Higher expectations extend to the workplace as well. Working adults today want more from their employers. “The expectations are higher,” he said. This requires service providers to have better products and better trained employees.
This development bodes well for companies that have invested in the best quality products and equipment.
The company’s standard OCS kit consists of 2.6- and 3-ounce fraction packs of its 100 percent Arabica coffees served in glass bowl, automatic drip brewers and other types of equipment.
OCS: single-cup emerges
Southern consumers in general have been more hesitant than other regions to accept single-cup brewers. Under Saurage’s leadership, Community was one of the first to offering single-cup in many of its markets.
Saurage was aware of single-cup systems when they began to take hold in the U.S. in the 1990s. He studied all of the available equipment. He recognized the speed and convenience these systems offered, but he was not convinced of the reliability of many of the early units.
He felt the hopper-based single-cup systems were more complex and offered limited variety. Meanwhile, the capsule-based systems offered more variety, but generally they were in a proprietary format owned by the roasters. This format does not suit Community, which roasts and packages all of its own coffee. “We needed a solution that would allow us to control the quality and brand ourselves,” Saurage said.
The “soft pod” brewers, which emerged after the proprietary capsule models, have offered a good alternative. The manual pod brewer offers the convenience of the capsule system but it also accommodates a private label coffee pod. “Pods give us the ability to control all aspects of the blend, grind and profile,” Saurage said.
Pod brewers have been marketed as an economical alternative to systems that use proprietary capsules. Many operators questioned the reliability of manual pod brewers when they were introduced. But as the equipment evolved, more operators noted the systems became more reliable.
OCS operators remain divided on the reliability of pod brewers at present.
In 2005, Community opted to use a pod brewer and package its own branded coffee pods. The company packages pods for regular coffee, origin of country blends and tea.
Community introduced pod brewers to complement the more traditional automatic drip brewers in offices.
“Once a pod brewer is in place, it stays,” Saurage said. “It’s definitely an affordable solution for them. We’ve had good success with pods.”
Single-cup growth has been slow in most markets Community serves, but it has been gaining momentum, Saurage said. Single-cup brewers make the most sense in accounts that host clients or have a lot of afternoon coffee drinkers, he said. “Customers are not leaving drip coffee for single-cup. They see single-cup as a complement to their coffee service,” he said.
The company has also sold its pods in supermarkets, but the growth has been slower in this channel due to the limited availability of reliable pod brewers for the home, Saurage said.
Community uses mostly glass bowl automatic drip brewers in offices, as opposed to thermal servers or airpot brewers. In addition to being more visually appealing to customers, the aroma emanating from the glass pot is another draw, Saurage said. “Glass bowls work well in an office environment,” he said.
Community’s OCS portfolio includes a variety of coffees, teas, hot cocoa, cappuccinos and coffee-affiliated products such as creamers and flavored syrups. The company also provides packaged cold beverages and point-of-use water assurance systems.
Key advantage: professional marketing
One of the most significant economies of scale that a large company enjoys in OCS is a professional marketing program. Community’s marketing team includes a full-time marketing vice president, an on-premise brand manager, and a staff that oversees public relations, creative services, media advertising, promotions, field marketing and social media.
“It’s good for a brand to have an image, and customers love to participate in that image,” Saurage said.