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France's coffee for the rich and famous.

Next year, Cafes Suavor will mark a commercial passage of 140 years. From its beginnings as a neighborhood coffee roasting shop to its contemporary presence on key international markets, the Paris-based company has known a remarkable continuity in style and product that continues to set it aside as something unique. Tenacious loyalty to its own uniqueness partially explains why Cafes Suavor is today the leader of specialty coffees in France, and the champion of French style in specialty coffees internationally.

Although the 'Suavor' nams is steadily becoming better known throughout France as the national preoccupation with fine things to eat and drink begins to include coffee, the company's product remains very much a big city coffee. It is positioned for a deluxe market, for bright lights and fashionable folk. Its coffees are chosen, roasted, dressed up and priced to suit the tastes of the rich and famous. This is why, outside of Paris, it is probably better known in Tokyo and New York than in Lyon or Toulouse.

Cafes Suavor is privately held, and 100% is in the hands of the Molay family whose members manage the firm's day-to-day business. In 1937, Fernand Molay created the company around his family's famed neighborhood Parisian roastery, La Brulerie de l'Odeon, in existence since 1853. In the 50's, it was coffee-master Fernand who formulated blends and roasting processes that won a particular prestige for Cafes Suavor. The President blend, for example, was created in 1954 for Rene Coty, then President of the French Republic. |President' remains the best known Cafes Suavor blend, and yes it is still served at the Elysee Palace, at the National Assembly, and at the Senate.

The brothers Molay, Alain and Jean-Francois now manage the firm. With them, the company has changed from a small roasting concern serving an elite in Paris, to a worldwide marketer of specialty coffees. The highlights of past decade affirm this: in 1986, Cafes Suavor implements a joint venture with Japan's Kirin brewery, from which there are now seven Cafes Suavor coffee boutiques operating in Japan and a range of eight Suavor blends being sold in Japan's most elegant department stores; in 1988, in Madrid, the company is awarded the 16th International Trophy for Quality; in 1989, the company creates a U.S. affiliate, Cafes Suavor Inc., specifically to serve the booming specialty store coffee market.

The expansion abroad has been supported at home by growing acceptance of Suavor as a gourmet product. The coffees are now sold in classy delis in most large French cities; they are available in large stores as well, such as Inno, Monoprix, Super M, Galeries Lafayette, Galeries Gourmandes, La Grande Epicerie du Bon Marche, Codec Hamon and others. For the out-of-home sector, the coffees are used at such stellar restaurants, to name but two, as Lucas Carton and Faugeron (to walk with gods) and at such hotels as the Royal Monceau, Sofitel Paris, Hotel Meurice. Since 1989, Cafes Suavor has been the exclusive provender of coffee to the |Croisiere Gastronomique France.'

In sum, the Suavor coffees have become a market leader in France in the specialty area. Reflecting this position, and the newly-found fashionableness of fine coffee in France, the company has launched a family of single-origin coffees in purity white, 250 g valve bags. This has amounted to another revolution. The packages are trimmed out modestly in black for a spare, minimalist imagery that looks like it belongs, oh so naturally, in the hands of a Chanel model. Originally, the single-origin line included a Brasil Sul de Minas, an Ethiopian washed Sidamo, and a Colombia Excelso. Based on the success of these entries, the Molays last year launched a Hawai Kona and a Jamaica Blue Mountain. These retail respectively for more than 40 FF and 90 FF, meaning they are among the most expensive coffees to be had in France. Such prices are not credible to France's rank and file, particularly in the provinces, but apparently they no longer flutter an eyebrow in Paris. The other single-origin coffees, the President line and the company's Swiss water formula decaffeinated product retail at a more egalitarian range of about 20 FF (although this is still more than twice what one would pay here for coffee in the supermarket).

With the exception of the decaf, all Suavor coffees come in whole bean and ground versions. The company proclaims that the blend recipes, roasting times, etc. are basically unchanged from the days of Fernand Molay and that, despite the company's current size, the production is still roasted to order in 150-kilo batches; that each batch is left in the roaster for a full 22 minutes; that the batches are then cooled by pulsed air and returned to their bags of origin for a mandated aging time of 24 hours before packaging. All packaging is in valve bags, no brick packs. Suavor also offers presentation gifts tins with airtight screw-on lids.

About 60% of the company turnover is in the Horeca (foodservice) sector, the rest in retail sales to specialty and department stores, and in private label production.

The private label roasting is a specialty in itself, a quite

V3 successful one at that, as it is Cafes Suavor that packages coffee for France's foremost names in delicatessen products.

Canada and the U.S. are the largest export markets for Suavor roasted coffees. To serve the Japanese |Suavor' coffee store market, the company ships its blends of green coffee directly to Japan where the roasting is conducted to exact recipe as in France.

A sister company to Suavor, also based in Paris, is ATA France Import. The managing director of ATA is Alain Molay. The company is the French importer and distributor for a variety of fine products from around the world to approximately 1500 points of sale throughout the nation. Most notably, ATA is the exclusive importer and distributor in France of Fortnum & Mason Teas.

The Cafes Suavor roasting plant is now located just outside Paris, in Vitry-sur-Seine, with offices for Jean-Francois and Alain Molay. Although expanding operations necessitated the move to industrial suburbia, the family is still operating its beloved neighborhood roastery, on the rue Crebillon, in the 6th arrondissement, hard by the old Odeon theater.
COPYRIGHT 1992 Lockwood Trade Journal Co., Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1992 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Cafes Suavor
Author:Bell, Jonathan
Publication:Tea & Coffee Trade Journal
Article Type:Company Profile
Date:Jun 1, 1992
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