[caption id="attachment_90669" align="alignnone" width="500"] Guillermo Moran[/caption]
PETALUMA -- What estate vintners are to the wine business, Bendig-Moran Roasting, LLC, wants to be to the coffee business, and it's moving the tree-to-mug business to Petaluma this spring to accommodate a more than sevenfold increase in production after landing a major corporate customer.
Bendig-Moran (www.ecodelightcoffee.com) imports green coffee beans from its consortium of Central and South American growers, roasts them on equipment made by co-owner Bendig Machinery, SA, then wholesales bags of Eco-Delight Coffee brand roasted beans and grounds to retailers and corporate clients, according to managing member Guillermo Moran, 59, a fifth-generation coffee grower in the mountains of western El Salvador.
The U.S. operation launched as a combination roastery and coffee shop in Suisun City in 2010 and now plans to open a 9,000-square-foot, seven-employee production facility at 1616 Corporate Cir. in Petaluma's Lakeville Business Park by the end of April. The new location will have a second industrial-scale roasting machine from Bendig.
"After many years of talking with growers, we wanted to start a coffee company here to get closer to the consumer," Mr. Moran said.
[caption id="attachment_90668" align="alignright" width="270"] A second Bendig roaster is en route for the Petaluma plant.[/caption]
While the U.S. doesn't have the highest per-capita consumption of coffee in the world, it is the largest consumer overall, he noted. California was picked for the venture because it has a large economy, big concentration of makers of specialty coffee, a populace that tends to be adventurous with food and beverages, and is national trend-setter, he said. Suisun City was chosen because it was located between Sacramento and the Bay Area.
The Suisun City coffee shop was started at the 700 Main St. facility as a way to introduce aficionados to the coffee. Yet the coffee shop ended up being a money-losing venture, so it was closed last year.
However, the wholesale business has been building momentum, growing to five tons the second year and 35 tons the third year. The company started grinding roasted beans for wholesale in 2012.
The company was kick-started when a chef at a neighboring restaurant introduced Mr. Moran to the executive chef of a major Silicon Valley company. That connection led to Eco-Delight Coffee to securing a major new contract late last year.
Now, Bendig-Moran is projecting production having to increase to 300 tons annually for at least the next three years. That, plus objections to daytime bean-grinding at the formerly mostly vacant Suisun City building, led to the decision to move elsewhere.
The growing cluster of food-production companies in Petaluma was a major factor in the decision to move there, helped by market aspects that made California attractive, according to Mr. Moran and business consultant Valerie Navarro of Living Elements. The consultant is working with Bendig-Moran to set up an online system to show consumers the chain of control from coffee trees to drying to milling and roasting then what conservation projects the growers are undertaking.
Initial growers were in El Savador, Costa Rica and Nicaragua, but growers in Columbia and Brazil recently joined the mix. Bendig also is looking to gain a greater U.S. foothold for its roasting equipment.
A city of Petaluma economic-impact study released last month found that food and beverage producers in the city employ 1,150 people, support another 3,670 jobs and generate $1.3 billion in economic activity.