Stumptown Coffee Roasters, which brought artisanal java from its Portland, Oregon, roots to mainstream American caffeine consumers, is being acquired by Peet’s Coffee & Tea, an older, larger, and decidedly less hip competitor.
The news was enough to send coffee snobs into a panic, though Peet’s said that Stumptown would continue to operate independently. Like other craft coffee purveyors, Stumptown has recently opened additional shops across the United States and expanded distribution of its beans through cafés and restaurants and with a new mail-order service.
But fans of Stumptown shouldn’t be surprised: Since 2011, the company’s majority owner has been private equity firm TSG. Needing to show a return on its investment, TSG was bound to seek an exit for Stumptown.
It found a buyer in Peet’s, which itself began as an independent coffee shop in Berkeley, California, 49 years ago. Since 2012, however, Peet’s has been controlled by JAB Holding Company, the fascinating investment arm of the very private and extremely wealthy Reimann family of Germany.
Though Peet’s is run as a separate company, JAB also co-owns the world’s largest company that only produces coffee, a joint venture with Mondelez called Jacobs Douwe Egberts that owns brands accounting for more than 15% of global retail coffee sales, according to Euromonitor. JAB also owns Caribou Coffee, and the firm has reportedly been looking for more investments in North America. Stumptown gives JAB a high-end presence in the coffee market that it previously lacked.
Stumptown is among the largest companies to have championed the “third wave” of coffee, in which cultivation, roasting, and brewing is treated similar to wine and other artisanal goods. A similar firm, Blue Bottle Coffee Company, has also taken large investments to fund an expansion well beyond its Oakland, California, roots.