Alterra Coffee is now Colectivo Coffee
Gallery: Alterra Changes to Colectivo Coffee
In a move that could cause many Milwaukee coffee drinkers to do a spit-take, Alterra Coffee announced tonight that it will rename and rebrand itself as Colectivo Coffee. According to original co-founders and owners Ward and Lincoln Fowler, and Paul Miller, nothing will change but the name, which is now the exclusive property of Mars, Inc.
The news was first made public at a company-wide, mandatory staff meeting and 20th anniversary celebration held Sunday night at The Pabst Theater. Several Alterra managers were told about the change on Friday.
An April 2010 deal with Mars gave the Alterra brand an international profile, though the cafes and roastery in Milwaukee remained locally owned. That distinction sometimes caused confusion among customers but the agreement allowed Alterra to expand in the Milwaukee area and grow its workforce and community connections here.
Mars markets and now will expand its marketing of coffee under the Alterra name in the U.S., Canada, U.K., Germany, France, Korea and Japan. According to Lincoln Fowler, the name change was part of the 2010 deal.
"The Alterra brand is going global thanks to Mars Drinks while we chose to stay local," he said at the employee meeting and reiterated in a statement. "Maintaining full control of our company and employees' future was a priority in our deal with Mars.
"At the start of our relationship (with Mars), we decided to change our name in exchange for the long-term investment opportunity this transaction provided. Mars now solely controls the Alterra Coffee Roasters brand name while we strike a new independent path as Colectivo."
The new name was introduced to employees on Sunday via a presentation from all three owners and a short video that was narrated by Milwaukee musician Paul Cebar.
The presentation and a statement, signed by all three owners, explained the new name:
"We were inspired by the artful and funky buses used for public transportation across Latin America, 'colectivos,' and the iconic part of everyday life they represent for everyday people. We think this symbol is a great match for our brand and the collective experience we share through the products we make, the places we build, the communities we support and the customers we serve."
The company's owners worked with marketing director Scott Schwebel in early 2013 to find a suitable new name for Alterra and, said Schwebel, Colectivo quickly rose to the top of potential choices.
Beginning Monday all Alterra cafes and products will be renamed and packaged under the name Colectivo, a move that is the public embodiment of the end of Alterra's three-year relationship with Mars Foods, Inc.
Fittingly, the Colectivo rebranding will begin at the company's first cafe, 2211 N. Prospect Ave., opened in 1993, which will get new signage during the first week in August. The transition is expected to be complete by mid-September.
Check out OnMilwaukee.com tomorrow morning for a detailed, exclusive article about the name change and the future of the company.
-Jeff Sherman and Bobby Tanzilo contributed to this story.
Would it be cynical to presume that since the name Colectivo, like Alterra, is purposely non-specific to Milwaukee/WI that this is just the next brand name to be built up locally then sold off nationally?
mke64, I think we'd all like to see some real reporting on this situation rather than the media outlets simply repeating whatever Alterra/Collectivo puts out there. The owners are wrapping themselves up in the "we did this to remain local" shield and I think that might ignore a couple of things. Some you have mentioned, but there are others. For example, they state that they needed this capital to do the Bay View location. That brings up two questions: 1) Why did they need industrial revenue bonds (which really aren't meant for these kinds of business, but it helps to be buddies with the Mayor) 2) With all the success they've had, couldn't they just get a bank loan? Even there Wauwatosa location has an element of preferred governmental financing in it. Like I said, these guys are great businessmen and there's nothing really wrong with that. However, they have been able to present themselves essentially as the little engine that could with zero questions asked.
Am I the only person in Milwaukee to see the Alterra/Collectivo of today as just becoming another aggressive me-first and Milwaukee-last business? They're now competing head-on with everyone in town instead of building everyone up (ie. Letterbox Tea), building their stores in only the best neighborhoods instead of building neighborhoods (ie. Lincoln Square instead of Mitchell St.), opening stores directly across from other coffee and sandwich shops (ie. Bay View and Third Ward), and cashing out on everything they have including their own brand. It's like we all want "local" to succeed so much that we're overlooking how they're not the little roaster that could, they're now the 800lb gorilla that's better at business and the factory cafe experience than roasting quality, thoughtful coffee and making Milwaukee a better place. And by the way, it doesn't bother me that Collectivo is the gorilla, it only bothers me that nobody (including the press) even slightly questions what's going on, Collectivo is just the hometown favorite that has 350 employees and wants to be the next Starbucks but without the employee benefits or corporate philanthropy. And it doesn't even bother me that they sold out -- and they most definitely did, quite literally sold their own name! -- it feels like they're acting like their rebrand makes them somehow pure again. Wake up and smell that coffee, Milwaukee. -MKE64
I think the reason there's a blowback is that Alterra branded themselves to be something completely different than what they really are. They sold a concept that they were different and local/sustainable and it served them well from fending off competition from Starbucks and getting them great opportunities like their Lakefront location. What they really are is extraordinarily talented business people who created a tremendous business and when their was an opportunity to get some cash they took it.
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