Perking Up: The Specialty Coffee Industry Is Steaming Hot

By Alice Culp
South Bend Tribune, Ind.

SOUTH BEND

By the end of the day’s work, they planned to have about 45 pounds of roasted coffee.

For nearly two years, Karen Haun and Jill De Lucia have spent their Wednesdays at a building just off Bendix Drive roasting coffee beans.

The women started Bendix Coffee Co. in 2013. They have a Diedrich gas-fired roaster, made in America, and roast small amounts of beans — enough to fill their weekly orders.

“People are becoming more interested in specialty coffees,” Haun said. “It’s a real trend.”

More than three-quarters of Americans drink coffee, according to the National Coffee Association. Next to water, it is consumers’ top daily beverage choice. But they are becoming more particular about what kind of coffee they drink, and the coffee industry has changed in the past 10 years or so to accommodate changing tastes.

“More and more coffee shops are deciding to roast their own coffee,” said Kevin Kuyers of Theta Ridge Coffee, a South Bend importer that sells unroasted, or green, coffee beans to roasters across the U.S. and into Canada.

He believes the trend stems from the education of consumers. People can research coffee on the Internet and they talk to their baristas about the coffees they like.

There are probably 10 micro roasters in the South Bend, Elkhart and Goshen area who buy their beans from Theta Ridge. But that doesn’t even begin to touch the number of local places that are doing micro roasting.

There are nearly 26,500 more U.S. specialty coffee retailers today than in 1993, according to the Specialty Coffee Association of America.

More than half of the retailers are independent.

And while the number of coffee roasters is growing, Kuyers said, so are their sales.

A typical roaster saw an annual sales growth of 8.3 percent between 2013 and 2014, reported the Specialty Coffee Association, which surveyed nearly 8,500 roasting companies in more than a dozen countries. Most respondents were micro roasters in the States with a single roasting machine. The largest reported sales growth — an increase of more than 11 percent year over year — came from roasters with sales of $100,000 or less annually.

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