Top Texan grocer opts for Irish coffee

Jul 17, 2008

Irish coffee roaster Johnsons, an Invest NI client company, has won first-time business from one of the leading food retailers in Texas. Johnsons, based at Lisburn, is supplying its distinctive Irel brand of ground coffee to Albertson’s LLC, which has over 100 grocery stores in Texas, mostly in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. The Texas stores are part of a network of markets across the US run by Iowa headquartered Albertsons LLC.

The new US business is the result of an extensive marketing campaign in the US launched by Johnsons, one of Ireland’s oldest coffee roasters, over the past two years. Eight other US retail groups, including Shaws, Stop & Shop and Schnucks, now sell Johnsons coffee. The company has used Invest Northern Ireland trade missions and other marketing initiatives to identify and develop US exports.

Privately owned Albertson’s LLC is a respected food and drug retailer that operates over 300 stores in Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Louisiana, Nebraska, New Mexico, South Dakota, Texas and Wyoming.

Johnson’s has been producing the Irel brand of fine ground coffee since 1913 for retail and food service customers in Ireland. The company also recently secured a major food service deal in UK/Ireland to supply coffee to Norfolkline Shipping on all its English Channel and Irish Sea route services, including its café in Dunkirk.

“Gaining a listing from Albertson’s is potentially a very significant deal for us in the world’s biggest and most demanding coffee market,” says Philip Mills, Business Director at Johnson’s.

“We’ve now achieved a foothold in a $50 billion coffee market, the world’s biggest.

“We’re not aiming to be the cheapest but are being seen increasingly as the finest. Our grinding process produces a finer coffee, which tends to go further and to offer consumers greater value for money. Albertson’s was impressed by the quality of our ground coffee and the Irish brand image. We are now talking to the grocer about shipper display stands, a presentation tool which appeals to them,” he adds.

Welcoming the latest US business secured by Johnsons, Maynard Mawhinney, Invest NI’s Food Director, said: “Selling ground coffee to the US is quite an achievement for a Northern Ireland company. The new contract is a measure of the company’s commitment to product quality, marketing expertise and outstanding customer service.”

Johnson’s Coffee is a family business that began roasting coffee in the early 1900s, long before modern production techniques had been invented.  While roasting is still done by hand, technology has improved efficiencies in the overall production process, however the company holds firm to the original aim – to produce coffees of distinction.  Exports now contribute 25 per cent of the company’s sales.

Johnsons Irel coffee brand is a 100 per cent Arabica gourmet coffee. Irel is one of only two products – the other being Paddy Irish Whiskey - licensed by the Irish government to use the map of Ireland as an integral part of its brand identity.

The company imports the highest grades of pure Arabica coffees from around the globe including, Colombia, Honduras, Nicaragua, Papua New Guinea, Kenya, and Indonesia.

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