Calif. dockworkers strike leads to ‘crazy colored bags’ for River Road Coffees products

Just in time for Easter, River Road Coffees products are appearing on local store shelves in brightly colored bags, a departure from the traditional gold foil packaging. But the spring-toned coffee bags are not a seasonal gimmick. Rather, they’re a stopgap solution to a problem the local coffee manufacturer encountered last month, when its West Coast-based bag supplier said it wouldn’t be able to deliver the next shipment of River Road’s signature gold bags due to a backlog created by the California dockworkers’ strike.

“It really wasn’t their fault,” says River Road Coffees owner Ian Melancon. “They needed raw materials to manufacture the bags, and even though the dock strike has ended there’s a two- or three-month backlog to get supplies off those ships. They kept telling us they thought they could do it, but finally they said, ‘We’re sorry, we won’t have them.’”

Melancon was less than two weeks away from running out of bags when he got the word that he wouldn’t be getting any more. Faced with being unable to fill orders at local supermarkets, Melancon says he agreed to buy from his supplier some extra bags in a variety of random colors that the company had in its warehouse. He then asked his design team to quickly redesign and print new labels, because the gold bags already have preprinted labels.

So far, the situation has cost the coffee company several thousand dollars, though Melancon estimates it will likely be much more than that when all is said and done. He is hopeful, however, that customers will like the brightly colored bags so much they’ll buy more coffee than usual, helping offset the expenses.

“We’re just going to have to make lemonade from lemons until things get back to normal,” he says.

That should be about in a month. In the meantime, he says, “We just hope our customers don’t like the crazy colored bags so much that they begin insisting we keep using them permanently.”

—Stephanie Riegel

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