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Bean Counting

Coffee sellers finding ways to weather price increase

October 3, 2010
By MIKE ZUMMO, The Leader-Herald

That morning cup of coffee, which for some, is a vital part in getting the day going, may leave wallets a little lighter as bean prices have risen 43 percent in the past three months, a 13-year high.

One local coffee retailer is holding the line against the increasing prices of coffee beans, and so far, has absorbed the added burden.

"We're trying to keep our prices down," said Lisa Sear, co-owner of Lone Palm Gourmet Coffee in Johnstown with her husband, Steve. "We haven't raised our prices at all. We're just taking it off the top."

Article Photos

The Leader-Herald/Bill Trojan

Lisa Sear, co-owner of Lone Palm Gourmet Coffee of Johnstown, pours freshly brewed coffee into a dispenser at the shop.

The effect of the months-long climb is leading to higher retail coffee prices on several major brands, including Folgers, Dunkin' Donuts and Millstone.

Green Mountain Coffee Roasters Inc. plans to raise North American prices 10 percent to 15 percent next month on K-Cup portion packs for the Keurig Single-Cup brewing system.

In August, the J.M. Smucker Co. imposed an immediate average increase of 9 percent on most of its coffee products under the brand names of Folgers, Dunkin' Donuts, Millstone and Folgers Gourmet Selections.

Sear said the prices on all the coffee beans she orders have been going up steadily over the past several months. Lone Palm sells coffee by the cup and by the pound, and the bagged coffee is sold in bean form and ground coffee.

Lone Palm, she said, sells coffee from all over the world, but has seen the most sales in some of the African blends.

"Our Ethiopian coffee seems to go best, " Sear said.

According to reports, the Coffee Beanery chain, which recently opened a location on Route 30 in the town of Amsterdam, recently raised prices for the first time in five years.

Starbucks also recently said it has been forced to raise prices. The company said the price increases will be focused on big and labor-intensive drinks. It didn't say which drinks, or by how much.

One person who hasn't seen a price increase is Chris Curro, the manager of the Mohawk Harvest Cooperative Market, who buys raw coffee beans and roasts them in his home for sale at the co-op.

"I purchase from specialty suppliers of green beans," Curro said. "The prices have stayed pretty steady by microlots. It's the bottom-line coffees that are probably fluctuating."

Curro said he buys beans from both the wet and dry regions of Mexico, as well as Guatemalan and Honduran beans. Curro, who said he is a "coffee connoisseur," said he took up roasting his own beans when he couldn't find a coffee that met his tastes.

He sells coffee vacuum-packed in half-pound jars to maintain the coffee's freshness.

"Because I'm officially a processor, you think there would be a chain of price elevations," Curro said. "I think it's because of the kinds of beans that I buy."

Howard Schultz, Starbucks' chairman, president and chief executive officer, blamed the increase on a "highly speculative" green coffee market over the past six months, along with "dramatically increased commodity costs."

Sear also said the weather where the coffee has grown will have an effect on the volatile coffee market.

"It all depends what's going on with the environment or everything," she said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.



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