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Seeking to be source for all things ‘brew’

Thursday, September 12, 2013
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If you’re a consumer-products manufacturer, how do you avoid being a one-trick pony?

Apple, for instance, evolved from desktop computer maker to everything “i”: phone, pad, pod. This week, the company introduced new up- and down-market versions of the iPhone 5, itself an iteration of the country’s most popular smartphone.

For Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, it looks as if the evolution will involve everything “brew”: hot, cold, water and tba.

The Vermont-based company, with roots in the retail coffee shop, took a stake in Keurig Inc. two decades ago and helped make that name synonymous with single-serve brewing. Today, Green Mountain owns Keurig, producing the plastic shells, or K-Cups, for the machines that brew a variety of branded coffee, tea, cocoa and iced- and fruit-based drinks.

An estimated 15 million U.S. households — some 13 percent — now use a Keurig brewer, putting the company on a path to fulfill its mission statement of “A Keurig brewer on every counter and a beverage for every occasion.” On Tuesday, Green Mountain held its first-ever Investor Day for analysts, with executives offering presentations on where the company has been and where it’s headed.

CEO Brian Kelley painted a picture of the latter by describing the creation of a four-system “portfolio approach” that includes multiple platforms for hot, cold and water-based beverages as well as a “specialty” platform that will remain under wraps for the next few years.

The hot system includes the Keurig and Vue single-cup brewers for use at home or in small businesses (my veterinarian’s waiting room has one) and the soon-to-debut Bolt brewer that includes a carafe to hold multiple cups for use in an office setting.

The cold system will offer carbonated, sparkling and “still” beverages beginning sometime in 2015 that would include sodas — a challenge to SodaStream International, which produces home-carbonation machines — energy and sports drinks, juices and teas.

The water system would launch a year later on what was said to be three platforms, but was not fully described. The “specialty” system would debut sometime after that; it was denoted only as “tba” on slides offered at the Investor Day.

Green Mountain already has broken the mold on hot beverages — its coffee, tea and cocoa K-Cups produced for brands such as Dunkin Donuts, Lipton and Swiss Miss — by announcing last week the planned introduction next year of Campbell’s Fresh-Brewed Soup.

The Campbell Soup-branded K-Cups will offer a modern take on that dorm and office staple, Cup-a-Soup. Using a Keurig brewer to create a stream of broth that combines with a dry packet of pasta and vegetables, the end result will be “a satisfying snack in minutes,” the companies said in announcing the agreement.

The deal is intended to capitalize on data showing that U.S. consumers are snacking more often, with many seeking out “mini-meals” to satisfy hunger while on the go, according to the companies.

One slide from the Investor Day presentation said a lot about Green Mountain’s approach to its mission statement: It showed multiple colored squares representing consumers’ preferences for coffee, juice, sodas and the like, versus a big blue square representing the Keurig brewer’s ability to provide “all beverages in one” for maximum space utilization.

“Balance space with performance perception,” the company said of its machine’s “architecture” — meaning that that Keurig on every counter can indeed meet the goal of providing a beverage for every occasion.

Marlene Kennedy is a freelance columnist. Opinions expressed in her column are her own and not necessarily the newspaper’s. Reach her at marlenejkennedy@gmail.com.

 
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