CHICAGO – Coca-Cola has struck Columbian gold with a famous coffee farmer and his donkey.

Coca-Cola FoodService today announced it will offer restaurant operators The Juan Valdez Coffee System, a branded liquid coffee system.

The beverage giant announced the new solution at the National Restaurant Association Restaurant, Hotel-Motel Show May 20. A national announcement will be made May 21.

“People are getting their picture with the brand over here. That’s unusual with a coffee business,” says Jim Dinkins, vice president of marketing for the Coca-Cola FoodService Division, referring to the number of show attendees who stopped for photo ops with a costumed Juan Valdez spokesperson

Dinkins says Coca-Cola does not intend to take shares away from other coffee suppliers. Rather, “we are trying to grow the whole coffee category,” he says. “We’ve been in the coffee business in packaged can and the bottle form before, but this gives us the ability to become a one-stop coffee solutions provider.”

The branded liquid coffee system delivers a perfect cup of 100-percent Colombian Coffee on demand. Michael Hubert, senior strategy and development manager for Coca-Cola, says the system combines high-quality coffee and ease of operations with shelf stable, bag-in-box coffee concentrate packaging. The intention is to help foodservice operators improve operational efficiency.

“The Juan Valdez Coffee System is expected to be a big hit with foodservice operators,” says Hubert, who would not comment on whether any specific restaurants plan to test the system. “Not only does it easily deliver a branded, freshly-made cup of coffee, but operationally it is simpler and easier than current brewing systems.”

Coca-Cola FoodService Division President Chris Lowe (right) talks with a Columbian coffee farmer posing as Juan Valdez at the NRA Show May 20. Photo by Fred Minnick.

According to Coca-Cola, The Juan Valdez Coffee System can significantly increase coffee transactions, guaranteeing customers a hot, freshly made cup any time, with little or no waste. It will use Juan Valdez caféREALE coffee—a shelf-stable coffee concentrate that can be stored at room temperature for up to nine months.

Juan Valdez has been promoting 100-percent Colombian Coffee since the early 1960s. Coca-Cola says Juan Valdez has 87-percent brand awareness and nearly 50 years of brand equity. And now, the mostly retail brand will penetrate into the U.S. restaurant category.

“It’s a win win scenario for consumers and restaurants,” Hubert says. —Fred Minnick