Bunn-O-Matic Corporation: A lifetime of service

One hundred and seventy years ago, an ambitious would-be politician walked into a small downtown grocery store in Springfield, Illinois. The store was owned by an aspiring businessman and the two became friends – maintainng that friendship throughout their careers despite following different professions. Their names live on today. The customer, Abraham Lincoln, went on to become the 16th President of the United States, leading the country through the American Civil War, while the business owner, Jacob Bunn, went on to establish the Bunn Capitol Wholesale Grocery Company. Jacob Bunn completed his education at Lawrenceville School in New Jersey and Princeton University, before working in New York as a reporter and editorial assistant. He also launched an active career as a wholesale grocer and leader of the Abraham Lincoln Association. For over 150 years, from Bunn’s initial start-up, the company continued to grow, branching  into various divisions – banking, watch making, electricity and railroad-building among them. In 1957, Jacob's descendent, George Bunn, further extended the company’s reach, formally establishing the Bunn-O-Matic Corporation (Bunn) – a company specialising in the design, manufacturing and sales of commercial and home beverage equipment. In that founding year, George Bunn invented the first flat-bottom paper coffee filter for commercial use. It was his goal to provide better-tasting coffee for restaurant service.  Throughout George Bunn’s reign as Bunn CEO, he led the company in the development of other advanced beverage equipment, including the pour-over coffee brewer in 1963 and the first commercial fresh-brewed iced tea brewer in 1978. Leading in his father Jacob’s footsteps, Arthur Hy Bunn joined the company in 1980 and was named President and CEO in 1988. Throughout Hy Bunn’s tenure, the Bunn product line has evolved from the initial coffee brewing products to those featuring the latest digital innovations in the dispensed beverage equipment industry, including the first electronic brewer to grinder interface in 1990, the digital brewer control in 1993 and products including the Soft Heat, the SplashGard funnel, the JDF Gourmet Juice and the first commercial grade single serve pod brewer. Five generations since the company’s initial founding, Hy Bunn continues to lead his grandfather’s legacy into the 21st Century. Hy Bunn notes that Bunn has become a global partner for profitable, reliable beverage equipment and post-purchase customer support. “Today, the Bunn brand is synonymous with honesty, integrity, courtesy and quality, all of which work together to uphold the company’s brand promise, ‘a partner you can count on’,” says Hy Bunn.
He says that the company continues to follow similar principles today to those introduced when the company was first incorporated. “The primary opportunity is not in selling equipment,” he says. “It’s about enabling our commercial customers to provide the best quality beverage in the cup. Of course coffee is where we started, but today our passion for quality in the cup extends to espresso, tea, juice, and water quality systems.” Hy Bunn attributes the success of the Bunn empire to their ability to listen to the specific requirements of customers and meet those needs. “I believe that what makes our company offerings so special is that we want to be a long-term partner with our customers,” Hy Bunn says. “A key measure of our success is that we are the partner of choice for our customers, wherever they do business around the world.” Over time, Bunn has expanded in the global market with plants and warehouses located in Iowa, New York, California, Canada, Mexico and the United Kingdom. “A business like ours must grow to remain healthy,” Hy Bunn says. “It is our goal to be a partner of choice wherever customers are around the world. Focusing on growth forces us to find new and better ways to bring value to all of our customers.” Hy Bunn says that although coffee tends to be ritualistic, different cultures have their own set of intricacies and it’s important to be aware of this when branching out into unfamiliar territories. “We do a lot of listening to understand the unique requirements of our customers and then enable them to maximise profitability without sacrificing a quality beverage in the cup,” Hy Bunn says. Following the growing demand of energy efficient products, Bunn has started to align its products with a renewed focus. Bunn’s new “Respect Earth” campaign aims to identify and respect natural resources throughout their supply chain with the ultimate goal of preserving the earth for future generations. The company has started Bunn using lead-free solder in the production of all electronic control boards; using energy saver features to lower tank heaters during periods of inactivity; converting product displays to long-life, energy-saving LED lights and; converting to biodegradable corrugated honeycomb cardboard instead of Styrofoam packaging material where feasible. “Part of our company mission statement is to contribute in a sustainable way to the world around us,” Hy Bunn says. “We are dedicated to carrying out internal programs that make it easier for our employees to recycle household goods such as dry cell batteries, printer ink cartridges, aerosol cans and fluorescent bulbs.” Most recently, Bunn has embraced new techniques in launching a single cup brewer – The Trifecta in 2010 – the first single automatic cup brewer using an air infusion process. “This product illustrates our ongoing commitment to delivering the highest possible quality beverage in each cup,” Hy Bunn says. The company has come a long way from its wholesale grocer roots but the company head office continues to operate out of Springfield, Illinois. With a network of offices globally though, who knows what will come next. GCR

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