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Green Mountain moves coffee buying to Switzerland, following rivals

Vermont-based coffee roaster and brewing technology maker Keurig Green Mountain will move most of its U.S. coffee buying operation to Switzerland, following rivals who have already moved to the global hub for commodities trading.

Moving purchasing from Vermont to French-speaking Lausanne, Switzerland, will establish the largest U.S. coffee retailer by value as a "global beverage player," a Green Mountain spokeswoman told Reuters.

This fall, Green Mountain formed a new corporate entity in Switzerland, called Keurig Trading. It expects to move a group of buyers currently in the United States to its new Swiss entity in Spring 2015, the spokeswoman said.

"The core of our green bean coffee procurement for our global manufacturing operations will take place in Switzerland, " said the spokeswoman.

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Procurement operations in Canada will not be affected.

With its favorable tax regime and convenient location for global trade, Switzerland is home to some of the world's biggest commodity merchants, including Glencore and Trafigura.

The spokeswoman would not comment on whether low taxes were a factor in the decision to move to Switzerland and would not provide "any forward-looking statements regarding impact to tax rates. "

Other major coffee houses, including U.S.-based Mondelez International, Israel-based Strauss Coffee and Swiss-based Nestle have buying operations in Switzerland.

In Lausanne, in the canton of Vaud, Green Mountain will join Starbucks, which moved there more than a decade ago.

Starbucks is currently being investigated by the European Commission over a tax deal with the Netherlands related to its Swiss affiliate.

Green Mountain became the largest coffee retailer by value in the United States in 2013, leading J.M. Smucker, Starbucks and Kraft, according to data from market research firm Euromonitor.

Smucker, the maker of Folgers, remained the leader in sales volume, but Green Mountain led the industry in sales volume growth, at 33 percent.

The rising popularity of its single-serve K-Cup technology, bolstered by new licensing agreements with other brands, is helping it gain sales market share, market participants said.

Keurig Green Mountain shares have risen 80 percent so far this year and were trading at $136.28 by Friday's market close. In May, Coca-Cola became the largest shareholder in the company, acquiring a 16 percent stake.