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07/02/2021

Q&A: Club Coffee drives category innovation

The coffee roaster discusses bringing sustainable packaging, premium flavors to private label.
Dan Ochwat
Executive Editor
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Canadian coffee roaster Club Coffee has been in business for more than 100 years, delivering mainstream and premium coffees for private label as well as its own brands.

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Solange Ackrill

To continue its drive forward, the company has an eye on innovation, largely found in sustainability. Solange Ackrill, vice president of marketing and corporate strategy at Club Coffee, discusses innovation and new flavors.

Store Brands: Tell us about Club Coffee’s private label capabilities.
Solange Ackrill: Club Coffee is one of North America’s largest roasters and sustainable packaging solutions for private label. We offer a turn-key solution across all roast and ground coffee formats, including ground coffee, whole bean, compostable pods and capsules. We collaborate with store brands to deliver category solutions through insights, innovation and commercialization support.   

SB: What are some trends you’re seeing in the coffee and tea category?
SA: Key trends have been around for some time but now accelerated due to the pandemic. We’re seeing trends around premium, sustainable, convenience, omni-channel (increase in digital and online), functional and healthy, and value (private label, club packs and in-home switch to retail vs. out-of-home)

SB: How has the work-from-home trend elevated retail coffee consumption?
SA: The coffee category is one of the best proxies to illustrate the massive impact that working from home is having on the food service industry. In both U.S. and Canada there was a huge shift to in-home retail coffee (especially single-serve pods) as consumers discovered various brands, technology, innovation and value for almost a third of the cost of out-of–home.

The e-commerce channel also benefited from this shift as consumers reduced their in-store shopping and moved to online where the coffee category is one of the top-selling grocery categories (due to assortment, basket frequency and ease of shipping).

There is further opportunity to leverage this shift to retail and the “sticking factor” as more consumers invest in at-home machines and seeking new experiences — especially in premium and sustainable solutions.

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SB: How does Club Coffee meet sustainability needs in the private label and co-manufacturing space?
SA: At Club Coffee, we believe in “Brewing the Good in Coffee” through sustainability and corporate responsibility and does so in various ways:

  • Sustainable coffee is the future and Club Coffee supports our customers with best practices and innovative solutions across key trends;
  • Club Coffee’s current CSR platform provides a focus around People, Process and Products — driven through customer relationships, our unique sustainable packaging process/systems and innovation such as the World’s First Compostable Coffee Pods and our new revolutionary recyclable, paper-based coffee packaging for whole bean and ground coffees;
  • We have a 4-Pillar CSR plan that includes: Operational Footprint, People and Community, Responsible Sourcing and Product Packaging;
  • We partner with various organizations that help us achieve our CSR goals, i.e. Bullfrog Power, Rainforest Alliance, Fair Trade, FSC, BPI, Pro-cert Organic and BRC AA (GFSI) certification;
  • In 2020 we completed a rigorous third-party social and ethical compliance audit, required by key large brand partners like Amazon;
  • All of our facilities participated and passed the SMETA 4-Pillar Audit as governed by Sedex and conducted by Bureau Veritas; 
  • Sedex — The Supplier Ethical Data Exchange is a not-for-profit, membership organization that leads work with buyers and suppliers to deliver improvements in responsible and ethical business practices in global supply chains;
  • SMETA — (Sedex Members Ethical Trade Audit) is the audit methodology created by the Sedex membership to give a central agreed audit protocol, which can be confidentially shared.

SB: What are some coffee flavors coming down the line from Club Coffee to keep an eye on?
SA: We have some exciting and scalable flavors and blends that consumers are already showing support for, beyond the traditional themes, and tapping into out-of-home inspirations, such as Coffee House Blend, Sugar Shack Maple, Creamy Caramel, Madagascar Vanilla, Increased premium high quality decafs, and some new flavors are top secret.