A look at the people behind the numbers in area business:
BILL KIRKPATRICK, CAMERON’S COFFEE, CEO
Bill Kirkpatrick, CEO of Shakopee-based Cameron’s Coffee, is planning for continued growth as the regional roasting company takes on larger rivals.
Kirkpatrick, who has led Cameron’s since 1996, recently discussed that challenge before the Regional Economic Gardening Network, a program for growth companies established by Hennepin, Carver, Anoka, Scott and Ramsey counties.
“Over the last 20 years we’ve gone from a small local roaster with a very primitive facility to converting to a true [consumer packaged goods] company,” Kirkpatrick said. “But we still have the heart of a small company.”
Cameron’s mission is to “democratize specialty coffee,” by roasting only certified specialty-grade coffee but offering it at “prices that people can afford,” Kirkpatrick said.
Cameron’s has flavors, blends and origins of coffee that consumers won’t find elsewhere, said Kirkpatrick, whose 40 weeks of travel a year include visiting growers and millers in Honduras and other countries to find unique products.
The company is enjoying growth with retailers including Cub Foods, private-label brand partners and its single-serve coffee. The single-serve product is brewed through a filter instead of a plastic cup, so it tastes better, Kirkpatrick said, while typically costing less.
Plans next year call for converting all single-serve products to “99 percent compostable and biodegradable” materials, addressing an issue that’s especially important to millennial consumers.
Meanwhile, Cameron’s is looking for expansion space. “Ideally we’d like to grow in this neighborhood,” Kirkpatrick said. “We like the workforce and the city of Shakopee has been very good to us.”
Q: What challenges does Cameron’s face as it challenges national brands?
A: We don’t have the well-known brand that other companies do but we have the quality, as good or better than any on the shelf. Some buyers don’t understand specialty coffee and some don’t even drink coffee. So when we come to them with an exceptional product and a great price, they don’t understand the price-value relationship. It’s not until it can get to the consumer … that we start to see the sales.
Q: What’s been your best decision in leading the company?
A: Over the years, it’s sometimes tempting to buy lower-grade coffees. It’s tempting to cut corners but we’ve resisted the temptation. I think that’s why we’ve continued to grow when other regional coffee companies in many cases have struggled.
Q: How big would you like Cameron’s to get?
A: We’d love to be a national company and that is our goal. We’ll try to continue to grow this to a national scale and do it using the same premise, which is democratizing specialty coffee.