OAKVILLE, ON, Canada -- Reunion Island's extensive line of coffees, teas and package formats caters to the varied tastes, brewing preferences and budgets of workplaces of all shapes and sizes. But the Canadian roaster says that the cutting edge that sets it apart is its programs and tools for OCS operators, crafted to help them effectively market its products in order to grow and prosper.
"A lot of roasters understand coffee but not the OCS business; we are experts at both, and we leverage our knowledge and experience to help customers gain and grow business," emphasized Reunion Island vice-president of marketing Robin White. "OCS is about programs, not just product."
He emphasized that most locations today want their employees to enjoy better coffee, while saving both money and the environment at the same time. Reunion Island offers operators a range of premium products and turnkey programs to communicate this message to current and prospective customers, and then deliver on the promise.
Support materials and services range from branded airpots and high-impact point-of-sale signage to sales tools, including customized product menus and coffee-tasting invitations, all featuring the OCS company's logo and contact information.
PHOTO: Reunion Island's Adam Pesce (standing left) meets with coffee farmers in Papua New Guinea. The company works to assist coffee-growers around the world in developing Fair Trade and organic coffee programs to increase output of more profitable and sustainable crops.
Reunion Island president Peter Pesce, who got his start in the industry as a pioneering importer of specialty coffees more than three decades ago, founded Reunion Island in 1995. He is widely recognized for helping to revolutionize the Canadian coffee market and has served as chairman of the Coffee Association of Canada, among other industry leadership roles. Pesce applies his coffee sourcing, roasting and cupping expertise to establishing a high standard at Reunion Island, which provides wholesale coffee and tea to the retail, office coffee, foodservice and hospitality industries. His son, Adam, is continuing the family tradition, and presently is focusing on the company's sustainability programs.
In 2002, with a commitment to further penetrate the OCS segment and ramp up the company's marketing capabilities, Pesce hired two workplace refreshment service veterans: marketing VP White, and vice-president of business development Tim Cook.
"I joined Reunion Island Coffee with the goal of using what I had learned in the OCS industry to create products and programs that would help us build successful long-term relationships with operators across North America," White told VT. "A lot of roasters don't understand what an OCS provider needs for his business. We do, because we worked in that industry."
Prior to joining the company, White was marketing manager for Ottawa's Take A Break Services, then the city's largest independent OCS company. He developed marketing programs to launch private-label and single-cup coffees in the local market, among other innovations. Take A Break was acquired by U.S. Office Products and White was promoted to marketing director of its US Refresh OCS division. The company was then purchased by Van Houtte in 2001, and White continued to lead its in-house creative team.
Cook, a 20-year coffee sales veteran, was employed by one of the first distributors of single-cup coffee in the late 1990s, overseeing its launch of the product format in the OCS channel. He has managed the introduction and continued growth of branded and private-label products in Reunion Island's coffee service, foodservice, e-commerce, hospitality and retail channels for the past 12 years.
He told VT that Reunion Island currently sells four million pounds of coffee a year, and is five times the size it was when he joined the company. At the core of that growth has been its unwavering commitment to the quality of every batch of coffee it roasts.
"Peter, Reunion Island's president, is quality-driven," Cook said. "If you give people better coffee, they'll drink more of it. And as a roaster, it's critical that we provide marketing to help operators sell that quality, to add new customers and grow the business they have. We have a very robust marketing department to make that happen."
Single-cup pods, which the company was among the first to bring to market in North America in 2004, are one of its fastest-growing OCS offerings. Reunion Island currently offers pods in six brands, including its own Organa certified organic teas, and some 70 varieties.
"We're probably one of the biggest manufacturers of compostable pods in North America," said White. "Customers like the pods for their taste over other alternatives, and at a better price. They also appreciate that they're more environmentally friendly.
"OCS operators like pods because they offer more freedom in terms of equipment and pricing than other single-cup portion-pack systems, which are limited to certain brands and packaging," he explained.
Reunion Island's pod marketing program simplifies the operator's presentation by furnishing sell-sheets -- customized with the OCS company's logo -- that highlight the benefits of Reunion Island pods in comparison with other portion-pack formats.
Reunion Island also makes it easy for operators to implement a pod program with a line of recommended brewers proven to work with its pods, including Wolfgang Puck's CaféXpress brewer and Bunn's AutoPOD machine, along with marketing support.
