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by Giorgio Milos

The Last Mile

Categories: 2014, FebruaryTags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , Author:

As cliché as it may sound, cof­fee is in my blood.   Some of my ear­li­est and warmest mem­o­ries are of my grandmother’s kitchen, a well-worn moka pot gen­tly bub­bling (which I would later dis­cover isn’t a good thing!) on the stove, fill­ing the room with rich and famil­iar aro­mas.  My mother Silva worked her entire career in qual­ity con­trol at illy Caffé’s head­quar­ters in Trieste, the Adriatic port city in north­east­ern Italy where cof­fee first entered Europe in the 16th cen­tury.  Coffee was all around me, and I loved it.  Therefore, becom­ing a barista was the nat­ural thing to do, and a deci­sion that pays rewards every sin­gle day; with every stu­dent who learns to cre­ate that per­fect espresso, rich crema beau­ti­fully intact, and every smile on the faces of cof­fee lovers, their tongues painted with a lit­tle some­thing that brings pure pleasure.

I was hon­ored when the owner of CoffeeTalk invited me to con­tribute a recur­ring col­umn that gives the barista’s point of view on our indus­try.   This kind of reg­u­lar voice is vital in America; where baris­tas don’t enjoy the pro­fes­sional stand­ing that baristi do in my home coun­try, even though they have become a part of every­day life, every­where, from cut­ting edge down­towns to sub­ur­ban malls.

I’ve spent almost four years as illy’s Master Barista for North America. The expe­ri­ence has been ener­giz­ing.  For one, I’ve gained immense appre­ci­a­tion and respect for the pas­sion­ate com­mu­nity of baris­tas, café own­ers, hos­pi­tal­ity exec­u­tives, and oth­ers who make up the cof­fee pro­fes­sion in this coun­try.  There is an incred­i­ble desire to learn, inno­vate, delight, and take the craft of cof­fee to a higher place.  It is a spirit that is last felt in my coun­try in the 1930s and 1940s, when Italian-engineered refine­ments to espresso mak­ing (some pio­neered by my company’s founder, Francesco Illy) gave rise to an era of rapid inno­va­tion and growth.  You can find excel­lent cof­fee through­out much of Italy, a kind of birthright, like great burg­ers here in the United States, but you don’t find the energy that comes with, what might be called, the “young adult­hood” phase that cof­fee in the U.S. is in today.

Illy brought me to the U.S. for rea­sons that explain this column’s title: mak­ing sure that our coffee’s very last, most crit­i­cal, trans­for­ma­tional steps are han­dled prop­erly.   My com­pany is mani­a­cal (in the best of ways) about opti­miz­ing qual­ity at every link along the cof­fee chain.  We pur­chase beans directly from farm­ers on four con­ti­nents who meet our high stan­dards for qual­ity, many of whom we edu­cate on sus­tain­able agro­nom­i­cal and busi­ness prac­tices; teach and finan­cially sup­port ecologically-responsible pro­cess­ing, like the semi-washed method that we helped revive; roast and per­form more than 100 qual­ity checks at our one plant in Trieste; and pack­age our cof­fee with inert gas to pro­long its freshness.

But none of it is any good if prepa­ra­tion is sub­par, if that last mile isn’t walked in the right shoes.  My main mis­sion is to spread barista best prac­tices, if you will, to make sure that every whole bean ground, every shot pulled, every Chemex poured, and every cof­fee drink cre­ated does jus­tice to every step that came before and cre­ates plea­sure in the cup.  I spend about half of my days on the road, vis­it­ing illy accounts of all vari­eties, from major resorts to cor­ner cafes, diag­nos­ing equip­ment, gaug­ing knowl­edge, con­duct­ing on-site train­ing, and teach­ing cof­fee bev­er­age cre­ation that con­nects the dots from what hap­pens at the farm to the cup right in front of us.  The idea is to pro­vide a big­ger pic­ture of the under­stand­ing of cof­fee that puts into con­text every detail and action behind the bar, and indeed help baris­tas, man­agers, and own­ers see why no detail is too small.

My goal is to bring that phi­los­o­phy to life in ways that mat­ter for loyal read­ers of CoffeeTalk.  Whether you are a roaster, an equip­ment man­u­fac­turer, logis­ti­cian, dis­trib­u­tor, or café owner, I hope that see­ing the world through a barista’s eye can help inform deci­sion mak­ing, inspire inno­va­tion, or sim­ply pro­vide an occa­sional thought worth clip­ping and keeping.

Topics will be as wide-ranging as cof­fee itself.   One issue may bring prac­ti­cal advice on prin­ci­ples of bev­er­age cre­ation; the next, could be a bigger-picture take on the indus­try itself.   I’ll write about dynamic baris­tas and other pro­fes­sion­als that I meet on the road and at home in New York, with inspir­ing sto­ries to share.  And I won’t shy away from tak­ing a stand.  (Sneak pre­view: play­ing around with the clas­sic for­mula for espresso prepa­ra­tion: not always a good idea!)

