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You could always buy it in Antwerp, now you can bulk and blend too.

Bulk handling of coffee has now come to Antwerp. Characteristic of Belgium's great port city, the new operation shows signs of cautious planning, careful execution - the businessmen of Flanders have flourished and endured for centuries with a conservative commitment to keeping at the forefront of the competition; perhaps they are not known as innovators in commerce but when they do see a success they pursue it with zeal and a devotion to details.

And so the SUPREMO company has erected a bulk blending and siloing operation inside the new Molenbergnatie warehouse in what can readily be termed the "ever-expanding" port zone of Antwerp. The unit does not resemble what one would find in Hamburg, Trieste or Le Havre. The SUPREMO unit maintains a simple service menu: the blending to order and delivery of green coffees in bulk. The service compliments the firms ongoing core business as an international green coffee trading company.

The SUPREMO blending unit began operations in January of this year and has been delivering green coffee in bulk since that date to customers throughout the EC's industrial heartland. In the very near future the installation will also begin receiving coffee in bulk directly from portside Antwerp or as might be trucked in from other ports.

Currently, starting with sacks, a pallet is loaded with approximately 40 standard sacks of green, drawn as stipulated in the blend recipe. Here strict confidentiality is assured because SUPREMO is not even involved in this aspect of the operation; the blend recipe is given directly to the warehouse people of Molenbergnatie responsible for the blending and loading operation.

Once loaded, pallets are fork-lifted to the bulk feeding platform of the blending unit where a single operator quickly slits the sacks open and as the bulk receiving bin fills begins the processing with a single push of a button. Following dust extraction, the coffee flows immediately to the blending silo where the technical features are such that SUPREMO is able to tout the results as a "blended and homogenized" green coffee product.

After blending, which lasts a few minutes only, the coffee can be stored temporarily in one or both of the unit's two holding silos, each with a 25 ton capacity (meaning each silo represents a full bulk truck load).

The trucks used can be both silo trucks or bulk trucks. The latter have a cost advantage and use a built-in conveyor belt to unload the coffee quickly at destination.

The system works so that it takes less than an hour to load up a 25 ton truck bed directly from silo, and without manual intervention of any kind. Although the unit is delivering about 80% of its production in bulk, SUPREMO also serves blends in big bags of 500 kg and 1,000 kg weights, or even in standard bags, as needed. The installation can blend 10 tons of green coffee per hour.

The company behind all this is a good-enough representative of the new kind of firm that has been changing the landscape of green coffee in the 1990's. SUPREMO is a young company - begun in 1989 - and staffed largely by youngish professionals, although these include seasoned veterans of the golden 1980's in international coffee trading (managing director, for example, is Vves Tombeur, who built up Sobelder).

Although it keeps a single-minded attention on classic green coffee buying and trading it also believes that the competitive edge for a small company lies in extra service and added value concepts - hence the attraction of bulk blending and delivery. While reining in on some traditional green coffee company overheads, it is obviously willing to invest in green coffee marketing and service innovations.

To add to its unorthodoxy, SUPREMO got its start in Brugge, a Flemish masterpiece of a city but one little associated with coffee. Soon it is to move headquarters to an even more non-coffee location, the fashionable seaside of Knokke. For such a company its own location no longer matters, what counts is the position it can hold in goods and services.
COPYRIGHT 1993 Lockwood Trade Journal Co., Inc.
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Title Annotation:Supremo bulk coffee handling warehouse, Antwerp, Belgium
Author:Bell, Jonathan
Publication:Tea & Coffee Trade Journal
Date:Jul 1, 1993
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