Brands owned: Hills Brothers, MJB, Chock Full o’Nuts, and Chase and Sanborn
No transparency, little in the way of eco-friendly coffees despite enormous market share.
Massimo Zanetti Beverage Group is an Italy-based privately-held company. Through its subsidiary Massimo Zanetti Beverage USA, it owns a number of familiar American brands (Hills Brothers, MJB, Chock full o’Nuts, and Chase and Sanborn) which it acquired in 2005 from Sara Lee Corp; as well as Segofredo Zanetti, Kaua’i Coffee in Hawaii, and private brands.
Massimo Zanetti is thought to be the world’s largest independent coffee company. They trade, process, roast, and distribute coffee, with 11 roasting plants and operations in more than 100 countries. They also grow their own coffee on what is said to be the largest coffee plantation in the world, Nossa Senhora da Guia in Pimenta, Minas Gerais, Brazil. I estimate its size at between 2500 and 3000 hectares of sun coffee monoculture. You can view it here on Google Maps. With their 2011 acquisition of Kaua’i Coffee, they now own the U.S.’s largest coffee plantation, 1250 hectares of sun coffee monoculture. In total, they handle around 150,000 tons of green coffee annually.
Certified coffees and ecological sustainability
As a privately owned company, Massimo Zanetti does little in the way of disclosure of its sourcing practices. In fact, the green/healthy/safe product rating site Good Guide gave Massimo Zanetti Beverage USA a zero score for transparency in both the Environmental and Social Performance categories. Similarly, Europe’s Rank A Brand gave the Segofredo Zanetti brand a zero score and said this: “This is our lowest possible sustainability score, and Segafredo has earned it by communicating nothing concrete about the policies for environment, carbon emissions or labor conditions in low-wages countries. For us as consumers, it is unclear whether Segafredo is committed to sustainability or not.”
As for their U.S. brands, a search of each of the individual web sites found no organic or eco-certified varieties for Kaua’i Coffee, Hill’s Bros., Chase and Sanborn, Segafredo, or MJB. I found one variety out of ten of Chock full o’Nuts that is certified organic. Hills Bros. at one time had an organic/Rainforest Alliance certified blend that is apparently not in current production, although I have seen it still available at some retailers. I widened my search to include any certified coffee, and the organic Chock full o’Nuts was the only one. This represents only a tiny fraction of the 120,000 to 150,000 tons of coffee this company handles annually.
Since the company does not disclose any information, there are no further details on certified coffee purchases or ecological sustainability.
The Good Guide was also stymied in calculating ratings for Massimo Zanetti coffee brands. Each one scored <3.5 points out of ten, among the lowest scores (the lowest of any coffee brand is 3.2). The “environmental sustainability” scores were boosted by the 7 points earned in the packaging subcategory, since many of the brands are sold in recyclable steel cans. I’m not sure how they scored 3 points in the certifications category, which specified that the coffees carried no certifications.
In any event, Good Guide has these brands flagged as ones to avoid. I completely concur. None of these brands represents good ecological practices, protecting biodiversity and habitat, or environmental sustainability. Or if they do, nobody is telling.