I look for­ward to your com­ments and opin­ions, and I invite you to fol­low me on Twitter (@Giorgio_Milos) and at masterbarista.tumblr.com.

Giorgio Milos is illy’s award-winning Master Barista and illy’s North American Barista in Residence who reg­u­larly ven­tures beyond the cup to study the biol­ogy and chem­istry of the cof­fee bean, con­tin­u­ally striv­ing to mas­ter the bev­er­age that is his pas­sion and profession.

On the Shoulders of Giants

Categories: 2014, FebruaryTags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , Author:

How do you com­pete with giants in the super­mar­ket cof­fee aisle?
Phil Johnson learned that les­son early on in his career.  In doing so, he brought gourmet cof­fee into the nation’s gro­cery stores and turned a loss leader item into a qual­ity profit producer.

The Early Years
Johnson grew up the old­est of three chil­dren in Everett, Washington.  After high school, he went to work at the nearby Scott Paper Company in the ship­ping depart­ment.  “I couldn’t afford col­lege at the time,” Johnson said, “So the Army made sense. The Army taught me dis­ci­pline, lead­er­ship, respon­si­bil­ity, and con­vinced me that I had inner reserves.”

After ser­vice, First Lieutenant Johnson moved back to Everett and started work­ing for The Boeing Company on the first 747.  While he rec­og­nized the high qual­ity prod­uct that they were pro­duc­ing, he was not sat­is­fied with the lack of oppor­tu­nity to be rewarded for indi­vid­ual achieve­ment in the work­place.  With a strong work ethic, he felt that if he worked smarter and harder than the oth­ers, then he should be rewarded in kind.

From this real­iza­tion, he knew he wanted some­thing more. Johnson’s cousin told him to con­sider sales.  “Phil,” he said, “you look good, and you’ve got the gift of gab.  In sales, you can get an expense account and car allowance.”

Getting a Start
Johnson started his con­sumer prod­uct sales career with Scott Paper and stayed with them for four years.  He then went to work for Liggett & Myers Tobacco in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, but he was asked to move fre­quently and longed to return to Everett.

Johnson explained that his cousin, who talked him into sales in the first place, then hired him into the gro­cery whole­sale busi­ness.  He worked for his cousin and then later decided to open his own food bro­ker­age business.

The busi­ness did not work, but fail­ing became a great teacher,” Johnson said.  “When the busi­ness fal­tered, one of my clients, Good Host Foods, offered me a job sell­ing cof­fee to restau­rants.”  Johnson’s life moved in a new direction.

A New Opportunity
Back in the late 70’s when Johnson started work­ing for Good Host Foods, there was vir­tu­ally no gourmet cof­fee at the super­mar­ket level.  Good Host’s main busi­ness was insti­tu­tional cof­fee.   Johnson wanted to get back involved in con­sumer prod­uct sales at the retail level by tak­ing Good Host prod­ucts and putting them into the retail stores; but how could he com­pete with the major national brands and the strong west coast regional brands?

Our com­pany offered spe­cialty cof­fees and sold it to spe­cialty stores in 100 pound bags, so I asked myself, ‘How can gourmet brands com­pete in a pre-packaged mar­ket­place?’” Johnson said.

While research­ing the cof­fee aisle, he phys­i­cally ran into a Hoodie nut dis­play unit and the light bulb went off.  Coffee could flow through grav­ity fed dis­penser bins, the con­sumer could see the prod­uct, smell the prod­uct, and if the dis­play unit was built prop­erly, they could grind the prod­uct in the store to take home.

Johnson thought it was the only way he could com­pete and at the same time offer con­sumers a gourmet cof­fee prod­uct that hereto­fore was only avail­able in spe­cialty stores.

Millstone Coffee was Born
After a cou­ple of years, Good Host elected to sell their only US branch, giv­ing Johnson the oppor­tu­nity to acquire from them the retail gourmet cof­fee busi­ness that he suc­cess­fully devel­oped for them.  In 1981 he acquired the busi­ness, renamed it Millstone Coffee, and a new busi­ness was born.

Johnson was sure there was a cer­tain por­tion of the pop­u­la­tion that, if a gourmet cof­fee prod­uct were offered in a super­mar­ket set­ting, sales would increase for the retailer and pro­vide them with a profit mar­gin that they weren’t receiv­ing on national branded cof­fees, a prod­uct that had pre­vi­ously been a loss-leaders.

