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KHG and Fichaux: two studies in volume and versatility.

KHG and Fichaux: Two studies in volume and versatility

Alvorada--the "dawn" in Portuguese--is an apt name for a coffee brand. In terms of the multiple interests served by the company that produces this Austrian product--Kaffeehandelsgesellschaft of Vienna--the name is also appropriate in reference to the dawning of new coffee markets in Eastern Europe. Actually, the Alvorada brand family is principally consumed in Austria, with Kaffeehandelsgesellschaft ( let us make it FHG for short) acting as well as an important supplier of a large number of roasted and processed coffee products, for many clients and brand names, and also of green coffees, to several national markets.

This means that the KHG plant, located in the Viennese suburb of Vosendorf, may well hold the honor for packaging coffee in more different languages than any other. The coffee products go to every nation of Eastern Europe, and to Italy, Switzerland and Germany, plus to Turkey, Lebanon and other Middle East markets. This necessarily relates not only to an awesome number of languages, but of blends and package styles as well. The most descriptive words for the KHG program are therefore "volume" and "versatility," which, as factory managers everywhere know, are not easily said in the same breath, although at KHG the difficult seems surprisingly simple. The proof is in the company's cavernous and quite full export stocking zone, with the myriad products rising in towers on their pallets and from where, each day, some 30 to 40 trucks are loaded up and dispatched on their often-long journeys.

To fullfill its range of market demands, KHG offers almost every kind of coffee blend from 100% Robusta to 100% Arabica, for home and Horeca (foodservice) use, from inexpensive coffees to some of the most expensive, as ground and whole bean, in vacuum packs and tins. Most of this is as regular roasted coffee, but there are also some treated or "mild" coffees, plus soluble, freeze and decaffeinated products. There is even a small volume of tea packing going on here as well, in one kilo bags.

In Austria, the company commands about 25% of the coffee market, via its Alvorada family of products. The company's leading Austrian brand is the Alvorada "Cafe do Mocca" entry. The premium product is Alvorada "Julilaums" which by cup from the 50g tin justly ranks among the world's better industrial coffees. That the company is organized to serve a larger and more diffuse market than Austria's is clear: 60% of KHG roasted coffee production is exported. While the company characterizes its Austrian market as stable, and with small but stable soluble and decaffeinated sales in general, the roasted coffee export sector has been booming particularly with the opening of Eastern European markets, on some of which KHG has built a significant presence.

In addition to roasted and processed coffee products, the company also markets a quite considerable tonnage of green coffee to clients in Eastern Europe (pursuing the theme of versatility, a little of this is even packaged at the KHG plant, for sale in those markets where the tradition of at-home roasting has lingered). Green coffee was actually the dominant sector in KHG business until the recent sizeable increases in roasted sales-- "roasted" now accounts for 50% of company turnover.

In fact, the four coffee buyers at KHG are acquiring 2 million bags annually. As a company, KHG is thereby taking more green coffee than do some major consuming nations. Since the company's founding in 1955, the volume stress has been on Brazilian and Colombian coffees. In recent years, however, Robusta purchases have seen a strong increase. The department is also active in fine Central American and Kenyan qualities. As an indication of the interest in Brazil--though currently somewhat diminished--the company's concluding contract with the IBC was for 500,000 bags. KHG generally seeks a maximum degree of control in its green coffee operations, working "long" and with 300,000 bags always in position--an average of 80,000 bags in house, the remainder in port or afloat.

Kaffeehandelsgesellschaft is a family-owned and managed company, headed by Emmerich Deutsch. Deutsch is joined in the company by his brother Desiderius and his son Oskar, and in the buying department by Kornel Bator, a man with an intercontinental coffee career stretching from Brazil to Hamburg. A certain span of international experience would surely be the requisite at KHG, a company whose buying and/ or selling interests are truly global.


And meanwhile, near Lille, another family-owned and managed company is roasting more than 700,000 bags of green coffee annually, but almost all of it for that special world unto itself--the French market. This is Establissements Fichaux.

