Floor stock programs
Some roasters offer a floor stock program; keeping ready-made product on the floor for future orders. Keep in mind that the smaller the order, the less control the roaster will have over the cost. Floor space will vary more when smaller volumes are ordered.
Most roasters produce to order and have minimum orders. Commonality of blends, film, and boxes come into play, as it is simple for the roaster to increase a pack weight or a sealing tape and bar code, but coffee changes can create havoc.
If a roaster produces a finished roast of 350 pounds and the operator orders 50 cases, 50 cases times an average weight of four pounds is 200 pounds of coffee. What happens to that other 100 pounds? The roaster has to do something with it, and with this being a special blend, they are probably going to package the remaining 20 cases.
Does the roaster put it on the floor waiting for the next order a month or two down the road?
Geography is a tremendous consideration, given the fact that fuel is still fairly expensive. An operator must always consider the cost of freight. Receiving an order of 300 cases of product and incurring a freight bill of $300 for transportation has a dramatic effect on the profits of the operator.
How to select a roaster
Once the decision has been made to find a roaster to produce a private label, it is important for the OCS operator to visit prospective roasting partners to learn more about them. Are they what they say they are and do they instill confidence that they will meet your needs? Do they have the knowledge and ability to assist you in potentially creating new blends? What quality assurance processes are in place?
Is their core brand one of quality?
Is this an organization that will follow through on their commitment to you? Simply put, will they deliver a quality product to you on a timely basis at a fair price? These are all simple but very important questions that only the operator can answer.
Every roaster should be inspected by local and state health officials and should be able to quickly produce a copy of the most recent inspection. Membership in trade organizations are a plus, but it is not necessary.
More importantly, what quality assurance processes are in place? Is the roasting process documented for reference or recall purposes? Is the packaging automated or manual? Is there a cupping process in place to ensure that today's cup is the same quality as six months from now?
A key responsibility of the roaster is to provide consistency. Is there a solid supply chain of film, boxes, filters, and green coffee? Who is responsible in the case of a natural disaster?
A facility does not have to have a lot of bells and whistles to be quality oriented, efficient, clean and consistent.
Selecting the product(s)
The operator should not leave product selection up to the roaster. Seldom does one allow the server of a restaurant to pick the item you are going to dine upon. The role of the roaster is to give input as a result of a question and answer session with the operator. The result will be a learning of values.
What are your main priorities? Is it cost control, quality, mass appeal, light or dark roast? The issue of specialty coffee is important. If the objective of the operator is to operate with low to moderate costs, "specialty" coffee probably isn't the answer. High quality products, however, should be marketed as such.
Roasters offer varying levels of aftermarket support. It depends on the roaster and to what extent they wish to partner with their customers. A private label program will typically not include any sort of point-of-sale material. Marketing the coffee under most private label programs is solely the operator's responsibility.
Distributing the roaster's brand is a different matter. Distribution arrangements often include some level of marketing support. Marketing support includes point of sale material and educating the OCS operator on how to sell and market the coffee.
The question to ask yourself is: are you going to choose to partner with a company that roasts coffee or do you want to partner with a roaster that markets coffee and understands your industry? There is a difference. Not to sound like a broken record, but you make money selling, not buying coffee.