While in St. Louis at Coffee Fest, Kerri Goodman had the opportunity to visit with DS Services’ (and COFFEETALK columnist) Ken Shea and chat about the state of the Coffee Service Industry and other related topics of interest. Here is that interview:
KG – It’s good to see you and others from the world of Coffee Service being more visible at events such as Coffee Fest and Specialty Coffee Association show in Seattle. What is motivating you to participate in these venues?
KS – Thank you Kerri. There are a few reasons for getting closer to the specialty world. It begins with our customers’ expanding knowledge of coffee and the need for the operator community to remain in front of things. My company, DS Services, and I personally, have a desire to become closer to the international marketplace of coffee and tea and broaden our knowledge base. This knowledge is beneficial as we evolve our coffee service business and as the demand for specialty coffee increases. Beyond that, as our industry lines of definition continue to blur, having a well-developed understanding of re-sale venues will serve us well.
My company has a history of being mindful of and supporting different philanthropic efforts. The specialty coffee world embraces support at origin and philanthropy from multiple angles. Our interests are aligned.
I see a growing number of Coffee Service operators in attendance at these events as the collective journey to origin expands. Ours is a very aware and competitive industry as you know.
KG – What is your perspective on the evolution of single cup brewing?
KS – While Keurig and Mars continue to dominate market share, I see resurgence with pods. The pod brewers are much more intuitive than in the past. The products are excellent and many yield a beverage with extraction rates and dissolved solids yields that meet SCAA Gold Cup standards. Brew by back made its mark with variety and convenience. The next natural step in this evolutionary process is better quality.
Hopper based single cup brewing options are expanding. The menu and cup size options that these brewers can provide are virtually limitless. We see a growing demand for drinks that incorporate water soluble powders.
Then we have the non-Keurig licensed cups. It seems that at retail level, every week we see another brand on the shelves. The brand options are now quite extensive.
KG – So with the proliferation of the new “cups,” how does a company such as DS Services approach the opportunity?
KS – We are a Keurig/Green Mountain KAD distributor. We are not engaged in the selling of non-K cup products for Keurig brewers. But we recognize that there is a growing competitive reality in two areas.
E-commerce provides a fulfillment opportunity for all of the new entrants to our market place. Additionally, smaller operators that have not been able to participate as K-cup distributors, are now able to provide a cup solution with good brewing equipment and cups that can be purchased with reasonable quantity minimums at a competitive cost.
KG – So what led you into the world of coffee and coffee service in particular and what is your current focus?
KS –It all began for me when I was hired to run a vending distribution business owned by Flowers Baking Company. Two coffee brokers approached me about distributing their products. My first experience with coffee was with the Hills Brothers line. These brokers led me to the coffee service opportunity which was accretive revenue for my company as we were primarily a vending distributor.
After a few years, VSA, now Vistar, bought the Flowers operations. I opted to join Servatron, a national distribution company headquartered in Long Beach owned by Dick Allen, a true visionary and mentor. It was then that I became a full-fledged coffee service distributor.
VSA then acquired Servatron. At that time I moved to the operator side of the desk as my largest customer, Standard Coffee Service hired me to direct operations. After ten years there, I ventured into the manufacturing world and then formed a consulting business that ultimately led me back to Standard on a consulting gig and then an offer to return which I accepted.
In 2012, DS Waters bought Standard and here I am! My current responsibilities focus on industry related activities, multi departmental involvement and acquisitions. It’s been quite a ride but both the journey and destination have proved rewarding.