Empire Coffee's Mike Riger Talks Roasters

April 5, 2017

With office coffee service being such as profitable segment of the vending industry, everyone is looking for a way to stand apart. One highly successful way is to use a private label roaster to bring a quality coffee to OCS and foodservice customers without the added cost of a brand name. How should you go about finding a roaster and what should you look for? We asked Mike Riger, vice president, sales of Empire Coffee.

VMW: Mike, what do OCS providers need to know about searching for a roaster?

MR: The competition amongst coffee roasters is plentiful and challenging. When searching for a roaster, OCS providers should consider many factors including, quality and consistency of product, track record, industry references, variety of products and possible certifications such as Safe Quality Food (SQF), Certified Organic, Star K Kosher certification, etc. A roasters should be flexible enough to meet the demands and needs of each individual client from customized blend profiles, packaging, purchasing plans, roll out strategies and individualized marketing support materials.

VMW: Does experience matter in roasting? Why shouldn't an OCS provider just roast their own coffee?

MR: Certainly roasting companies, such as Empire Coffee, have extensive industry experience in all facets of the process. We have seen instances where OCS providers have begun to roast and package their own coffee, but by and large, most OCS providers are looking for a roasting company they can rely on to perform these duties instead.

VMW: Can you explain what would make a roaster a "local" roaster versus a private brand supplier (roaster) that operates in their area?

MR: Local roasters tend to support local business in their brand and in many instances limited formats. Private brand suppliers, sometimes known as private label roasters, generally provide programs to OCS, foodservice, on-line and retail channels either on a regional or national basis. Private brand coffee can come in many forms including: fractional coffee, single serve, filter pack and 12- to 16-oz retail bags.

VMW: What are today's hottest OCS trends?

MR: Probably the two biggest trends we have seen in the industry are the entire Cold Brew craze and Bean to Cup Machines. It's an exciting time.