Caribou Coffee

Earlier this year, Caribou Coffee announced that 100 percent of the coffee and espresso beans it uses in its locations are Rainforest Alliance Certified™. Caribou Coffee hence became the first major coffeehouse chain in the nation to achieve this status, which means all of its coffee is grown under the highest standards of sustainability. Caribou Coffee beans are grown using sustainable farming methods and strict water conservation techniques, and the people who grow them are treated well.

Achieving this milestone was extremely important for Caribou Coffee, Senior Vice President of Marketing and Product Management Alfredo Martel explains. “[This] demonstrates our commitment to sustainability through environmental, social and economic practices,” he says.

The certification from the Rainforest Alliance shows that Caribou Coffee is concerned about how its business impacts the world on a global scale, but the company is just as focused on how it affects the communities in which its stores are located. Martel says Caribou Coffee strives to be an active member of the communities in which it operates, and with its high-quality coffees, welcoming atmosphere and team culture, it has created a good niche for itself in the crowded coffeehouse market.

Strong Values
Caribou Coffee will celebrate its 20th anniversary in December. The company was founded by Kim and John Puckett, who were inspired by a trip to Denali National Park in Alaska. On returning home to Minneapolis, the couple launched their first Caribou Coffee location in 1992, and that location is still open today. Since then, the company has gone on to open more than 500 stores across the country, but Martel says the values that the Pucketts infused into their first location remain the cornerstone of the company’s operations. “They founded the coffeehouse on four core values and beliefs, which remain an integral part of the company today,” he says.

Those core values, according to Martel, are a commitment to guests, teamwork, a unique personality and community. “Our four core values have also created a certain spirit among our team members that makes them proud to work at Caribou,” he says. “This spirit, along with knowledge and passion for their work, allows them to deliver extraordinary experiences to Caribou fans.”

Quality Coffee
The biggest factor in the success of Caribou Coffee has been, of course, the coffee. In 1995, the company turned its attention to craft-roasting, offering customers a variety of unique flavor profiles that helped Caribou Coffee stand out from other coffee chains. At the same time, the company made strides in making sure customers could get their favorite Caribou Coffee blends at home. “It was also around this time that our consumer packaged goods business was born, which has grown tremendously through grocery partnerships as well as our partnership with Green Mountain and their Keurig single-cup systems,” Martel says.

“The popularity of single-serve home brewing has definitely grown over the past several years, and we feel this will continue,” he adds. “Caribou has had a long-standing partnership with Green Mountain and offers Keurig single-serve cups, and so we’re able to offer our fans a range of coffees that they can enjoy both in our coffeehouses and in their homes.”

Caribou Coffee depends on its suppliers and vendors to provide it with the best possible coffee and other products. “Our suppliers and vendors are integral in our goal of providing extraordinary experiences for our fans,” Martel says. “Without their commitment to our goal, and the high standards we’ve set, we wouldn’t be able to offer the quality beverages and food products that we do.”

Center of the Community
The coffee served at Caribou certainly is an important facet of the company’s success, but Martel says the business also believes in providing a comfortable and welcoming atmosphere for customers. “Caribou is known for its warm, friendly neighborhood environment and its best-in-class handcrafted beverages and delicious food items,” he says. “We strive to connect with our fans on a very personal level, both inside and outside of our coffeehouses.”

Not only does Caribou Coffee give some of its time and resources to help local charities within its communities, but it believes in making its coffeehouses a place where customers can get together and form stronger community bonds. “Because of the welcoming nature of our coffeehouses, we find that not only do we have fans who are just looking for their morning cup of coffee to get them going, but we are also a go-to place for friends to catch up and local community groups to meet,” Martel says. “We take pride in becoming a part of each local Caribou community.”

This attitude extends all the way up into the company’s corporate offices, which Martel says makes Caribou Coffee’s commitment to the community even stronger.

“Our corporate culture is one of the most important aspects of our company,” according to Martel. “Our team members are committed to our core values and, in turn, we are committed to our team members. Our team core values – which include listening, developing and recognizing – are part of an effort to foster an environment where every team member feels valued within the organization.”

Updating the Menu
Caribou Coffee recognizes the importance of offering its loyal customers new experiences along with the familiar favorites they’ve grown to love, and so the company focuses on developing new products. “Caribou is aggressive when it comes to product innovation, and we are always looking to offer our fans new experiences,” Martel says.

For the holidays, Caribou Coffee will be introducing two new specialty drinks, the Salted Caramel Budino and Salted Caramel Mocha, as well as bringing back holiday favorites such as the Ho Ho Mint Mocha and Fa La Latte.

Making Progress
Even though the economy has made things difficult for many customers, Martel says Caribou Coffee has a bright future ahead thanks to some new initiatives and the loyalty it has inspired in its fans. “In this economy, consumers are tightening their belts and watching closely how they spend their hard-earned dollars,” he says. “We feel that the experience and quality that we provide our fans keeps them coming back.”

Martel lists major milestones recently achieved that bode well for the company: “This year, we celebrated our 100th international operating coffeehouse location, we’re expanding the number of coffeehouses overall by 10 to 12 percent this year, we recently announced a new partnership with Jewel-Osco, the market-leading grocery chain in the Chicago area, and we’re continuing to grow our [consumer products] offerings.”