Starbucks Coffee Co., which has increased its presence in the OCS market, provides a fully integrated, bean-to-cup, single-cup system that ensures a Starbucks quality cup of coffee in the office. The company has placed about 1,000 of its proprietary single-cup machines, called the Starbucks Interactive Cup? brewer, in the last year, which has exceeded expectations, noted Sean Kell, director of office coffee and emerging channels.
Ladd Little, owner of L.C. Vending Inc. in San Antonio, Texas, thinks being able to adjust the grind and the gram throw are important advantages, as not all customers want the same product.
In addition, the electronic data that his Cino machines from America Vendors Co. (Rheavendors) allow him to know exactly what products customers are buying at each location.
Hopper units have their own benefits
The ability to download sales by product also gives Little information that the customer often appreciates. "It's to our advantage to know and the customer's advantage to know," he said. "A lot of companies don't give them that information and they don't know what the coffee is costing them."
The company is manually recording the meter readings on its handhelds, tracking all products sold.
The data his driver records on their handheld allows him to compare servings to the amount of coffee that the customer purchases. This will alert him if someone at the location brings in coffee they bought elsewhere. Because the sales vary a lot by location, it helps to track what products are selling best in which location.
This is an advantage that only the hopper systems presently offer.
Andrew Joyce, national sales manager at Saeco USA, agreed that the ability to monitor product mix is important. "There's a lot of variance (in location preference)," he said.
"It enables the opportunity to set up in such a way as to maximize return."
Some operators insist that hopper brewers can deliver better quality coffee than portion control or pod systems. Hopper units have not grown as fast as the portion pack units, but they remain the largest part of the single-cup market.
Steve Danzig reported that his 14 Saeco 8P machines in Spokane, Wash. continue to do well. "With the continued growth of premium coffee drinks, there's still so much growth," he said. "The consumer is educated today better than ever before." He noted that 8-ounce servings at $1.50 compare favorably to the $3.00 being charged at retail.
Water-soluble systems have increased in recent years as well.
Soluble coffee improves
John Jell, business development manager at Nestl? FoodServices, said the company has patented a process to improve the aroma in its coffee. The company has conducted taste tests at the last two NAMA National Expos, and NESCAF? soluble coffee beat out the ground coffee both times.
Coffee Solutions Inc., based in Miami, Fla., has placed 120 Nescafe machines in less than a year, noted Patrick Johnson, general manager. The high concentration of Hispanics makes Miami a good market for this product, since Nescaf? is well established in much of Latin America.
Liquid concentrate systems improve
Suppliers of liquid concentrate systems also claim to have developed better tasting coffee. This concept has long been used in catering and concessions, where speed of service is often more important than product variety.
Ron Fuelner, owner of Douglas Distributing LLC in Salt Lake City, Utah, said the Douwe Egberts liquid concentrate brewers have found a place.
"In certain applications, it has been a perfect fit," he said of the system. "We were always challenged to come up with a fresh-brew system for accounts with people taking a break all at once."
With single-cup options proliferating, the OCS industry is poised to cash in on specialty coffee in a major way. Operators are increasingly finding they need to offer the benefits of increased variety, superior convenience, and better quality coffee in order to compete with not only the specialty coffee stores, but with convenience stores and fast food restaurants.
The specialty coffee industry has raised the bar for all coffee providers, and the OCS industry has no choice but to provide single-cup brewers.