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Packaging innovation for profitability.

If necessity is the mother of invention, then what the coffee-drinking consumer needs is a fast, easy, available, and delicious cup of coffee. The coffee industry is providing the consumer with that ephemeral product with ever increasing ingenuity and technology. Here are a few approaches that are being taken to accomplish the task.

Maxwell House Filter Packs

The Maxwell House Filter Packs [R] satisfy confidence and convenience needs of the coffee preparer. Can I make a good cup of coffee? What do I need to do it? Will I have the right filter, the right grind of coffee? How much coffee should I use?

The Maxwell House Filter Pack is premeasured coffee sealed in its own filter, designed to assure coffee prepares that they have everything they need to prepare a consistently delicious pot of coffee. The correct amount of coffee is contained in the appropriate filter. All that's needed is to fill the automatic drip coffee maker with water and turn it on.

Filter Packs come in regular and naturally decaffeinated grinds, packed in 10 or 20 counts. They are generally sold for the same price as regular Maxwell House in a can with a suggested retail of $2.49 for a 10 count.

Kraft General Foods is known for the extensive technical and consumer research done on its products before they are brought to market. This was true of the Filter Packs. The product was test marketed in 1989 and was in national distribution by late 1990.

According to Nan Redmond, company spokesperson, one of the key selling points of the product is its convenience. "This type of packaging makes it as convenient as possible for consumers to make coffee at home in an electric drip coffee maker. It's all put together in one neat package," she said. "The Filter Packs offer the consumer an extra measure of convenience by eliminating preparation steps in the coffee-making process. It is a concept innovation to the consumer to have both the ground coffee and filtering material provided together," Redmond said.

When asked how consumers have responded to the product, Redmond said the response has been good. "If you can offer a benefit that is truly valuable to the consumer in terms of their coffee, that's a positive," she said.

Innovative as the product is today, in fact Maxwell House developed a similar product over 20 years ago, pre-measured coffee contained in a filter for electraperk coffee makers. It was a forerunner of today's Filter Packs that was 20 years ahead of its time.

Maxpax [R]

Another concept that satisfies consumer coffee needs in the U. K. and Europe is Maxpax in-cup coffee vending system. Maxpax vending systems are available in foodservice areas in the U.K. and Europe from Kraft General Foods International headquartered in Rye Brook, New York.

Maxwell House has been in the U.K. since the 40's with soluble coffee. In the 70's, the company expanded when it purchased a vending machine business. Maxpax currently has the major market in coffee vending in the U.K., holding 25% of the vended coffee market. According to Richard Collins, Kraft General Foods International spokesperson in Rye Brook, it is the most complete in-cup coffee vending machine in that market.

The marketing of the product has changed considerably over the years," Collins said. "Originally, the vending machine was similar to a tea trolley. Since then the machine has acquired a sleek, modern design, similar to most well-designed vending machines in the U.S.," he said.

"The machine dispenses soluble Maxwell House coffee, decaf, tea, soup, and hot chocolate. Some machines offer carbonated beverages such as Coca-Cola and Fanta, but that was really an add-on. Our interest is mainly coffee and tea," Collins said. Coffee is dispensed black, with milk, with sugar or with milk and sugar.

"The operation has moved beyond the U.K. After England and Ireland, we began pan-European expansion to France, Germany and Spain over the last five years," Collins said. "Twenty years ago, vended coffee in the U.K. was a small market. U.K. attitudes toward coffee are changing. But it is still an instant coffee market. The vended coffee business in the other countries that I mentioned is still developing," he said.

Kraft General Foods International recently purchased Kenco, the U.K.'s largest roast and ground coffee business.

Lyons Tetley World of Coffees

In the U.K. coffee market where instant coffee takes 90% of the total coffee market value, Lyons Tetley has added its innovation. The Lyons new "World of Coffees" is a range of three single-origin freeze dried instant coffees from Kenya, Colombia and Costa Rica, launched in May of 1991.

"World of Coffees" is an innovation because it sets out to create a new single-origin category at the very top end or super-premium sector of the instant coffee market. It also sets a new high in instant coffee quality available in the U.K.," according to John Nicholas, coffee marketing manager for Lyons.

"It was important to us that any Lyons product entering the fiercely competitive U.K. instant coffee market command a clear point of difference over existing products in order to elicit a keen trade response, gain a good consumer response and ensure that immediate competitive reaction by the key competitors was made more difficult," he said.

Even before the introduction of the new product group, Lyons had a significant share of private label instant coffee sales. Its decision to enter the branded instant coffee market was influenced by three factors according to Nicholas.

"The Lyons Tetley Company mission is to grow our share of the U.K. hot beverage market through innovation. Secondly, we have excellent technical and production resources in instant coffee. And finally, the Lyons brand name is renowned for quality in the ground coffee market, to which many instant coffee consumers aspire," Nicholas said.

Super-premium instant coffees had been marketed in the U.K. by Nestle, under the Alta Erica and Cap Columbia brands since 1985. However, Lyons feels that its product range, the addition of a Kenyan variety, the high quality and upmarket packaging and graphic design offer key competitive advantages.

According to Lyons, qualitative group consumer research provided a consistently positive consumer reaction to the "World of Coffees" concept, positioning them as "coffees as distinctive as the countries they come from." This was also confirmed by a large scale quantitative research study. "The response confirmed our belief that there is a general up-market drift within the instant coffee market, but that consumers have had little choice beyond the major premium brands. The single origin concept provided a further step-up along the quality axis," Nicholas said.

Nicholas states that product sales have performed very much in line with the company's expectations. Within six months, the brand has gained 0.4% volume share and 0.6% value share of the total instant market.

