Saturday, November 18, 2017 | Today's Vending Industry News
Product Knowledge Is Best Tool For Selling High Quality

by Len Rashkin
Posted On: 2/7/2016

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TAGS: Vending Times columnist, OCS salespeople, office coffee service, office coffee sales, OCS education, OCS customer service, coffee business, office refreshments, OCS sales training, Len Rashkin, coffee in the workplace, Coffea tree, arabica, robusta, coffee grade, coffee quality, Colombian coffee, Columbian Excelso, Columbian Supremo, Colombian beans, Colombian Coffee Growers Federation

Coffee, coffee everywhere and not a drop to drink! This scenario is not uncommon in offices, where many employers just purchase any old coffee to give to their employees. Today, coffee in the workplace is essential to having happy employees. Years ago, cheap coffee was acceptable in the office, since it didn't have to satisfy the taste profiles that office staffs have today. These can be credited to the advent of upscale retail cafes such as Starbucks, Gloria Jean's, Timothy's, One Cup, Barnie's and a host of other specialty coffee shops throughout the U.S. and Canada.

Your salesforce today must be educated on the entire process of moving the coffee from the farm to the cup. Closing a sale is much easier when your potential customer realizes that you are a professional, knowledgeable about what you are selling. So, let's take a look at some of the coffee details that one needs to know when selling OCS.

Coffee is approximately 99% water, so even if the coffee is great, the beverage will not be acceptable if the water is not good. There are many other factors that affect the taste of coffee, and some will be covered in this article.

Remember that the "coffee break" was designed to keep the staff in the office. If they are still leaving the office for a better cup, then the employer has defeated the purpose of having free coffee. The most expensive cup of coffee is the one that is not consumed, but dumped out.

Great coffee has a major impact in the workplace:

» Image -- Improves the company's image to staff and clients

» Environment -- Better coffee creates better working conditions

» Morale -- Happy employees work better, and do not have to spend extra money at local cafes during working hours

» Productivity -- Employees who spend more time in the office, handle more calls and keep up with their other responsibilities lead to a more profitable company.

Now for some coffee facts that can be used in your sales presentations. Growing, processing and roasting coffee all are arts, and I am not going to detail every step. Rather, I will review some of the information that you and your sales team need to know in order to grasp the relationship between what you are selling and the decision-maker's needs.

Coffee is the second-most traded commodity in the world (oil is number one). The two classifications of coffee are two distinct species of the Coffea tree, arabica and robusta. Arabica is considered by experts to be better. About two-thirds of all the coffee grown is arabica; the largest grower is Brazil. This coffee is grown on the side of mountains and valleys. The best growing conditions are rich soil (sometimes volcanic), heavy rain, hot and humid conditions with prevalent sunshine and sufficient cloud cover to soften the direct sunlight. Arabica is good-tasting and contains less caffeine than the robusta coffees.

Coffee trees are kept approximately 6 ft. tall, so the coffee pickers can reach the entire tree. One arabica tree will yield 1 lb. to 1-1⁄2 lbs. of coffee.

Quality And Price

Robusta coffees are lower grade and have an overall bitter, harsh taste in most growing regions. The cost is substantially lower than arabica coffee. About a third of the world's coffee production is robusta; Vietnam is the largest grower. This coffee is grown at lower altitudes and is very hearty, as well as resistant to coffee "rust" disease. These trees, in general, yield twice as much coffee as arabica trees, and the caffeine level is about twice that of arabica. The beans are not uniform in size. Many lower-priced supermarket brands blend robusta with arabica coffees. Most instant coffee roasters use a high percentage of robusta in their blends. Since instant coffee is expensive to make, using robusta helps keep their cost down.

Many OCS operators use their own private-label coffees, and the most popular is 100% Colombian. Colombian coffee has two grades: Excelso and Supremo. Overall, Colombian beans are considered very smooth and good-tasting.

There is very little difference in quality and taste between these two types of Colombian coffees, with the exception of the size and uniformity of the beans. Supremo is used more for merchandising and is sold at a slightly higher price than Excelso. The Colombian Coffee Growers Federation (a co-op of several hundred thousand small farms) has been promoting the Colombian brand since 1927 using its universal logo of Juan Valdez and his donkey. The federation promotes "fair trade" for the farmers, which means that the farmers are paid a fair price for their coffees, and this insures that the farmers use the proper growing and cultivation techniques needed to produce a quality cup of coffee.

When you or your salespeople speak to a prospect and promote a specialty coffee, which is the highest in quality, it's necessary to explain why the price is higher for this superb cup of coffee. These coffees are hand-picked at the time of ultimate ripeness; the picker will go back to the same tree several times to pick the "cherries" (there are two beans inside each cherry) when ripe. Also, these beans are grown at very high altitudes with annual rainfall of about 80 inches. The soil is very fertile and often volcanic.

Each country of origin's beans (also called Straights) are roasted differently, since they are different in size and so roast at a different rate. After roasting, beans that will make up a blend (two or more "countries of origin") are mixed together.

Roasting separately and blending after the roasting process adds time, and time is money. When beans are roasted, moisture is removed from the beans, reducing their volume; this is called "shrinkage." On average, there is 14% shrinkage with a regular roast, which means that if you put 100 lbs. of beans into the roaster, 86 lbs. will come out. If you roast to a very dark color (Italian Roast), shrinkage will be greater and the cost of the beans accordingly will be higher.

This brief overview of how coffee is grown, cultivated and roasted, will give you some idea of how to appear professional in the eyes of the buyer:

"So Fred, you can see why our specialty coffees are priced slightly higher than what you have been brewing. As I said, our darker-roast specialty coffees will satisfy your staff and keep them inside to do their work. There is no need for them to go to the local café and spend several dollars on a cup of coffee, since you will be providing great-tasting coffee for just a few additional pennies per cup."

The above is just a short overview of what takes place in producing a great cup of coffee. Decision-makers want to deal with professionals, so educate yourself and your sales team.

I want to wish all of you a very happy, healthy and profitable new year. I can be reached at (516) 241-4883, or by email at, if you would like to comment on any of my articles.

LEN RASHKIN is a pioneer in office coffee service. He founded Coffee Sip in 1968 and later merged it with Dell Coffee, of which he became president in 1991. Sales at Dell topped $7 million. He also founded the Eastern Coffee Service Association and National Beverage & Products Association. He is a speaker at national and local trade conferences, consults on OCS sales and marketing, and is the author of two OCS training programs.