The premise was that Millstone would sup­ply and main­tain the equip­ment at the store level, deliver the prod­uct at the store level, mer­chan­dise the prod­uct, keep the dis­play unit clean, and ensure that the prod­uct was fresh.  The only thing the retailer had to do was check the prod­uct in at the back door and check the prod­uct out to the con­sumer at the front door at a healthy profit.

From Millstone Coffee to Cascade Coffee
Millstone Coffee rode the spe­cialty cof­fee wave from 1981 to 1995 when Johnson sold the com­pany to Proctor & Gamble.  At that time, the com­pany was national in scope and was grow­ing at about 30 per­cent per year.  Upon sell­ing the busi­ness to P&G, Johnson cre­ated Cascade Coffee and sold por­tions of it to his employ­ees, who then ran the com­pany.  They signed a con­tract with P&G to pro­duce prod­uct for them, and today, Cascade Coffee employs approx­i­mately 200 peo­ple and roasts cof­fee for some of the largest cof­fee com­pa­nies in the United States.

In the early years of Cascade’s devel­op­ment, Johnson stepped away from the busi­ness, learned how to grow cof­fee in Kona, and in the last few years, Johnson has rejoined the busi­ness, reunit­ing with the tal­ented core team he attrib­utes to the suc­cess of Millstone Coffee. Much to his delight, his son and his wife have joined the group in mak­ing Cascade Coffee one of the pre­mière con­tract man­u­fac­tur­ers in the country.

Johnson’s entry into the gourmet cof­fee busi­ness at the retail level led many con­sumers to dis­cover the won­der­ful bev­er­age of gourmet cof­fee.  The cat­e­gory has changed dra­mat­i­cally since the incep­tion of Johnson’s idea back in 1979.  The con­sumer is now used to gourmet cof­fee and accepts it in a ground, pre-pack form that is read­ily avail­able in super­mar­kets, in many vari­eties from many dif­fer­ent man­u­fac­tur­ers.  Where in the early and mid-90’s, a super­mar­ket would have eight to 16 feet of bulk dis­penser units, they now have eight to 16 feet of pre-packed gourmet cof­fee.  The busi­ness con­tin­ues to evolve with the advent of sin­gle serve cof­fee that is still in its infancy.

Through it all, Cascade Coffee’s com­mit­ment to qual­ity and ser­vice keep them on the lead­ing edge of a still grow­ing industry.

Phil Johnson, Founder Millstone Coffee, CEO, Cascade Coffee, Inc.

Start-up Strategies

Categories: 2014, FebruaryTags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , Author:

Think­ing of open­ing a cof­fee shop? As in any busi­ness, care­ful plan­ning is vital to suc­cess. Here are some strate­gies to ensure that your cof­fee shop gets off to a sen­sa­tional and prof­itable start.

Lead with loca­tion. As in most retail ven­tures, loca­tion can make or break your cof­fee shop. Search for a highly vis­i­ble spot on the way to, or near, an area where prospec­tive cus­tomers work, go to school, shop, or travel. This is because at least 60 per­cent of spe­cialty cof­fee pur­chases occur in the morn­ing. The best loca­tions are on the side of the road because of morn­ing traf­fic and the high traf­fic vol­ume dur­ing morn­ing rush hour. A large vol­ume of pedes­trian traf­fic is another pos­i­tive loca­tion factor.

Good loca­tions often can be found in or near:
•    Downtown office build­ings
•    Colleges and Universities
•    Tourist areas with a high vol­ume of pedes­trian traf­fic
•    Strip malls with high-volume traf­fic
•    Airports

Location is so impor­tant that you may need to wait for the right spot to open up. The rent of your loca­tion should take up no more than 15 per­cent of your oper­at­ing expenses in the first year.

Think effi­ciency when arrang­ing your shop. By speed­ing up the drink prepa­ra­tion and cus­tomer ser­vice, the ideal cof­fee bar lay­out can boost prof­its by 20 per­cent or more. People hate to wait, espe­cially when they haven’t had their morn­ing jolt of java yet. Set up equip­ment and ingre­di­ents within easy reach of the barista. Locate the cash reg­is­ter within two steps of the espresso machine. Your cus­tomers will mar­vel at how speed­ily and grace­fully your baris­tas and cashiers fill their orders.

Buy the best. Specialty cof­fee cus­tomers are pas­sion­ate about the qual­ity and ori­gin of their cof­fee. One strat­egy to attract and keep cus­tomers is to gain a rep­u­ta­tion for serv­ing the best drinks in town. So don’t skimp on prod­ucts or equip­ment. Any money saved by buy­ing lower-grade beans or used equip­ment in the begin­ning will be lost sev­eral times over as cus­tomers leave your shop and don’t come back.

The espresso machine is the heart of any cof­fee shop. Buy the best machine and learn how to main­tain it prop­erly. Remember, if the espresso machine goes down, so does your business!

