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West Michigan’s cows attract coffee producers
Philadelphia-based La Colombe Coffee Roasters selects Norton Shores to produce Draft Latte for nationwide distribution.
An abundance of milk is the main reason Philadelphia-based La Colombe Coffee Roasters picked Norton Shores as the site for producing its canned Draft Latte for nationwide distribution.
The company’s co-founder and CEO Todd Carmichael said along with the milk-producing bovine, West Michigan also offered up the perfect mix of people and facility.
“The first thing you look for is lots of cows, which make an ingredient we’re looking for, and Michigan is a super important and significant dairy state,” Carmichael said. “The quality of milk, there’s nowhere else with the quantity and quality of milk.”
La Colombe’s Draft Latte is made with frothed milk, cold-pressed espresso and injected with gas, and canned in a 9-ounce container. The company makes a variety of flavors, including plain, triple draft, mocha, vanilla and pure black.
The 55,000-square-foot former dairy facility La Colombe selected in Norton Shores is designed to accommodate an initial production of up to 250 million cans, each of which contains 7 ounces of milk. The company expected to spend more than $10 million on the property and machinery.
Carmichael said he hopes putting a latte production plant in West Michigan will help keep more milk in Michigan, as he said more than 50 percent of milk in the area is exported as a raw material to other states.
Draft Latte and its varieties of flavors will remain the main focus for the time being, but Carmichael said he could foresee the production of juices in the future. He said when the company first conceived the packaged texture coffee drink, he knew it would need to be scaled to a size that would necessitate a production facility.
“Right now, with the demand we have, the core Draft Latte needs to be the focus,” he said. “We had a product and realized it would be something to require significant infrastructure and support, so we ultimately are in Michigan because we did our research.”
Carmichael also said the Muskegon area reminds him of his hometown in Eastern Washington.
“When I go to Muskegon, I feel like I’m going home,” said Carmichael, who is in West Michigan multiple times a month. “The culture, I really enjoy. I hope this fit is perfect, because I want to stay here. The community, it’s hard to explain, but I really love it.”
Carmichael has branched out beyond running a coffee company. He set a world record as the first American to solo trek across Antarctica, doing so in a little more than 39 days. Carmichael also hosts Travel Channel’s show Dangerous Grounds and is a philanthropist, donating funds to the Orangutan Foundation International, and collaborating with Leonardo DiCaprio and the Clinton Foundation.
Carmichael and his business partner, JP Iberti, founded La Colombe in 1994, focusing on directly sourced coffees. The company plans to continue expanding its café locations and currently has 29 locations, including multiple spots in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and Washington D.C.
A location in West Michigan is not out of the realm of possibility, Carmichael said.
“Initially, it’ll be off the cuff,” Carmichael said. “It’s important we integrate with the community and a big part of the brand is to be a good neighbor, so when it’s not freezing out, we’ll look to do a café pop up in Muskegon.”