BELLEVUE, Wash. -- Quality Food Stores, a division of the Kroger Co., has entered into a partnership with Seattle's Best Coffee, and will serve brewed beverages and other products in its chain's branded coffee sites, officials said.
QFC's branded coffee facilities currently operate under the Veneto's name. The conversion from Veneto's to Seattle's Best will occur during the next six months, they said.
Of the 89 stores in the QFC chain -- located in western Washington state and the greater Portland, Ore., area -- 85 now contain existing Veneto's coffee sites in the form of a bar or kiosk, currently run by QFC employees.
"After extensive research of the brands and products available, we determined Seattle's Best Coffee was clearly the best fit for QFC customers," said John Turley, QFC's vice president of merchandising. "The company's line of premium products offers a superior taste profile, while the training and operational support for our stores will be second to none."
As part of the pact, the Seattle's Best brand will be visible to all store customers who frequent QFC's in-store coffee bars. The roaster will increase by as much as 50% the presence of its "Coffee House Blends," which have been available for more than a decade, on QFC grocery shelves within the next two months, officials said.
The agreement with QFC is not the coffee merchant's first appearance in a supermarket setting. Seattle's Best has in-house cafe arrangements with supermarkets in several chains, including Ralph's in California, Albertson's in northern California and Dominick's in Chicago. Certain supermarkets within those chains have fresh-brew stations, rather than cafes.
Steve Schickler, president of Seattle's Best's parent company, Seattle Coffee Co., which is in turn owned by AFC Enterprises, sees a direct correlation between the revenues from his supermarket cafes and coffee sales within those supermarkets.
"People want to take home the 'cafe' experience and have it in their own home," he said. Recently, in an effort to enrich an already burgeoning, synergistic relationship between freshly brewed and grocery, Schickler introduced "Coffee House Blends" in ground form to complement Seattle's Best's offerings of bulk and pre-packaged whole bean products. "The consumption of specialty coffees throughout the country has been surging, especially in supermarkets," Schickler said. "People are more willing to try a ground, specialty coffee because of the convenience."
Seattle Coffee Co. franchises and operates 119 Seattle's Best Coffee cafes throughout the United States. The cafes, which also sell Seattle's Best coffee products, are characterized by their comfortable coffeehouse atmosphere, with cushioned seating and even fireplaces in some locations. AFC plans to select one of the Seattle's Best Coffee cafes in that city as a test site for introducing the sale of Cinnabon products. Cinnabon is also an AFC subsidiary, popular in food courts, which bakes large cinnamon rolls.
It's still to be determined whether QFC and Seattle's Best will offer edibles at the new QFC coffee sites, many of which are attached to store delis, Schickler said.