Alterra Coffee changes name, splits with Mars

BERLIN, GERMANY - JANUARY 24: Kiduk Reus weighs a batch of raw coffee beans before roasting in his refurbished 1918 Probat coffee bean roaster at Bonanza Coffee Roasters on January 24, 2011 in Berlin, Germany. Reus is among a growing number of so-called third wave artisinal coffee bean roasters who are finding a niche market in Europe and the USA for their carefully-crafted and expensive coffee. Reus insists that the cast iron parts, the slow-roasting abilities and hands-on controls of his flame-roasting Probat machine allow him to develop the most flavour from his carefully selected beans. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)
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MILWAUKEE Alterra Coffee is changing its name and parting ways with Mars Inc., Alterra owners said Monday that nothing will change except for the company's name, which will now be Colectivo, inspired by the artsy buses used for public transportation in Latin America and the routine of everyday life.

"We've always been about celebrating the work we do," said Lincoln Fowler, one of Alterra's three founders. "It's a fabulous metaphor for our organization."

The name change is the result of the end of a three-year relationship with Mars Drinks, a subsidiary of Mars Inc. Fowler said it was mutually agreed that it was the right time to end that partnership and give up the Alterra name.

Fowler, his brother Ward Fowler and Paul Miller sold the name to Mars Drinks in 2010 for an undisclosed price and used the revenue to expand their coffee business. Mars distributes coffee globally under the Alterra name and will continue to do so.

"That was part of the concept from the very beginning. We knew when we originally did the transaction that the ultimate outcome would be that we would move forward as an independent company under a new name," Fowler said Monday.

The founders still own and operate the company and its 12 Wisconsin cafes, most located in the Milwaukee area. The owners began roasting coffee on the fifth floor of a warehouse near downtown Milwaukee in 1993. Its workforce has grown to 350 employees.

Colectivo has also renamed 11 of its coffee blends -- including Punch in the Face, which was renamed Maximilian -- and discontinued two others.

"Our organization is really built around change," Fowler said. "We are always looking at ways to change and improve what we do."