( – promoted by Sue Prent)
I’ve held a small bit of Green Mt Coffee Roasters stock for about 10 years, purchased because it was a local startup that bubbled up and because it had socially conscious policies for employees and coffee growers. It may still be a good deal for coffee growers and employees, but the company has morphed into an unrecognizable corporate entity that I find repugnant.
GMCR should no longer be thought of as a coffee company (as is reflected in its new name “Keurig Green Mountain Inc.”) Rather it is a plastic-and-profit-delivery-pipeline. The coffee is okay but lift the curtain on that green mountain image and you’ll find the very Wolf of Wall Street presiding with his pack of banking/industry execs who have come on board as directors. [Hinda-what the hell happened?]
I attended the GMCR stockholders’ meeting in Burlington this week out of curiosity. The contrast from 8 years ago was staggering. At that time their green-guy told me they were near to solving their recycling problem (see below). In the meantime, the new regime has arrived. Meet the new boss, Brian Kelley, golden boy newly from Coca-Cola and Jack Welch’s General Electric. This guy drips humble and nice until he begins his presentation at which time his voice changes and he seemingly salivates describing the brave new (stranglehold) world of beverage delivery. His pitch would have been hysterically funny as farce had it not been dead serious.
What’s the big deal? I had a glimmer of hope that they might’ve made progress on their plastic K-cup-as-trash problem. K-Cups, those small and growing bigger plastic cups which are cranked out at over 6 billion/year and which hopefully (according to CEO Kelley’s view) would be growing exponentially thereafter. They are unrecyclable. One sweet old lady from NH piped up with “well we pull out the contents and recycle OURS, so you CAN do it!” She did pull contents out of her K-cups and put them in her “recycling bin” but her husband admitted to me that they can’t actually be recycled, among other reasons because they are unworkable at materials recycling facilities. Rather they go to landfills and assuredly find their way to dead seabird bellies and Pacific Ocean plastic gyres. Some office-sized pods are incinerated, those in their “Grounds to Grow On” scheme where you can pay $50 to buy a carton for your office and then ship it to Findlay Ohio, where it’s emptied of coffee (composted) and on to the incinerator.
The at-or-near-cost price of Keurig machines is the vehicle used to get you hooked on the pods, which IS GMCR’s product; Keurig comprises 90% of their business now and is growing. A pound of GMCR goes for around $12 in a bag, but in pod form that pound of coffee might cost you around $50. Today’s enlightened citizen can flip a K-cup of his or her choice into the shiny machine, press a button and poof, coffee. Imagine if they should succeed in invading Italy…
50 K-Cups go to the landfill for every pound of ground coffee consumed! Are ya listening Moretown and Coventry?
There’s more. Near the end of the presentation Mr. Kelly mentioned that GMCR’s coming “2.0” model Keurig will be able to harvest your habits. NSA-like, they will collect information on what you brew, when you brew it, what time of day, and more. When asked to elaborate he got a little hesitant and said something about your cell phone lying on the kitchen counter…
Coffee will become less important in the future; Keurigs already make tea, cocoa, and hot cider pods but will soon be delivering Campbell’s soup, Coca Cola and whatever other beverage – cold or hot – you desire. All heated or cooled in plastic.
Some of you might be sensible enough to have one of those re-fillable filter-thingies that you can fill with your own coffee and use in your Keurig. My advice to you is to hang onto these models, because going forward (due to DRM protocols and RFID technology) it appears that you will not be allowed you to use them or any pod other than GMCR’s (oops–Keurig Green Mountain Inc’s). In mid-February a company known as Treehouse Foods brought a lawsuit against GMCR for this and other abuses of law, monopoly, etc. GMCR Keurig Green Mountain, Inc. – had already pre-emptively sued competitors because they just can’t have other coffee in their machines. [It’s a 141-page lawsuit].
I wish that on Monday they had removed “Green Mountain” from their new corporate name, as this company’s values bear little resemblance to Robert Stiller’s proud, progressive little company in Waterbury. Perhaps someone should create an online cemetery for those once-green-mountain-ish companies like this and Ben and Jerry’s who went down the rabbit hole.