A disruption in the supply chain caused by a labor dispute at West Coast ports has forced River Road Coffees to temporarily change its packaging.
Bright pastel-colored bags of River Road coffee are starting to reach grocery store shelves around Baton Rouge this week, replacing the company’s traditional gold bags.
Ian Melancon, owner of River Road, said he was forced to make the change because he’s been unable to receive shipments of the usual bags.
“It’s the same great product, in a different bag,” Melancon said. “This is the first time this has been a problem with us in 15 years.”
River Road’s usual coffee bags come from overseas and pass through one of the major West Coast ports before finally reaching the company’s Industriplex warehouse and distribution center. But a labor dispute that snarled cargo traffic at those ports kept the most recent shipment of bags from arriving on time.
“Our last shipment was due about a month ago,” Melancon said. “We have confirmed it is on a boat off the shore, but the boat has not been unloaded yet and we have no idea when it will be unloaded.”
Even though an agreement was reached in February between dock workers and port owners, it’s taking a while to work through the huge backlog of shipments that built up.
When River Road realized it wouldn’t be able to get its usual bags, the company took steps to find an alternative. “We had to roll with it,” Melancon said. “We couldn’t just let it go; we had to make something happen.”
A deal was reached to buy bags from a California manufacturer, in bright pastel colors that usually aren’t in much demand. River Road’s marketing team is pitching the change as a special limited edition “spring line.”
The new bags of River Road coffee started to reach store shelves this week. The company sells its products at more than 100 grocery stores within a 50-mile radius of Baton Rouge, stretching from Lafayette to Covington.
Because the bags just started to arrive at supermarkets, Melancon said he hasn’t heard any comments yet from store owners and customers. “We hope people can find the product,” he said.
Melancon said he figures the temporary bags will be on store shelves for another four or five weeks. “I suspect things are accelerating at the West Coast ports, but we’re still a few weeks away,” he said.
Follow Timothy Boone on Twitter, @TCB_TheAdvocate.