Investing in technology has paid off for Independence Coffee Co. In October, our Brenham, Texas-based company will celebrate 15 years in business. We expanded from a humble start-up in a garage roasting 2,000 pounds of coffee in 2003 to a successful supplier roasting 650,000 pounds of coffee annually.
We’re proud to now serve major grocers, including H-E-B and Whole Foods Market, expanding our reach from one H-E-B store in 2005 to nearly 275 today. We recently signed a deal to expand into Maine-based Hannaford supermarkets in New England and New York.
Technology has helped us stand out in the competitive coffee category and scale our business as we've grown nationwide. Embracing innovation has helped us to stay focused on serving our customers while boosting productivity and distinguishing our brand in a crowded market.
Like most consumer goods suppliers these days, we feel the pressure of intense competition. We also recognize the need for business transformation to deliver the quality and speed consumers and retail buyers expect — just to stay relevant.
A pair of technologies has helped Independence Coffee grow and boost efficiency.
RangeMe is an online product discovery platform that streamlines retail sourcing and buying and boosts product visibility and reach. It’s like an online matchmaker that connects retail buyers and suppliers.
This platform solves a common pain point, as retail buyers are inundated with calls, emails and product samples from eager suppliers across the country. Before RangeMe, our sales person felt exasperated because he struggled to capture the attention of retail buyers who were so overwhelmed with volume that they rarely replied. That’s why he recommended RangeMe as a way to boost brand awareness and simplify marketing and sales efforts.
RangeMe helps us save time while showcasing our products by proactively sharing information with potential trading partners. Meanwhile, retail buyers discover in-demand products more efficiently. Buyers access a single source of product images, detailed information on products and brands and verified sales data, making it easier to spot innovative, unique and in-demand products to deliver the variety consumers crave.
Additionally, our packaging offers distinct product designs that stood out among buyers on RangeMe. The system also gives retail buyers transparency by sharing recent data on sales volume and current retail customers, which increased their confidence and trust in the brand.
The second technology is software from Acctivate, which helps us track and trace products across the supply chain, from the green coffee beans we source all the way to the consumer’s cup of coffee.
This technology lets us trace each product to a lot number, down to the specific individual on our team who handled each step of the process (such as roasting the coffee). Major retail chains desire this level of detailed supply chain data because it supports efficient, accurate product removal in the event of a recall.
Acctivate’s software also lets us prove compliance in regard to requirements for risk-based preventive controls mandated by the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act, as well as the modernized Current Good Manufacturing Practices of this rule.Yearly audits and performance tracking matter because large grocery retailers like Target seek compliant suppliers with more sophisticated data insights to increase accountability and transparency and reduce risk across the supply chain.
We gain smoother relationships with our trading partners because we’re armed with the detailed supply chain data needed for fast action in the event of a product recall, protecting product quality, food safety and traceability. In addition, the Acctivate system is integrated with multiple retail processes, including links to QuickBooks and billing, for streamlined operations.
Balancing automation and artisanship
These two technologies free up our time, allowing us to focus on creating innovative product formats like single-serve, micro-lot offerings and cold brew kegs, bottles and kits. We never say no to prospective buyers. Such openness and willingness to innovate grabs their attention because they seek suppliers who can adapt as consumer preference evolves and diversifies.
As we celebrate our 15th anniversary milestone, we acknowledge the important role of technology in modernizing our operations and sales and gaining competitive edge. Beyond having a great product and customer-focused strategy, technology is a key success factor that has boosted our productivity, agility and efficiency.
About the Author
Ragan Bond co-founded Main Street Coffee & Trading/ Independence Coffee Co. in 2001 with his wife, Christi. The company has become a fully diversified coffee and tea manufacturer with business operations focused on the grocery, office, retail and high-end convenience store sectors.