Kermit the Frog might have crooned about how difficult it is to be green, but for F. Gaviņa & Sons Inc., being green comes as easily as sipping a cup of vanilla nut coffee. The reason is easy, says Gaviņa Purchasing Manager Michael Gaviņa: It's the family culture.
F. Gaviņa & Sons, based in Vernon, Calif., operates as Gaviņa Gourmet Coffee, which produces the Don Francisco coffee and La Llave espresso brands. Gaviņa has a long-standing commitment to lessening its products' carbon footprint, reducing waste, cutting energy costs and using industry-leading green manufacturing practices.
Gaviņa Gourmet Coffee was an outgrowth of Don Francisco Gaviņa's coffee-growing business in Cuba. The coffee roasting company was formed in 1967, eight years after he abandoned his coffee plantation in Cuba when Fidel Castro seized power.
Son Pedro Gaviņa, president and CEO of Gaviņa, told Reuters in 2010: "We started with Cuban coffee. Then we realized there are other markets."
The company began roasting coffee for other ethnic markets, such as Middle Eastern and Vietnamese.
"If you cater to them," Pedro Gaviņa explained to Reuters, "you have a small section that is solid. They're very loyal customers."
That loyal base of ethnic markets helped the Gaviņa company expand. Today, it supplies major companies, such as McDonald's Corp. and Costco Wholesale Corp. Gaviņa's Don Francisco and La Llave brands are sold by Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Safeway Inc., Kroger Co. and CVS Caremark Corp.
Sales for 2009 ran to $114 million, up 5.5 percent from the previous year, and 2010 was looking even better. Marketing VP Leonor Gaviņa-Valls said the company gets about 18 percent of its revenue from its deal with McDonald's. Depending on the time of the year, Gaviņa has 285 to 310 employees.
In the specialty coffee market, Gaviņa does pretty good. It roasts 40 million pounds of coffee a year, well ahead of competitor Peet's Coffee & Tea's 25 million to 30 million pounds a year. But it does have a ways to go before rivaling the giant of the specialty coffee market, Starbucks, which roasts 367 million pounds of coffee a year.
Gaviņa remains a family-run business. Francisco Gaviņa is the vice president of operations, Jose Gaviņa is the chief financial officer and Peter Gaviņa is plant manager. Pedro, Francisco, Jose and Leonor are the children of Don Francisco Gaviņa. Michael and Peter Gaviņa represent what the family calls the "fourth generation" stepping into the business.
In 2007, the Gaviņa company was awarded the Solid Waste Alternative Programs Award by the city of Vernon for its then-newly inaugurated 240,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art roasting facility.
Over the past four years, they have raised their recycling rate to 84 percent and hope to have it at 90 percent within two years. For example, the burlap bags the coffee beans come in are resold at a modest price to a local vendor and reused by farmers up north. The silver skin on the coffee bean before roasting becomes what is called "coffee chaff " after roasting. "It makes the coffee too bitter," Michael Gaviņa says, so they sell it to a local vendor who uses it as animal feed fi ll.
Part of the Gaviņa company's routine is waste sorting, which helps make sure nonbiodegradable items are not sent to landfi lls. The company also recycles all its printer ink toners and batteries. In fact, it encourages employees to bring in their toner cartridges and batteries for recycling also. A special recycling effort occurs in the employee lunchroom. All soda cans and water bottles the employees bring to work are collected. The proceeds earned by this recycling effort are returned to a fund that belongs to the employees, which they can use, for example, for a special luncheon. And they recycle cell phones to a company that refurbishes them and sends them to Cuba.
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