Another pronounced trend in OCS, according to White, is the return of bean-to-cup brewers. "You can get a fantastic cup if you use a high-quality bean and a well maintained machine," White pointed out. "It's also the 'greenest,' most environmentally friendly option. And in suitable locations, it's a better value than portion-pack single-cup machines because you're not paying for portion packaging, so it's a lower cost per serving."
Reunion Island has responded to the bean-to-cup resurgence by packaging its whole-bean coffees in 2-lb. bags, which keep coffee fresher than the usual 5-lb. format. It also offers turnkey branded equipment programs, including description cards, decals and imprinted paper cups for bean-to-cup machines like Cafection's Avalon line.
Pods and bean-to-cup brewers can be marketed as less burdensome on the solid-waste disposal infrastructure than other beverage options. In today's environmentally aware marketplace, sustainability is an increasingly important part of an OCS sales presentation, the company noted; and its track record in this regard also can enhance its customers' marketing.
Reunion Island's position in the vanguard of coffee industry sustainability efforts is a salable virtue for operators, the company emphasized. Among Adam Pesce's initiatives in this area are increasing the number of Fair Trade and organic coffee selections in the company's line, along with helping more of its farming partners become Rainforest Alliance certified.
"More and more, people are looking for sustainability on some level, and it's a big focus for us," White pointed out. "In coffee-growing countries, this can involve social as well as environmental efforts. Locally, it includes initiatives like our use of 'green' electricity to reduce our impact on the environment."
In 2012, Reunion Island introduced the Reach program as a way to communicate its sustainability efforts to its customers. Coffees that fall under the Reach umbrella are marked with a logo specifying "direct trade," "farmer relationship," "certified" or "social program."
Social consciousness and corporate responsibility are most effective when sold in the context of a high-quality, thoroughly enjoyable product. Reunion Island's Donut Shop Blend, a medium-roast coffee described as having a "please-all" taste profile complemented by retro-style packaging, has fast become Reunion Island's best-selling blend and a favorite in offices across the United States, ranging from traditional dark roast markets like the West Coast to the Southern states and Northeast. Donut Shop is offered in pods, fraction packs and whole-bean bags, as well as in the context of a new c-store program complete with point-of-sale marketing and sales materials.
Another sales booster for OCS providers is the company's Feature Coffee program. This tool is designed to help the operator deliver new and exotic limited-edition coffees to its customers, thus positioning itself as the coffee expert in its market with the aid of marketing materials provided by Reunion Island.
The roaster launches one of these limited-edition coffees seasonally, along with a newly featured flavored coffee every two or three months to coincide with seasonal promotions, such as pumpkin spice for fall and spiced eggnog for the holiday season.
Private-label coffee is another Reunion Island specialty. The roaster's marketing department works with the operator to develop the product best suited to his or her market, from blend to artwork.
"In a market where most private-label volume is dwindling, we have helped OCS operators grow their private-label volume," said Cook. "Most importantly, we have successfully assisted many customers to transition from their current selections into a new private label while maintaining their customers' loyalty and increasing volume."
The simplest and most cost-effective solution for companies with small to medium volume is Reunion Island's turnkey Coffeehouse Collection. The package graphics are designed to communicate quality, while remaining classic enough to appeal to a broad range of consumers. Black-and-white logos and blend names are imprinted in-line during packaging, eliminating plate costs and long-term purchasing commitments from the operator.
Reunion Island's Signature Collection program is designed for OCS companies with an existing higher-volume private-label coffee who want to consolidate their product lines into a turnkey program with marketing support. Reunion Island analyzes the company's current blends and recommends a new selection. It also develops new packaging, using its existing template that incorporates the OCS company's logo and the operator's choice of monochrome photography, along with customized marketing materials.
For larger-volume private-label lines that don't fit the mold of its turnkey Signature Collection, Reunion Island works with the operator to upgrade their coffee and custom-develop a private-label package design.
"Our services can be as broad as redefining your corporate identity or as limited as developing a single sell-sheet or product menu," White summed up. "In some cases, we have worked with our customers on complete corporate makeovers. Starting with a logo redesign, we've applied their new image to stationery, vehicles and other materials to create a consistent, updated look."
PHOTO: Reunion Island Coffee Ltd. offers a wide range of custom-imprintable sales and informational literature for distributors of its branded coffees and teas and for operators purchasing its private-label products. The company's custom graphics capability can help OCS companies of any size enhance their professional image and differentiate themselves from their competitors.