In the South, tradition holds a lot of sway in how people live and how they do business. Southerners have always been passionate about coffee, and service providers that understand this have prospered.
In the South, dedicated coffee players still control much of the market.
And while change is coming on many fronts in the South — single-cup brewing systems are currently making headway — dominant coffee players such as Baton Rouge, La.-based Community Coffee Co. continue to expand.
Community Coffee Co. is an importer and roaster with a sales structure that includes a grocery retail and a multi-channel coffee service division, serving eight states. They also serve customers on a national level through e-commerce and a national accounts program. With its 91-year tradition, the company, under the fourth generation of the founding Saurage family, continues to grow from Florida and Georgia on the east to Texas on the west.
OCS emerges as a specialty
The economy has been as challenging in the South as anywhere else, but in recent years, OCS has become a specialty unto itself, and companies that have demonstrated expertise are winning market share.
The “specialization fosters perfection” principle holds true for many accounts, as evidenced by Community’s continued growth despite the recession
No doubt, being an importer, roaster, retailer and OCS provider offers unique synergies to Community, both in operations (production, accounting, administrative) and marketing.
Being an importer, Community has complete quality control of the quality of its coffee.
Arabica beans imported from farms worldwide are roasted in a modern roasting plant in Baton Rouge, La., then shipped in company vehicles to 21 sales and distribution locations.
The company uses a variety of vehicles to get its product to market. Route sales employees use handheld computers with custom designed accounting software to respond to demand and to ensure adequate inventory and pricing.
Marketing synergies are as powerful as operational ones.
When a Community salesperson calls on an office manager, that potential customer has most likely seen if not purchased the company’s coffee at a CC’s Community Coffee House location, on the Internet or at local supermarkets. Marketing and advertising supports all four of the company’s divisions.
“We were drawn into the foodservice and office channels by our customers,” noted Matt Saurage, the current president and great grandson of founder Henry Norman “Cap” Saurage. “Our customers who make buying decisions in restaurants and offices are also our customers in the grocery store.”
And while steeped in tradition, the company has invested in new technologies that build efficiencies and strengthen marketing. The company has had an Internet presence since 1994 which is one of its fastest growing areas. It has also achieved a major following on Facebook.
A leader for a new era
Saurage, 40, assumed leadership of the company five years ago. He worked in a number of positions at the company since his teens and earned an undergraduate degree in engineering at Louisiana Tech University in Ruston, La. and a master’s degree in business administration at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn.
His leadership has come at a critical time, beginning with hurricanes Katrina and Rita, which struck
Louisiana in 2005. The hurricanes were followed by the recession, which further challenged the company.
The past five years also marked shifts in consumer behavior as well as evolving products and equipment.
Saurage learned the importance of quality and dedication to the customer at an early age. He remembers when a Brazilian freeze sent coffee prices soaring in the 1970s. For a brief period, the company lost money on every pack of coffee it sold. “Even at a loss, we felt it was important to maintain quality at an affordable price for the customer,” he said.