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Master of Agribusiness

Specialty Coffee Expansion in Traditional Retail: Lessons from Non-Traditional Retailers

Alison Rosenblum, Portland, OR, defended her thesis, “Specialty Coffee Expansion in Traditional Retail: Lessons from Non-Traditional Retailers” on June 29, 2015. Rosenblum is an August graduate from Kansas State University with a Master of Agribusiness (MAB) degree.

The coffee industry has evolved over the last century from traditional canned coffee products such as Folgers and Maxwell House to Starbucks to custom roasts. Traditional retailers sometimes have a hard time quickly adjusting their in-store promotions, placement and pricing to stay current with the new coffee trends.

“Because of their large role in the retail business, traditional retailers cannot be ignored by any player seeking to be successful. This implies that with each shift in the coffee industry, it is important for the participants to find ways of enabling the traditional retailer to make the necessary transformation – at least with their products – so that they can secure their market share and continuing success,” Rosenblum said.

She researched the methods non-traditional retailers such as Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s and Target have used to be successful in the changing coffee environment.  From the case studies she developed, there are a number of strategies that may be beneficial to traditional retailers: offering a broad assortment of products at different price points; create a store-within-a-store for coffee similar to a specialty section for wines and cheeses; and hosting events featuring coffees at the stores.

Dr. Vincent Amanor-Boadu, Professor of Agricultural Economics and Rosenblum’s thesis advisor, said, “This codifies the strategies that firms such as Peat’s Coffee have been pursuing. We can now assess their strategies with tools such as those espoused in Blue Ocean Strategy by W. Chan Kim by creating new market spaces ripe for growth.”=

The full thesis publication can be found online on Kansas State University’s Research Exchange at http://hdl.handle.net/2097/20114.