Milwaukee’s Alterra Rebrands, Becomes Colectivo Coffee

Colectivo Logo

Feature by Sprudge contributor Liz Clayton, reporting live from Milwaukee.  

Breaking now with an inside scoop fresher than today’s frozen custard flavor, Sprudge.com is reporting that Milwaukee, Wisconsin’s venerated Alterra Coffee Roasters, originally founded in 1993, have hereby rebranded themselves as Colectivo Coffee. This rebranding effort – a rebirth, really – follows the sale of Alterra’s name and artistic assets to Mars Drinks, which we first reported in April of 2010.

Mars Drinks will continue to use the Alterra brand name for their own international single-serve and office coffee products (continue to look for Alterra frac-pacs at a blood donor clinic near you!), but the Milwaukee-based Alterra roastworks, cafes, bakery, sourcing and wholesale operations will soldier forth under new name of Colectivo. From the company’s official press release:

“We have now decided to give up the name and go our separate ways. The Alterra name will live on, but we will strike a new independent path.”

This marks an endgame of sorts for the Milwaukee brand’s unusual and according to co-owner Lincoln Fowler, “wildly misreported”, deal with Mars, which has given them the operational capital to expand, improve their sourcing, and ultimately reclaim their identity as the newly founded, and re-grounded, Colectivo.

The news was announced Sunday night at an all-hands meeting of more than 300 Alterra, now Colectivo Coffee, staff, at the historic Pabst Theater in Milwaukee. After the first two reassuring points of order (#1. You are not all here to get fired, and #2. There will be free beer after this meeting) all company members were informed by co-owner Lincoln Fowler that “The relationship with Mars ends tonight.”

For more on what this shift means for longtime Alterra fans, here’s some more official language from Colectivo:

In reality, nothing has changed except the name we call ourselves. While we fondly say goodbye to Alterra, we say hello to COLECTIVO and our new adventures. We have never been more committed to improving our craft, building sustainable relationships with our community, and growing the company we spent the last 20 years building.

What’s that mean, really? Colectivo aims to retain the quality standards upon which they’ve built for the past 20 years, using the Mars-propelled expansion and experience to position them advantageously for their next chapter. For those who interact with Colectivo, both within and outside of the company, a return to a more original voice is promised, one that will more accurately reflect the return to the spirit and ethos of the specialty coffee world.

“I guarantee you there will be a shift in the way we approach the community,” said Scott Lucey, outgoing head of the training department at Alterra and incumbent head of training at Colectivo. “We should allow more people to participate in that because it’s more fun, it’s more representative of the collective nature that we are. That’s the whole motivation behind the name ‘Colectivo’, is utilizing the diversity of all our people.”

Fowler reassured staff that the name would be the only thing to truly change, though the name of the bakery operations, as well as the future of their slow-pitch team, the Alterradactyls, remain in question.

Oh, and the name Colectivo? They liked this bus so much, they named the company after it.

¡Viva Colectivo! short story from Colectivo Coffee on Vimeo.

For more on the new Colectivo Coffee, visit ColectivoCoffee.com, like them on Facebook at ColectivoCoffee and follow them on Twitter @ColectivoCoffee. Note that they are also NOT these guys (but we kind of wish they were.)

Liz Clayton is the author of “Nice Coffee Time“, a regular columnist for Serious Eats: Drinks, and a contributor to Sprudge.com