By Jamie Siebrase | Sep 07, 2015
Nineteen-year-old Luna Gourmet Coffee & Tea Company just doubled in size, adding 25 new employees after acquiring Denver's iconic Boyer's Coffee brand last March.
"Boyer's was founded here 50 years ago, and we'd always been friendly competitors," says President Jason Barrow, co-owner with his brother Doug, better known as the company's Roastmaster.
The Boyer's acquisition is Luna's fourth in a decade. "We've taken a very calculated approach to building one of the most capable coffee roasting companies in the U.S.," Jason explains, noting that diversification was the key to penetrating a market with the second most traded commodity in the world.
Luna dabbles in fancy loose-leaf teas and fine sipping cocoas, but its prowess has always been coffee.
It started with Luna Roasters, which the Barrows bought in 2005 when they decided to ditch corporate America.
"We were raised in an Italian family where tradition is an important thing, and we grew up with a strong food and coffee culture," says Doug. When he and his brother took over Luna Roasters, they were the sole employees.
"We really got the blueprint down of what it means to be a micro-roaster," Jason says, noting that their inaugural brand is a restaurant coffee that -- thanks to close collaborations with executive chefs -- perfectly pairs brews to entrées.
Boulder Organic Coffee was Luna's second addition in 2010. "That got us into a full suite of certified USDA organic, fair trade coffees," Jason says. It also got them into over 100 Front Range coffee shops and cafes.
A year later, the duo established their online footprint when they purchased Boca Java and brought the Florida-based company to Denver.
"What this got us was an entire online business model," Jason says. Today, his company sells to customers in every state, and it ships to the U.S. military, too. Boca Java specializes in roast-to-order beans, meaning customers place their orders, and their coffee is roasted, packed and shipped within two days, delivering freshness you can taste.
"Now," says Jason, "Boyer's brings us the oldest, most established brand in Colorado, and, more importantly, it gets us into brick-and-mortar grocery and club space."
In Colorado, Luna's sold in 300 grocery store chains including Safeway, King Soopers, City Market, Albertsons, Walmart and Sam's Club; the company also has a presence in Texas's HEB groceries -- plus, theirs is the official coffee of Frontier Airlines.
When you put it all together, Luna has its hands in every aspect of the industry, with a diverse line-up of products that includes proprietary blended roasts, flavored coffee and imported coffee beans from more than 40 different origins around the globe.
Each brand is distinct, true, but what they have in common is quality. All Luna beans are 100 percent Arabica. "The vast and complex world of coffee is all about the journey from seed to cup. To develop the best flavor profiles we partner with the best farmers," Doug elaborates.
Location played a role in the brand's success, too. Denver's high elevation and low humidity are the perfect ingredients for flavorful coffee.
Here's another tasty tidbit: Luna has donated more than $800,000 worth of medical relief to farmers in conjunction with Project C.U.R.E. over the past eight years, and has given more than 8.5 million cups of coffee to the U.S. Military. It also partners with organizations such as Habitat for Humanity and Surfers for Autism, and Luna Gourmet will continue the Boyer's tradition of serving coffee to the homeless on Thanksgiving with the Denver Rescue Mission.
"We were brought up to give back. Not only do we buy great coffee, we're also trying to make a difference with every cup we sell," Jason says.
Challenges: The Boyer acquisition came with some new real estate. The Barrow brothers are relocating a 40,000-square-foot plant into one of the Boyer's parcels, all while attempting to integrate two different company cultures with all-company community events like barbecues.
Opportunities: "It seems like the sky's the limit for us," says Doug. Having a multi-channel and multi-brand approach puts the Barrows in a good position to continue driving their business further.
Needs: Luna's biggest focus is presently on marketing and advertising. "We have a good amount of market penetration. Now we need to tell the brand story in the right voice," Jason says.