Coffee Summit’s Success Signals a New Era for OCS

March 3, 2008
The recent Coffee Summit in Cherry Hill, N.J. shattered attendance expectations

The recent Coffee Summit in Cherry Hill, N.J. shattered attendance expectations, drawing people from all over the country. It was the best attended dedicated OCS event in recent memory.

The major take away of the 2-day, intensive event is that OCS is entering a growth phase built on a higher level of professionalism than in its formative years.

For veterans, the Summit revived memories of an earlier time, when OCS events drew operators by the hundreds, anxious to share best practices with each other about their new and growing industry.

Since that initial growth period of the 1970s and early 1980s, OCS has graduated to more sophisticated products, better equipment, higher upfront investment, a better educated and demanding customer, all requiring more and better industry specific education.


The path from the earlier era to the present hasn’t been easy. In the 1990s, coffee experienced an identity change, led by Starbucks. The OCS industry had to adapt to survive. This took time and commitment, and many companies could not survive beyond the initial growth period.

As operators consolidated over the years, attendance at OCS trade events declined, as did membership in OCS organizations.

Some observers postulated that OCS had become a “mature” industry. They couldn’t have been more wrong.


The OCS industry was simply experiencing growing pains. The first wave of operators grew or became acquired, resulting in consolidation. But OCS as a dedicated discipline did not lose its identity. Quite the opposite occurred.

OCS operators that survived consolidation became bigger, more vibrant, more committed to excellence, and demanding of better educational activities.

The recent Coffee Summit hosted seminars on a range of issues that pertain to today’s, not yesterday’s, marketplace.

Seminars addressed issues such as the nuances of evolving single-cup technology, coffee sustainability and environmental awareness, expectations for green coffee prices, and new software technology.

Discussions focused on new challenges, such as the environmental impact of single-cup products and pricing pressures emerging on the newly-established single-cup portion packs.

Interest from new players was also evident. Joining the dedicated OCS operators at the Summit were vending operators, office supply companies and water service providers who all recognize the OCS opportunity but know they must be up to speed on new products, equipment and best practices.

The bottom line is that OCS is entering a new growth phase that will take the industry to new heights.


The National Automatic Merchandising Association, which absorbed the National Coffee Service Association in 1999, provides a forum to allow the industry to meet its unique challenges as it enters this exciting era.

Randy Parks, in his remarks at the event’s conclusion, postulated that 20 years from now, the Coffee Summit will be remembered as a turning point in the industry’s history.

Based on the outstanding response, it’s a good bet there will be more Coffee Summits to come.