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Coffee's roasting at Millstone's new Kentucky Plant.

The aroma of fresh-roasted coffee now fills the air at Millstone Coffee's new plant in Henderson, Ky. The company has announced that the $2.5 million, 30,000 square-foot roasting, packing and distribution plant is now operational. The facility is an integral part of Millstone's planned expansion into Eastern markets. The company's Everett, Wa. plant had been the sole roasting facility for the nationally distributed gourmet coffee.

Grand opening for the facility took place on June 7. The new state-of-the-art plant, located on five acres in Henderson (about 20 miles south of Evansville, Ind.), serves as the primary distribution center for Millstone's operations on the East Coast, as well as in its Midwestern and Southern markets.

Millstone Coffee's vice president of coffee operations, Rich Robenseifner, oversees the new facility. Robenseifner has more than 20 years of experience in the purchasing, blending and roasting of gourmet coffee beans.

Coffee in the new plant is hand roasted, ensuring consistency from batch to batch. The design of the roasters dates back to the early 1900's, but the equipment actually used in the roasting process is state-of-the-art--a marrying of old-fashioned workmanship with the latest quality-control equipment. No more than 400 pounds of coffee are roasted in each batch, and experienced coffee roasters--not computers--determine when a batch is finished, says the company.

The company's main Everett plant has been roasting about a million pounds of coffee beans every month. According to Phil Johnson, Millstone's president, the new facility was a necessary step to support Millstone's planned expansion in the East.

"In the U.S., gourmet coffee sales are expected to continue their upward climb. Currently, the category is growing at 25% every year and represents the only growth segment in the coffee industry."

"In contrast, canned coffee sales are steadily decreasing. More and more coffee drinkers are discovering the superior taste of gourmet coffee. It's a trend that shows no signs of slowing--we've experienced increased sales every year we've been in business."

Because Millstone is available in supermarkets, more consumers have the opportunity to enjoy gourmet whole bean coffee on a regular basis, Johnson added.

"By putting the coffee where people shop for their other food items, we've eliminated the need for coffee lovers to make an extra trip to a specialty store," he said.

According to Millstone Coffee, the company offers direct delivery of its gourmet coffee to supermarkets in 44 states. Millstone is the No. 1 selling coffee in all categories in Washington and Oregon, and is the No. 1 selling supermarket whole bean coffee in the U.S. The company was founded in 1981, and currently distributes 70 varieties of coffee.

Filling a profitable niche

In 1981, whole bean gourmet coffee represented only 1% of the total coffee market. But Johnson believed that the category promised incredible growth potential. He got his chance to prove that theory when his employer, GoodHost Foods, sold its U.S. gourmet coffee interests and distribution rights to Johnson--at 25% interest during the height of the recession. Johnson worked diligently to stake Millstone's claim in the growing North- west gourmet coffee market. His business savvy paid off--the gourmet coffee industry exploded, taking Millstone's sales figures skyward in the process. Annual sales for the company topped $30 million in 1990 and have grown 30 to 80% every year since 1981. Company officials project sales of $40 million in 1991.

In 1987, the company began its expansion to national distribution and now operates 11 additional branch/distribution centers nationwide.

Additionally, the new roasting facility is three times larger than the Everett plant. Millstone operates its own fleet of trucks that deliver fresh roasted coffee to supermarkets across the country.

Eighty percent of Millstone's sales originate in the Pacific Northwest--the "Coffee Corridor" of the U.S.--where coffee drinkers take the beverage's flavor very seriously. Company officials are confident that the gourmet coffee boom is here to stay.
COPYRIGHT 1991 Lockwood Trade Journal Co., Inc.
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Copyright 1991 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:Tea & Coffee Trade Journal
Date:Aug 1, 1991
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