How a 150-year-old Cuban coffee family is innovating and remaining highly competitive in an oversaturated coffee market
Coffee traditionalists F. Gaviña & Sons, Inc. turned innovators
“My grandfather used dip my pacifier in coffee and say: “If you are going to live from this, you are going to have to learn to drink it” and I’ve never looked back,”” — Lisette Gaviña Lopez, 4th generation Cuban-American coffee roaster and Executive Marketing Director, F. Gaviña & Sons, Inc.
Lede: For over 150 years, the Gaviña family has solely been dedicated to the perfection of coffee — both in retail and wholesale.
But to get that quality taste that holds such an allure for cafe aficionados and Fortune 500 companies, perfectly roasted, high quality beans are needed.
CUBAN COFFEE DYNASTY
Second generation Francisco Gaviña was born in Cuba and with his wife Anatolia, they raised their 4 children there, teaching them about coffee. They left Cuba during the revolution and moved to Los Angeles in the early 1960’s. Prior to restarting the business in 1967, the Gaviña family had been in the coffee industry in Cuba for almost 100 years. From their very beginnings in Los Angeles, the Gaviña family created coffee blends and roasts that were familiar to them: dark roasted and intensely aromatic espresso, Gaviña coffee was first made for Cuban immigrants living in exile in Los Angeles. As their reputation for roasting coffee grew across the city, it attracted the tastebuds of the Middle Eastern, Vietnamese and other immigrant communities who also had an affinity for strong dark roast coffee.
From there, the Gaviña Family learned the taste preferences and preparations of American coffee consumers, and had a strong desire to sell their coffee in the grocery store. This led to the development of their flagship brand Don Francisco’s Coffee, named in their father’s honor, delivering that rich, bold, smooth taste that the family and the American market love. The current generations today (the third and fourth) are known as F. Gaviña & Sons, Inc., one of the largest family-owned coffee companies in America and the nation’s largest privately held, minority-owned roaster. They oversee the Gaviña Gourmet Coffee wholesale/food service brand and Don Francisco’s Coffee and Cafe La Llave retail brands. They have over 100 different blends and special roasts, from single origin to flavored coffees — to meet the needs of a diverse wholesale and retail market place.
HERITAGE & LATINIDAD
The Gaviña family’s Cafe La Llave brand pays homage to their Cuban culture, adhering to the Latin-style espresso aroma and flavor that many generations grew up on. It was born out of necessity, made for their Cuban community, tostado especialmente para el gusto latino.
“The cafecito drinking experience crosses generations and continues to be an essential part of our Latin tradition, which is also why it is important to us to offer more modern ways to make espresso for those generations who want quicker, easier ways to make their coffee, but still want the bold dark-roast taste that is so ingrained in the culture. In multigenerational homes, abuela makes coffee in “la greca stove top” and younger generations may choose the espresso or k-cup-style capsules,” says Gaviña Lopez.
She continues: “We are also uniquely positioned with Hispanic consumers because we are a Hispanic owned company, so we have a deep understanding of these consumer wants and needs,” she says.
Despite a long heritage in coffee, Gaviña recognizes the importance of innovating while respecting tradition. Considering the tremendous growth in espresso at home and espresso products and machines, F. Gaviña & Sons, Inc. wants to make accessibility a key part of their offerings.
To that end, they have quite literally encapsulated their traditional espresso blends into espresso capsules, and launched new innovative coffee products. Don Francisco’s Coffee espresso capsules, coffee pods, and organic cold brew are some of the newest innovations.
“So even product innovations for our flagship brand Don Francisco’s Coffee have a hint of our culture,” says Gaviña Lopez.
And in addition to maintaining a hint of Cuban culture, they are also keeping up with modern culture. Cue flavored coffees like the new Pumpkin Spice and Blueberry blends as a part of their seasonal offerings.
“We also love bringing new ideas for new recipes, trends and tips or highlighting our unique flavors like Pumpkin Spice and Blueberry — like how health conscious consumers are also using flavored coffee as part of their beverage mix because they provide that sweet treat without the guilt,” says Gaviña Lopez.
While all of the Don Francisco’s Coffee products use only 100 percent Arabica beans, Don Francisco’s Coffee Family Reserve is the brand’s polished diamond of coffee: Beyond sourcing only Arabica coffee, this special reserve uses even more highly selective Arabica beans.
Their coffee bag itself is an innovation in technology: It utilizes a proprietary one-way valve and foil barrier film to keep the coffee inside fresh with limited exposure to oxygen.
The Gaviña Family’s commitment to sustainability is just as important as their commitment to quality coffee. It can be seen in their Direct Impact Program, which has four pillars: Environmental sustainability, dedication to farmers, sustainable sourcing and social stewardship. For example, they operate a zero-waste-to-landfill roastery in Los Angeles and offer USDA certified organic, Fair Trade USA, and Rainforest Alliance coffees. Gaviña has a recycling program for their espresso capsules, coffee pods and coffee bags through the Terracycle recycling program and source from partners who share the vision of a greener coffee footprint. Regarding social stewardship, they invest back into coffee growing communities most recently with the construction of a wet mill in Colombia and Farmer Assistance projects in Guatemala.
“Our commitment to sustainability is at the core of our family and company values, and continuing to innovate while minimizing our environmental impact is at the center of everything we do,” says Gaviña Lopez.
Above all, Gaviña Lopez shares that if you have a good product and a taste profile that the consumer wants and likes, that is consistent and at a fair price, consumers will reward you with their loyalty. Their dedication to the customer and expertise in coffee is what led Gaviña to be responsible for suppling McDonald’s coffee on the West Coast. She likens coffee blends to wine “….you have to repeat the profile over and over again.” On the wholesale and foodservice side, it’s important to build the customer relationship and add value by being a constant support system for their business to grow. This means anything from helping them design their beverage menu to making sure they have the right equipment to meet their beverage goals. To that end, the Gaviña family has a state of the art roasting plant capable of providing the restaurant industry with some of the finest coffee around.
Being in the business for over 150 years, it is their determination and emphasis on long-term relationships that have led the Gaviña family to consistent success throughout the decades. The business today is run by the third and fourth generations of the Gaviña Family, like Lisette Gaviña Lopez, and are poised to keep the tradition of coffee alive for many years to come.
“Cubans tend to be hard working and strong willed— stubborn even. But many of those characteristics have helped us survive and thrive during difficult times. Thankfully we have always survived. Passion for coffee, perseverance, and a strong commitment to quality — that has never shifted,” says Gaviña Lopez.
About F. Gaviña & Sons, Inc.
Established in Vernon, California in 1967, F. Gaviña & Sons, Inc. is one of the largest family-owned coffee companies in America and the nation’s largest privately-held minority roaster. The company makes the highest-quality, family-crafted coffee, including flagship premium brand Don Francisco’s Coffee. The family’s unmatched coffee experience, as coffee growers and roasters, dates back nearly 150 years to the family’s humble beginnings in the rich coffee-bearing soil of Cuba, and has paved the way for a strong presence in wholesale and retail accounts across the country. To learn more about Gaviña Coffee and the Gaviña family, please visit www.gavina.com.