It was a white-knuckle affair when George Vukasin, Jr. jumped on board the family-owned business in 1997 to handle the purchasing amidst the wicked turbulence of the industry’s last pricing spike.
“I spent many sleepless nights during that baptism by fire. One day we were in good shape in our purchasing and the next day our positioning went in the opposite direction,” says Vukasin Jr. “But the whole time, my father was a rock, mentoring me all the way.”
His father, George Vukasin Sr., fell into the family-owned business with less willingness when his father, who founded Peerless, passed the baton.
As a third-generation family-owned specialty coffee roaster and tea purveyor, the company delivers the products today’s consumers demand: green certified, organic, fair trade and sustainable relationships with farmers.
That grower relationship is something each generation of leadership at Peerless tends to personally. Vukasin Jr. maintains the philosophy that only Vukasin family members travel and procure products.
“I’m traveling and meeting with farmers who remember my parents visiting them; these are 25-year, longstanding relationships that are very important to the products we produce,” Vukasin says, who purchased the company with his sister Kristina Brouhard from their parents last year.
The atmosphere today is all too familiar to Vukasin Jr. as he and his sister face another dramatic price hike. Coffee prices have doubled in the last six months.
Two reasons for the price increase exist, according to Vukasin Jr.
Supply & Demand. There is a razor-thin tightness as these two forces balance one another – this poise causes the markets to react in a jumpy way, driving up prices.
Value of the Dollar. Residual effects of the 2008 economic decline and the government’s printing of a lot of money kick start a devaluation process where the dollar falls and commodities are increased.
These factors don’t allowed coffee roasters to rebuild their supply. No matter the era, commodities will always fluctuate, but in their 88 years, Peerless hasn’t let price keep them from soaring. Two other critical factors for the company are always at play.
“In order for us to be successful we focus on quality; whether the price is up or down, we maintain the relationship with customers so we can better serve them. We also invest in our people and in our product,” says Vukasin Jr. who concentrates on innovations in blends, product origins and
new growing regions.
Even the partnership with Jordano’s was new territory, Vukasin Jr. says because the company prefers direct ties to our customers. “We admired Jordano’s approach; their philosophies mirrored our own,” Vukasin says.
Trust and integrity are important to both companies and it’s a partnership they hope will weather any storm.