The man at the helm of Fichaux is Bernard Ruyant, a direct descendant of the Edouard Fichaux who opened the company in 1900. Other family members in the business include Bernard's cousin Christian, commercial director, and Bernard's sons Dominique and Claude. Dominique and Claude share the technical and fiscal responsibilities, respectively.

Fichaux likely ranks among the world's largest distributors/private label coffee roasting firms. Its considerable size has been attained largely by the great success of a brand family it helped originate and introduce back in the 50's and that it still produces, and in which it maintains an interest, although the trademark is now in the Jacobs domain. This is "Grand Mere" the coffee every Frenchman knows, the best selling coffee in France, the product that perhaps more than any other has led France toward national, ground, vacuum packed branding. Necessarily, the company Fichaux has played a leadership role in this change, not so much in marketing as in technology.

Over and above the large Grand Mere production, and its production of such Jacobs' brands as Carte Noire, Fichaux prepares distributors' and specialty coffee labels for many clients, and this activity accounts for about 30% of its turnover. In total, Fichaux roasts and packages for about 70 labels, only one of which is the company's own trademark. Obviously, to accommodate a quite large and sophisticated production like Grand Mere and serve the myriad specialized interests of distributors and private label clients, Fichaux has had to write its own textbook on coping with volume and versatility.

Bernard Ruyant's team of 160 operates two sites for the Fichaux company, both in La Madeleine, a town located in the Greater Lille region. The original company seat, on the Rue de Conde, is now reserved for Fichaux green coffee trading, as a depot and for the specialized coffee productions. The second facility, in an industrial zone, and dating only from the 70's, handles the great majority of production including all the Grand Mere coffee. It is this "La Voisie" facility that stands as a continually updated statement on the avant-garde in coffee technology and production systems.

Fichaux has a green coffee storage capacity of 1,000 tons. It receives in bags and bulk. Bulk reception is of Ivory Coast and, commencing just recently, Brazil coffees (shipped from Santos). The La Voisie facility employs a silo bank of 20 cells featuring the full menu of cleaning, sorting, handling technologies. The roasting program is carried forward by seven units, the newest being a Neuhaus Neotec continuous roasting system that can give Fichaux four tons of roasted coffee per hour, depending on roasting time, which could vary from 90 seconds to four minutes. The five regular roasters, by Probat, are now being changed over to gas firing, and are used for roasting times of 12 to 18 minutes.

Fichaux has led in the move to ground coffee and valve packaging. In 1975, the company's production was divided as 80% in whole bean, 20% ground; the breakdown now is with 85% as ground coffee, and the plant uses a battery of 10 industrial duty grinders. In 1975, Fichaux pioneered in introducing a valve pack to France; today the company operates 13 valve-pack lines--6 by Bosch of the grounnd coffee; 2 by Goglio for the whole bean. These include the newest Bosch lines which turn out 120 packs per minute. With three shifts working, the Fichaux plant is able to produce 180 tonns of stringently controlled, roasted coffee per day. And for now, that will be our concluding comment on volume!

PHOTO : Kornel Bator and Oskar Deutsch (left) represent 50% of the KHG coffee training department. Deutsch's father, Emmerich, directs this family-owned and managed company.

PHOTO : Bernard Ruyant directs the activities of Ets. Fichaux, one of Europe's larger family-owned coffee roasting companies. Although dedicated to serving the distributors/private label market, the company's best known product is Grand Mere, the leading brand in France, and in which it has a partnership role with Jacobs. (Photo at left).

PHOTO : Dominique Ruyant, technical director at Ets. Fichaux, with part of the Neotec system. The La Voisie plant is continually updated to express the latest in coffee technology and production planning. (Photo at right).
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Title Annotation:Kaffehandelsgesellschaft, Establissements Fichaux
Author:Bell, Jonathan
Publication:Tea & Coffee Trade Journal
Date:Jan 1, 1991
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