Bean counters grind out coffee price hike

The soaring price of coffee beans forced Shawn Hershberger, owner of Cafe 1320 in North Canton, Ohio, to create a new menu.

“Our coffee just went up 40 cents a cup,” Hershberger said.

Coffee prices have jumped repeatedly in the past 18 months.

On May 24, the J.M. Smucker Company announced an average of 11 percent increase on Folger’s, Dunkin Donuts and Millstone coffees, their fourth increase this year –– Smucker’s owns those domestic coffee brands. The next day, Starbucks announced a 17 percent increase on its bagged coffee.

Joe Marchion, owner of the Hartville Cafe and Arabica Coffee House in Canton, said the price jumps in the last 18 months are the worst he has seen in his 11 years in the coffee business.

“It’s unbelievable. We’ve had to increase the cost of our coffee 10 cents a cup,” Marchion said. “We held back as long as we could, but being a small family-run cafe, we don’t have the buying power of big chains and can’t absorb that kind of increase.”

At Pete’s Restaurant in Canton, coffee also just went up 10 cents a cup.

“We went from $1.30 just to $1.40 — didn’t want to scare away our customers,” manager Heather Stirbens said.

Hershberger knew he’d have to raise his prices after getting a letter from his supplier, K&M Coffee Service Company in North Canton.

“They are good people, very passionate about what they do, but (they) sent us a letter that said, ‘Folks, it’s going to be rocky for a while.’ We’ll absorb what we can, but prices will go up,” Hershberger said.

Bob Grimsley, whose parents founded K&M 43 years ago, said he resisted raising his price until five weeks ago.

“What I try to do is ride the market for a while, absorbing the increases, banking it will come back down –– what goes up must come down. Unfortunately, this time I was wrong,” Grimsley said. “We raised our prices five weeks ago, and we’ve got another (increase) coming.”

Grimsley said the coffee shortage is real, and the market is continuing to rise.

“The Colombian bean was the hardest hit. They lost about 40 percent of the harvest,” he said.

How have customers reacted to the higher prices for a cuppa joe?

Stirbens, manager of Pete’s Restaurant in Canton, said most understand “because they notice the increases at other places and when they go to buy it at the store.”

Marchion, owner of the Hartville Cafe and Arabica Coffee House in Canton, said some accept it, some don’t.

“You do lose some customers,” he said. “Some say $2 is too much for a cup of coffee, but Arabica beans are very expensive, and our costs have gone up $2 a pound.”

Are customers drinking less coffee or switching hot tea, instead? No, says Stirbens.

“They still want their coffee,” she said. “We’ve seen some increase in ice tea, but that’s just due to the weather.”

Grimsley agrees.

“In this economy, people might be giving up their vacations,” he said, “but they’re not willing to give up the small luxuries of life like that cup of coffee.”

Copyright 2011 Beauregard Daily News. Some rights reserved

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