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Another Belgian specialty; making the most of Miko.

Another Belgian specialty; making the most of Miko

Miko is the anomaly; the old, family-owned company that is a success even though it remains small; a coffee roasting company whose percentage of turnover from regular packaged coffee is relatively minor; an unpretentious company that is actually a mini-conglomerate of closely associated companies that, in sum, provides a highly coherent vertical array of beverage/food products and services.

The company is located in Turnhout, in eastern Belgium, near the Dutch border. There, it has been the livelihood of the Michielsen family since 1801 -- "Miko" is fashioned from the words "Michielsen" and "Koffie." That it has remained an independent, family-owned company after so many years is a story of clever diversification and specialization, the results of which can be clearly mapped.

Miko is actually a group of five companies; Miko itself is the holding company and responsible for the production and marketing of the regular and filter packed coffee products for home and out-of-home markets; M.P.C. is the plastic manufacturing subsidiary, producing the filter shells for the coffee as well as packagings for other food related items; Mepaco is a coffee brewer/hot beverage machine manufacturer; Ufabel is a food brokerage firm, offering the line of Miko products as well as French wines, mushrooms, Pirou biscuits, and so forth, and finally; Miko Coffee Service offers the entire range of products and machines appropriate to the out-of-home sector.

The five affiliated companies function with 200 employees. General director is Leo Michielsen. Frans Michelsen manages production and green coffee buying. The managing director is Willy Meneve, who also happens to be currently serving as the president of the Belgiuim Roasters Association.

About Miko, Meneve explains, "We saw the necessity for diversification and specialization more than 20 years ago, when we realized we wouldn't have the size or means of competing for shelf space nationally in supermarkets for our regular traditional roasted coffee." For Miko, the solution to this well known dilemma has been the coffee filter system single cup and catering size.

"Last year we provided more than 110 million cups of coffee with our filters," says Meneve. "That came to about 50 million single cup services and about 7 million large catering filters which can make 10 cups each. This far outweighs our regular coffee production, of which we are proud, but that is now mostly for local distribution in stores and the HORECA (foodservice) sector."

Miko single service fresh coffee filters come in a bewildering array of styles and packagings, largely because they are available for all coffee market segments, in a number of nations, and under a variety of brand names, since a share of the production is private label. this means that, in addition to the Miko roast and blend, the company is able to provide a roasted product to order for private label clients around the world.

"The emphasis must be on a quality coffee," explains Meneve. "The cost of single service units demands this. Also the `taste' of each cup is a focus point. The small dose of coffee inside the filter is what the consumer is interested in. This also calls for stringent uniformity and conformity to the highest levels of international food industry standards. Our concern must be for more than first class green coffees and roasting techniques; we must also study the paper and plastic used. `Freshness' is another vital concept of our business, again due to costs and the psychology of the single cup filter. For this reason, we vacuum-package all our production and do not build inventories."

The key styles in the Miko single cup filters are "fluted" for use in your reusable holders (even silver, Jeeves!) and the more standard self-supporting plastic servers. Under the Miko name, the filters are available in supermarkets, and, in the OCS and bar markets, throughout Belgium. Under various names, although more and more under the Miko name itself, they are also found in Japan, UK, Korea, Singapore, Israel, Middle East, France and the USA. The Far East is the leading growth area. According to Meneve, the company is finding that the filters have particular appeal in markets, which are in transition from soluble to fresh roasted consumption. More than 20% of the production is exported.

Not infrequently, especially in the Far East, the Miko filters are positioned as luxury items in the very best stores, available in gift boxes with 2, 3, or 5 canisters of filters to a box. The blends then feature the rarest green coffees, and the filters are packaged with as much elegance as fine Belgium chocolate.

Complementing the single service filters, and equal to coffee in volume, are the large catering filters. Miko premiered these in 1973 with what Meneve calls an "astonishing success." Happily, the filters are an apt fit to the Brewmatic machines which the company's Mepaco subsidiary manufacture under license for the European and Japanese markets. "Our Brewmatic production began in 1979," says Meneve. "We now make about 13,000 units each year in the full range of machines. The Diplomat 11 is, by far, the most popular. By itself, our own Miko Coffee Service firm, for example, now regularly caters 10,000 of these machines that we have placed in the office service markets in Belgium, France and the UK." Miko is number one on the Belgium office service market, and is quite active in the OCS sector in France and the UK.

Although pleased, Meneve is not sanguine about Miko's record of strong, consistent growth. "For small coffee companies it is now a matter of survival," he says. "We must find a special market niche and stay close to it."

PHOTO : The Miko management, Willy Meneve, Leo Michielsen, Frans Michielsen. These gentlemen run a diversified, specialized coffee company that has built an international reputation.

PHOTO : Seen here, the most basic elements of the Miko single service filter line, a filter-wrapped quality blend, with a plastic holder, vacuum packaged in a sleeve, boxed for the store shelf. There are various options available for all these basics, so that the product is highly adaptable to the international range of cultural/social preferences and market segments.
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Title Annotation:Miko coffee roasting company
Author:Bell, Jonathan
Publication:Tea & Coffee Trade Journal
Article Type:company profile
Date:Dec 1, 1990
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