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Economics Alumnus Helps Brew a Coffee Change

Author: Scott Frano

Chris Stevens

Plenty of American office workers have used a Keurig coffee maker for a boost by now, and they can thank a Domer for the ubiquitous caffeine machine.

Chris Stevens ’74 is one of the original four co-founders of Keurig Premium Coffee Systems. Launched in 1998, the company is now the largest seller of coffee brewers in America. Stevens, who was an economics major in the College of Arts and Letters, is now vice president of corporate relations for Keurig.

Stevens had found success on teams before. As a senior, he was part of the Notre Dame basketball team that ended UCLA’s 88-game winning streak and he was vice president of his senior class.

A Keurig machine allows coffee drinkers to brew one cup of coffee at a time, rather than a full pot. Machines come with “K-Cup packs,” small containers of coffee for a single cup. In addition to Green Mountain Coffee (Keurig’s parent company), Newman’s Own, Caribou Coffee, and Starbucks all make packs compatible with the machine. Stevens said the idea came from noticing the inefficiency of coffee brewing.

“We consume coffee a cup at a time but we brew it a pot at a time,” Stevens said. “There was tremendous waste and limited variety. The whole idea was if we could give people variety, freshness, and convenience one cup at a time, then we might have something here.”

Stevens still has deep ties to Notre Dame. He serves on the Monogram Club Board of Directors and for the past three years has taught an annual course at the Mendoza College of Business for second-year M.B.A. candidates. Students give up their fall or spring break to take the week-long course.

Based in Reading, Mass., Keurig is involved with many local outreach programs, as well as larger campaigns.

“With our parent company, Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, we commit at least five percent of all of our profits toward corporate social responsibility initiatives,” Stevens said. “Helping the poor, the hungry, helping farmers in countries that grow the coffee have a better way of life. We also help local organizations and communities here, and we give our employees 52 hours a year of paid time off to volunteer into the community. As we continue to grow the business, we can give back more to those who need help.”

In addition to his role at Keurig, Stevens also owns three commercial websites, a real estate company based in Washington, D.C., and a Hollywood production company.

But even with all the work Stevens is involved in, it still gives him a bit of satisfaction to see Keurig machines in so many places.

“When we started this 16 years ago, we were trying to do coffee totally different than how the rest of the world was, and it was a multi-billion dollar industry,” Stevens said. “Now Keurig is the number one selling coffee brewer in America, not just single cup, but of any coffee brewer …. There is definitely a sense of pride.”

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