cycles of poverty. Realizing that the economics of coffee, from bean to cup, would make great discussion in class, and furthering their commitment to encouraging dialog and education about sustainability, Sun Coffee Roasters is working on creating a Fair Trade curriculum for colleges and universities in coordination with The Smithsonian Institute, TransFair USA, Utz Certified and ELAN Organic the program. According to Ken, “coffee is one of the most highly traded commodities yet four multinational companies control 60% of the market. While prices have stagnated over the last 70 years, a cup of conventional coffee now sells for 10 times the price paid to farmers.”
Online at Sun Coffee Roasters’ University, students are invited to join their “Wake Up Your Campus” campaign. Here, students are empowered and rewarded for becoming a brand ambassador for Sun Coffee Roasters at their school and leading the charge to get students to sign a petition aimed at convincing school officials to offer Sun Coffee Roasters coffees on campus.
But how does it taste you ask? A recent, very professionally organized and run blind tasting of five organic French roasts published on Grist.com evoked some great responses from tasters including “It’s the only one I’d drink.” The panelists concluded that “freshly roasted stuff is best. So, if you are able and lucky, find yourself a small, local roaster.” Fellow coffee aficionados, consider ourselves lucky to have an organic Fair Trade roaster right in our state.