On April 5, 2013 Caribou Coffee announced that it was closing 80 stores around the US while "rebranding" other stores as Peet's Coffee & Tea. 1,000 employees will lose their jobs with only 9 days notice. Meanwhile, disappointed customers and employees are deluging Caribou's Facebook page with complaints about the drastic closures and "rebranding." Below the swirl of social justice is the explanation.
Caribou Coffee was founded by a young couple who opened their first shop in Edina, Minnesota in 1992. Eight years later they sold their interest to Crescent Capital, later Arcapita of Atlanta, wholly owned by Arcapita Bank of Bahrain. With an Initial Public Offering in in 2005, Caribou Coffee became a publicly traded company and Arcapita sold out.
Now comes the really important part. In 2012 the Joh. A. Benckiser, company of Germany acquired Caribou Coffee for $340 million. This company is part holder of Reckitt Benckiser which is itself a British multinational consumer goods company based in Slough, UK.
So this coffee company which started out in Edina, Minnesota and spread to several states in the US is now part of a multinational conglomerate. And the brand, its employees and customers are all the worse for it.
Since the conglomerate also owns Peet's Coffee & Teas, 88 of the stores will be "rebranded" as Peet's stores. These employees will at least have jobs, but customers who chose Caribou over Starbucks, Dunkin' Donuts or other stores, have had that choice negated.
Multinational apparently see all coffee shops and interchangeable commodities and employees as merely expendable. People who felt their neighborhood store as a gathering place which offered a product they liked are irrelevant. In this light, Starbucks drive to put a store on every corner almost makes sense. Coffee is coffee and they want to be the ones to provide it.
I'm not a coffee drinker. I buy coffee for my family who found the "Caribou Blend" of Caribou Coffee is their preference. I did notice that when Caribou was rebranding during the period between their IPO and its acquisition by Benckiser that their tea selection which while limited was very nice went downhill. Instead of the nice, whole leaf Darjeeling, all I could find were flavored teas. Since I actually like the taste of tea, this was disappointing.
We can buy ground Caribou Blend at the grocery store, but the stores in our state are all closing. I can no longer buy whole bean coffee there, and I know my family will miss being able to buy an espresso or mocha from one of their stores. We do have Java Monkey in Decatur, Georgia, a real local coffee shop whose motto is, "Friends don't let friends buy Starbucks," but other than that it's either Starbucks, Dunkin' Donuts or Krispy Kreme. We will miss you Caribou.