|Van Houtte looks
to expand outside Quebec as Gerard Geoffrion becomes new
Single Cup Coffee
July 21, 2008
Montreal, Canada -- Gourmet coffee distributor Van
Houtte will focus on expanding its business in Canada
and the United States after appointing a new CEO and
creating a position devoted to growing the brand across
"Our main objective is to deploy the Van Houtte brand
much faster across North America and that's why we have
chosen to add a top executive in the team," newly
appointed chief executive Gerard Geoffrion, 55, said in
The 13-year veteran of the company succeeds Jean-Yves
Monette, 63, who becomes chairman after five years as
CEO, Van Houtte announced Monday.
In a related development, the company also said Sylvain
Toutant, 45, is joining Van Houtte as president of
retail. Responsibilities for the newly created position
were previously shared by several executives.
Toutant was previously president of the Reno-Depot home
hardware chain and the Quebec liquor commission. He will
now oversee Van Houtte's sales to grocery stores, as
well as the roasting and cafe bistro operations.
Van Houtte serves three million cups of coffee each day
at some 80,000 offices in Canada and the United States.
This accounts for two-thirds of its business. The
remaining one-third is in grocery retail, primarily in
its Quebec base and in Ontario.
Geoffrion said the company wanted to develop at a faster
pace in Ontario and the rest of Canada, and hopes to
expand its coffee services business in the U.S.
Montreal-based Van Houtte is the Canadian leader in the
coffee services business, holding 50 per cent market
share. In the highly fragmented U.S. market it trails
Aramark as No. 2, with just three per cent market share.
While Van Houtte has completed several acquisitions over
the last 10 to 15 years, there is a lot of room to add
other companies in the United States, Geoffrion said.
Van Houtte also operates 65 coffee houses in Quebec. It
has no immediate plans to expand this network and will
concentrate on upgrading and renovating locations,
Michael Klein, a director of Van Houtte and president of
Littlejohn & Co. LLC - the Connecticut fund which
acquired the company last year - said the new owners are
pleased with the continuity that comes with this
management change, given Geoffrion's key role with the
company for more than a decade.
"Gerard has excellent leadership capabilities and he has
a complete command of Van Houtte's North American
strategic growth and development strategy, which he
played a central role in creating, and we are confident
that he will be able to carry it out successfully,"
"As a member of Van Houtte's senior leadership, Gerard
led Van Houtte's expansion in the coffee service
business, notably through the acquisition and
integration of more than 200 businesses, and is largely
responsible for Van Houtte's leading position in the
North American coffee service industry."
Littlejohn paid $615 million last summer to acquire Van
Houtte and made a number of commitments related to Van
Houtte's management, operations, growth, employees and
other operations to secure Industry Canada approval for
Littlejohn of Greenwich, Conn., agreed in May 2007 to
pay $25 per share for Van Houtte and assume $58 million
in net debt. The total transaction was $600 million plus
$15 million in fees.
Not much has changed at Van Houtte since last year's
purchase, although sales have increased five to 10 per
cent to $400 million annually, said Geoffrion. Van
Houtte has hired 100 more people, raising its workforce
The new owners are very supportive, he noted. They
maintained the corporate head quarters in Montreal, kept
the management team in place and approved of its
Van Houtte was founded in 1919 as an importer of
specialty coffees from Europe. The Van Houtte family
carried on the business after the founder died in 1944.
It took on management partners in 1980 before going
public in 1987.