People have team t-shirts, team caps, team cups – now they can have team coffee. One of the latest innovations from LaRue Coffee & Roasterie is to package some of its many varieties of coffee in flavors correlated with members of the Nebraska Cornhuskers college football team that is popular in its headquarters city of Omaha, Neb.
Family owned and managed LaRue distributes more than 1,400 beverage and beverage-related products from its 20 warehouses. The company services convenience stores, restaurants, institutions and business offices with coffee and equipment in 11 states. It also roasts the LaRue brand of coffee and sells it online and in select retail locations in all 50 states.
“We have been in Nebraska for 40 years, and the owners are really big Huskers fans,” points out Terry Herr, vice president of field operations. “I wanted to do a coffee that would appeal to the sports fans as No. 1, a quality product, and No. 2, a collector’s item and a great gift idea. If you’re a sports fan, it’s something unique. We are trying to start a trend in the marketplace. We like to be first and not follow our competitors. It’s another tool we can use to gain some marketshare. We have a lot of routes in Nebraska. It’s also a way to give our team members a presence that the company is trying to achieve and open up a few more doors from a business standpoint.
“We recognized an opportunity to bring something new to the market,” Herr continues. “It has appealed to a wider audience than we initially anticipated. Phase 2 would be coming out with a food service program for clients who want to have Husker Coffee as well as coffee shops.”
Besides distributing many brands of coffee and offering coffee service, LaRue distributes hot and iced tea, cappuccino, cold and frozen drinks, energy drinks, cups, filtered and bottled water and paper products. “Our list just goes on and on as far as what we can do,” Herr maintains. LaRue is also a distributor of other national brands, such as Starbucks, Caribou, Marley Coffee, Green Mountain, China Mist and Sqwincher.
As a company, LaRue strives to listen to its clients. “We offer a wide variety of beverage solutions,” Herr says. “We come in, listen to their concerns and then tailor a program that best meets the needs of the client.”
LaRue’s business is up 30 percent in 2012. “We have plans in place to double our company in the next five years, and we’re on pace for that,” Herr maintains.
LaRue produces private label coffee products for other coffee companies and small grocers. “Having our own roasting and packaging operation not only allows us to control our own products, but also to provide quality products to companies that cannot justify the investment required,” Herr maintains. LaRue roasts 2,300 pounds of coffee beans per hour in a massive automatic roasting machine at its 120,000-square-foot headquarters.
“They want to buy from a company like us,” he says. “They can focus on the distribution or the retail market or the online sale. We roast and package under multiple labels. We also do a lot of private label retail bags for the holidays.” These may be for clients who want to distribute bags of coffee with their names and logos for the holidays, or an auto dealership that wants to give away its own brand of coffee for potential and recent customers.
The LaRue Coffee Foundation gives back to the community by supporting underprivileged children and doing fund raising for other groups. It helps schools, churches and other nonprofit groups by outlining the steps needed to use LaRue Coffee products for fund raising. The LaRue fund-raising program is nationwide, and the company offers a complete program that has proven successful, according to Herr.
The difference between LaRue and other coffee distributors is service, Herr maintains. “We feel service is really what it’s all about,” he stresses. “You have to have a quality product and have service that backs it up. Everybody likes to have something that is unique to them or a service provided to them. If a client has a need, we are going to find a solution for that need, and we’re not going to stop until we find it. If it’s a request we may not have heard in the past, we’ll work on a solution to make sure at the end of the day the customer is satisfied.”
That dedication, enthusiasm and passion is shared throughout the ranks of LaRue Coffee & Roasterie employees. “We’ve had a lot of our employees here for 20 years,” Herr declares. “Our first employee is still with us today, and that tells us a lot about the company. If they’re here over 20 years, we’re definitely doing something right.”
LaRue has outgrown its present facility and plans to open a new one by the summer of 2014. “Our goal is to develop our team members,” Herr concludes. “We want to be the industry leaders, and that is the goal we are working on every day. With the passion we have for business, it drives that passion down and energizes our team members. That’s really what keeps us in business and keeps us focused.”