"To Lyons, offering a unique and substantial point of difference within the instant coffee market was critical in gaining not only consumer but also trade interest in the launch. It is our feeling that innovation is not purely a new packaging format or product format. We think it is important that the total product offering provide a new, substantial and relevant point of difference to the consumer and trade from existing products," Nicholas said.

Until "World of Coffees" Lyons main branded coffee activity has centered on the ground coffee market where they hold a 20% brand share through a range of prepacked ground coffees, coffee bags and coffee beans. In the market Lyons introduced an organically grown coffee called Lyons Organic in February of 1991.

Filterfresh Corporation

Americans have increasingly become accustomed to a gourmet quality cup of coffee--at home and when dining out. Through innovation in the development of vending machine equipment, they can now have the same quality cup of coffee at work.

The Filterfresh Corporation, a wholly-owned franchise subsidiary of VKI Technologies, Inc. out of Montreal, markets a uniquely designed single cup brewing system that delivers freshly-brewed filtered coffee in an office setting.

The Filterfresh equipment is a compact, computerized machine that, at the touch of a button, brews and delivers a fresh cup of coffee in about 15 seconds, as you watch through a window in the front of the machine. Gourmet coffee and hot water are mixed in an upper chamber of the machine, agitating it to extract the full coffee flavor. After about five seconds, a piston moves down and draws the brewed coffee down through a filter tape into the cylinder, leaving the grounds on the filter tape.

When the brewed coffee is completely in the lower cylinder, the piston passes the discharge port and the coffee pours out under gravity. At the same time, the brew chamber rises and the filter tape advances, moving the grounds out of the brew area. The brew chamber lowers, delivering a fresh cup of coffee. We saw the machine in action at the Manhattan franchise where Ivan Jaffe, vice president, operations and Tom Hagan vice president, sales, answered some questions and demonstrated the equipment. "The machine usually serves an office setting of 50 or more people, with the capability of brewing 250 cups before it is necessary to refill the ground coffee," Jaffe said. "The filter roll provides 2,000 cups of coffee. The system offers three types of coffee: regular, decaffeinated or a 50/50 mix. Each can be brewed at one of three strengths: mild, medium or strong. In addition, the machine will provide a pot of coffee in a minute and a half," he said.

"A Filterfresh customer can choose from 16 different Maison du Cafe coffee blends from light to dark roast, from 100% Colombian to coffees from Kenya and Sumatra. The system offers water for tea, hot chocolate and soups. Coffee can be offered to employees based on a coin or free-vended," Jaffe said.

"The computerized system provides a variety of information on a screen on the front of the machine. When coffee is low, the screen will say "please refill;" when filter paper runs low the screen says |please check filter paper.' The system can also sense and will indicate any operational problems on the screen," he said.

Filterfresh-trained technicians install and service the system on a regular basis. When the system is installed, a selected water filter is hooked into the water source.

The "agitation-suction" brewing action system, now combined with sophisticated micro-electronics was developed in the 70's under the direction of VKI ceo and chairman, Alan King who founded the company in 1947. The goal was to deliver a quality cup of freshly brewed coffee on demand, in seconds, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. VKI manufactures the equipment with U.S. marketing done through Filterfresh in the U.S.

According to Ted Baracos, vice president - marketing of franchise development for Filterfresh, in the early 80's after the new system became accepted in Canada, VKI expanded its sales into Japan and Europe through licensing arrangements. "VKI made the decision to enter the U.S. market through one of the fastest growing business formats in the American economy, franchising. Filterfresh sold the nation's first gourmet single-cup coffee service franchise in 1987. By 1991, franchises operating under the Filterfresh trademark had spread to 30 U.S. cities," Baracos said.

"Franchising is the innovative way of getting products to market in the 90's, where superior technology meets entrepreneurial experience," Baracos said. "We sold our first franchise in the U.S. four years ago. Since that time we've experienced radical growth," he said.

The company has a prestigious client list ranging from AT &T to Xerox with Coca-Cola and Sears in-between." "This unique brewing process housed in an electronic framework offers our customers many benefits. Employees are offered a hot, fresh, filter-brewed cup or pot of Arabica coffee. They are spared stale, burnt coffee often offered in an office setting," Baracos said.

"Our system is more cost effective and more efficient. Employees no longer have to spend time preparing and cleaning up after coffee preparation. It takes five minutes to fill our unit to make the equivalent of 30 pots of coffee. Normally, it takes five minutes to make one pot of coffee in an office setting. Thus, a fresh-brewed cup of Filterfresh coffee is made in 1/30th the time. And finally, with our system there is absolutely no waste," Baracos said.

Co-Pack International

In the pouch production area, there is the new Co-Pack International, a division of the ATI Group. The new company has introduced high speed packaging line equipment that packages both coffee and tea in pouch configurations. The high-speed technology packages both products in round, square, and rectangular pouches.

Coffee is packaged either in filter paper which is then put into a gas flushed overwrap or container or as ground coffee alone put directly into a gas-flushed package.

The equipment uses a patented, new, high-speed technology that packages products at speeds of up to 1,000 pieces per minute. The packaging equipment is completely computer-controlled from a central console, from grinding in the case of coffee to finished cartons paletized.

Co-Pack's projected start-up time is the second quarter of 1992 in its U.S. plant. The company projects an overall capacity of 300 million units annually.

PHOTO : The Maxpax machine dispenses instant coffee, tea, soup and hot chocolate.

PHOTO : Filterfresh's machine is turing up all over and this magazine editor has found it in her local supermarket.
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:new products providing a quick and convenient cup of coffee
Author:Fader, Liz
Publication:Tea & Coffee Trade Journal
Date:Jan 1, 1992
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