Coffee prices might give jolt

AIKEN --- Two cups of joe with hazelnut liquid creamer help Amy Jernigan start her day, but don't expect to see name brands in her kitchen.

 

"I used to buy Dunkin' Donuts, and now I buy the Walmart brand," said the Aiken resident. "I can't tell the difference."

Because raw coffee prices nationally have climbed about 10 percent, java lovers might soon have a similar decision to make.

In the past few months, brands such as Dunkin' Donuts, Millstone and Folgers, all from J.M. Smucker Co., raised prices by about 9 percent.

On Wednesday, Starbucks also announced price increases, especially on big and labor-intensive drinks.

How that will play out at local Starbucks locations hasn't been decided, said district manager Liana Chapman.

Howard Schultz, the company's chairman, president and CEO, said prices on packaged coffee, including those sold in grocery stores, might rise.

Prices on basic coffee and espresso drinks might stay the same, or even drop.

Some Dunkin' Donuts locations haven't passed higher costs on to customers.

Sam Patel, the manager of the Washington Road store, said prices haven't changed in about five months.

MoonBeans, which provides roasts for New Moon Cafe in Aiken and Augusta, has had to pass its 10 percent cost increase on to customers.

A commodity-costs increase in the green coffee market, which provides beans that are ready to roast, has been the culprit, said employee Casey Wilson.

"We've always been a little bit more pricey, but if people really want a good coffee, then they've been willing to pay the extra price," he said.

Wilson said one benefit has been that regulars are trying roasts from other countries. Instead of the popular Colombian roast, which now goes for $16 a pound, they'll try a Kenyan roast for $4 per pound.

He said if the market doesn't stabilize, consumers will continue to see higher prices.

"You just really hate to see it like this," he said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Reach Julia Sellers at (803) 648-1395, ext. 111, or julia.sellers@augustachronicle.com.

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