By Angela Rose | Mar 07, 2023
Coffee, tea, and botanical beverages
"CULT Artisan Beverage Company was founded by Rick Grayson along with his cousin," says Marsitto when explaining the family-owned company's history. "They started off with a specific espresso-type machine that they were hoping to sell and then quickly realized that there was a coffee market they could tap into as well. From there, they grew into the coffee sector, bringing in coffee, blending, and roasting. Later, they started doing teas, and from there, it kind of took off."
Marsitto joined the company 21 years ago and has been in the coffee industry for almost 30 years. "I was hired [at CULT] to roast," he says. "We do really old-school training in roasting here, where you roast under previous people for many years. So, I actually roasted at CULT for about 15 years under some really top guys in the industry as well as doing my own training with new, up-and-coming roasters."
Six years ago, he moved into his current position. "I still have my hands in the roasting department," Marsitto says. "I oversee production. I do all the purchasing of raw materials and that type of thing." He also oversees CULT’s innovation efforts, which are key to the company’s diverse portfolio.
"We’re constantly innovating," Marsitto explains. "And we really have just about everything we can offer for a coffee house, food service, or retail." This includes a full range of specialty-grade, organic certified coffees that are available in bulk as whole bean for coffee shops, restaurants, and food service as well as 10- to 12-ounce bags for grocery store retail, k-cups, coffee concentrates, kegged nitrogen-infused coffee, iced teas, botanicals, and cold brew cans.
Recently, CULT Artisan Beverage Company launched ready-to-drink botanical bottles, which are available in nearly 400 Sprouts Farmers Market stores nationwide. The company’s coffee products are in 126 Fry’s Marketplace stores in Arizona, and near the end of 2022, they launched their products in around 195 Albertsons and Safeway stores across four states.
Marsitto says CULT is certified for dry manufacturing, so all of its coffee roasting -- as well as the blending and packaging of coffee, dry teas, and botanicals -- is done in its 16,000-square-foot facility in Phoenix. Co-packers handle the company's liquid manufacturing. "We know what we're good at," Marsitto explains, "and we don't claim to know bottling and all that. We leave that to the pros, and they make us look good."
CULT's Phoenix facility houses three coffee roasters and multiple weigh-and-fill and form-and-fill lines. "Our smallest roaster is a four-barrel Jabez Burns Sample Roaster," Marsitto says. "That's what we do all of our cupping coffees with and some R&D. We also have a Probat 12 and a Jabez Burns 23R, which is a 600-pound coffee roaster. Our newest roaster, and the one that gets the majority of our work, is our Loring S70. It's a new machine in the industry and considered a green machine. It produces very little to no emissions, uses 80 percent less fuel than other roasters that size, and can do up to 150 pounds of roast."
Marsitto notes that CULT Artisan Beverage Company roasts about 650,000 pounds of coffee each year and blends about 200,000 pounds of teas and botanicals. In addition to the company's own products, CULT offers co-packing for other manufacturers.
"We have several different ways of doing that," Marsitto says, "whether it's retail coffees, portion packs, or filter packs. Sometimes our customer are other coffee companies that are using raw ingredients we've roasted for them and packaged under their name. We have some coffee roasters that will send us their green coffee, and we roast and package it under their name. One or two will send us roasted coffee, and we package it for them."
Challenges: Managing rapid growth has been CULT's biggest challenge. The company grew approximately 18 percent in 2022 and is looking at 40 percent growth in 2023.
"[Rapid growth] is a great thing to have," Marsitto says, "but you have to have enough space to have all the raw ingredients here along with the personnel to pack it. We run one shift [right now,] but may eventually have to run a second shift to keep up with demand."
Opportunities: Marsitto says the newly launched ready-to-drink botanical bottles have had great traction, and the company's retail presence for coffees has really taken off. Additionally, CULT is currently working on a contract with Xanterra, the hospitality company that runs properties for the National Park Service. "We're working on getting into all the facilities up at the Grand Canyon as far as hotels, restaurants, and coffee shops," he explains. "We're hopefully just about to wrap that up."
Needs: Marsitto says CULT Artisan Beverage Company could use a few minor pieces of packaging equipment along with a larger tea blender. "Obviously, with all of that, you have to have funding," he continues. "We're currently in investment raising right now and having success with that."