Business

Despite move to Colorado, ganja not on the books for Marley Coffee

BY STEVEN JACKSON Business reporter jacksons@jamaicaobserver.com

Wednesday, January 29, 2014    

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JAMMIN Java, which trades as Marley Coffee,s will avoid entering into any legal ganja trade within the US state of Colorado, the location of its new headquarters, management indicated.

The matter becomes of importance based on the convergence of three elements: the brand's linkage to reggae legend Bob Marley who sang about ganja; the relocation of the company's headquarters to Colorado USA last summer from swanky Beverley Hills, California; and Colorado's relaxation of laws towards the sale and use of ganja in January this year.

But the coffee brand, which has elements of 'Rastafari' iconography (dreadlocks, Haile Selassie and a lion) on some packaging indicated that ganja will not form any new revenue stream for the fast-growing company valued at over US$4 million ($430 million) in equity.

"Marley Coffee will stay focused on the coffee business and products related to the coffee industry," according to CEO Brent Toevs in an Observer interview.

He added the company would avoid leveraging its brand recognition to enter this new legal revenue stream as it would derogate from core business.

"We are focused on coffee. We have so many projects and opportunities around our core business we need to

stay focused on these,"

he indicated.

Marley Coffee sells premium roasted coffee and is chaired by businessman Rohan Marley, the son of the reggae legend. It operates a local and US division and Rohan Marley owns some 25 per cent of both entities. Jamaica Blue Mountain coffee is among the most expensive coffees in the world due to its balance, aroma and lack of bitterness. It retails internationally for some US$50 a pound (454 grammes).

"Our decision to move our head office to Colorado was in no way based on marijuana laws or relaxation thereof," he stated in the interview.

Colorado is the first US state to legalise ganja. Some 20 other US states are at varying levels of legalisation, with California already selling medical marijuana. Colorado enacted Amendment 64, which allowed adults over 21 to legally grow, possess, consume ganja in limited amounts. It also provides for the licensing of cultivation facilities and retail stores.

Toevs told this reporter previously that Denver, Colorado, represented the organic centre of the US, which fit into Marley's thrust for quality coffee produced in the "ITAL" way.

Ital, a term developed within the 'Rastafari' community can mean natural or organic.

However, Marley Coffee developed ITAL as its own production standard which it compares to Fair Trade.

"The 'ITAL' seal is how we denote our commitment to these principles. In Rastafarian parlance, the initial syllable of a word is often replaced with the letter 'I' as a way to express the self-determination of the human race," indicates Marley Coffee on its website about its sustainable farm practices. "Thus, eternity becomes 'iternity', creation begets 'iration', and from vital comes 'ital'. We developed the ITAL seal, as our own promise and guarantee Marley Coffee will fight for what's pure, true, and vital."

Since last June (effective August), the company entered into a lease agreement for office space located on Tejon Street, Denver, Colorado.

The office space encompasses approximately 4,800 square feet with a US$7,800 monthly lease that will gradually rise to

roughly US$8,500 by 2016, financials indicate.

Marley Coffee is listed on the Nasdaq exchange in the US, which traded at 0.31 up to press time yesterday.

The company continues to be dogged by losses despite its rapid rise in revenues. Specifically, the company recorded a net loss of US$1.4 million for the October quarter despite a threefold rise in revenues.

It increased its revenues to US$2.2 million for the quarter, primarily based on expanding its "grocery retailer penetration" to 8,000 authorised locations compared with just 500 locations a year earlier.

However, Marley Coffee ended the period with an accumulated deficit of US$9.5 million but shareholders' equity grew to some US$3.9 million amidst an "additional paid in capital" in the

review period.

The company recently entered into agreements with Kroger and Safeway, both of which are listed on the New York Stock Exchange, and are described as the largest and second largest grocery chains in North America.

Marley Coffee, however, remains silent on a projected timeline for profitability.

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