Top-quality cof­fee beans, syrups, milk, and other ingre­di­ents are essen­tial to your suc­cess. Rigorously taste-test the cof­fee you plan to serve and only order from roast­ers that guar­an­tee qual­ity and fresh­ness. To keep inven­tory costs low, find sup­pli­ers who can deliver top-notch ingre­di­ents as you need them.

Make mar­ket­ing a pri­or­ity. Too many coffee-shop own­ers think cus­tomers will appear as if by magic once they open their doors. In real­ity, mar­ket­ing must be an ongo­ing pri­or­ity. Marketing begins with promi­nent out­door sig­nage, your in-store menu, and point-of-purchase dis­plays. You also need an online pres­ence, such as a web­site or Facebook page that is updated reg­u­larly. You need to reach out to poten­tial cus­tomers who will be dri­ving or walk­ing past your store. I dis­cussed mar­ket­ing tech­niques in the March and April 2013 issues of CoffeeTalk.

Get hands-on train­ing. Thorough train­ing for both own­ers and baris­tas is one of the most crit­i­cal fac­tors in start­ing and run­ning a suc­cess­ful cof­fee house. You’ll need in-depth instruc­tion from experts cov­er­ing every­thing from oper­at­ing your equip­ment, to prepar­ing drinks, and more. I reviewed train­ing essen­tials in the June 2013 issue of CoffeeTalk.

Wow cus­tomers with incred­i­ble ser­vice. Happy cus­tomers become loyal cus­tomers. These indi­vid­u­als make word-of-mouth rec­om­men­da­tions that bring in new cus­tomers. Set the stage for out­stand­ing ser­vice by hir­ing friendly and out­go­ing baris­tas and cashiers. Make sure you greet every­one who comes into your shop with a smile and a friendly wave or “hello.” One key to repeat busi­ness is to know what your cus­tomers want as they walk in the door. This makes cus­tomers feel spe­cial and increases the speed with which you can serve them. Of course, great cus­tomer ser­vice doesn’t occur in a vac­uum. It’s inte­grally tied to all other facets of your cof­fee house, from store lay­out to equip­ment to staff training.

Turn clean­li­ness into a com­pet­i­tive edge. You only get one chance to make a first impres­sion, so make sure your cof­fee shop remains first-date-ready through­out the day. Set up clean­ing rou­tines so that the park­ing lot remains litter-free, your glass win­dows sparkle, tables are quickly cleared and cleaned, and the restrooms are spot­less. In many areas, your busi­ness may be sub­ject to unan­nounced health inspec­tions. Make sure you’re always prepared!

Greg Ubert, founder and pres­i­dent of Crimson Cup Coffee & Tea, has been roast­ing cof­fee in small batches since 1991 and has taught hun­dreds of busi­ness own­ers how to run suc­cess­ful inde­pen­dent cof­fee houses. Greg can be reached at greg@crimsoncup.com.

Retailer/Roaster Profile

Categories: 2014, FebruaryTags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , Author:

Hello every­one! Lets hear from the owner of Booskerdoo Coffee Company, James Cavelry! This super suc­cess­ful and super pos­i­tive busi­ness­man is here with us today:

V. Great to be here with you James! How did the idea for Booskerdoo Coffee Company come along, and how did it develop? Was spe­cialty cof­fee your first seri­ous pro­fes­sion, or did you do some­thing else before?
C. Booskerdoo Fresh Roasted Coffee Company offi­cially started in 2011 with our shop and roast­ery in Monmouth Beach, NJ. However, it really started in a tiny New York City apart­ment in 2009. I was 27 years old, and I was a free­lance copy­writer for a vari­ety of adver­tis­ing and mar­ket­ing agen­cies. I had never liked cof­fee, even though I worked at Starbucks in col­lege, until some­one gave me good qual­ity fresh roasted cof­fee. I drank it black and fell in love with it. I couldn’t get it out of my mind. I started to obsess over find­ing fan­tas­tic cof­fee, but even in New York City, fresh roasted cof­fee was hard to find.

I had read online that you could roast your own cof­fee in a basic oven with a pizza sheet. So I tried it. I had read it would be smoky. I cooked it into the sec­ond crack, and oh my good­ness, black smoke filled the tiny apart­ment as if we had caught the whole build­ing on fire. Luckily, my wife Amelia found it as hilar­i­ous as I did. We tried the cof­fee the next day and it was the best cof­fee we had ever had. It was a Colombia Supremo, noth­ing fancy. I real­ized then that a niche needed to be filled; fresh cof­fee made eas­ily acces­si­ble to every­day cof­fee drinkers. I was not happy work­ing in offices, the pol­i­tics and the flu­o­res­cent light­ing was melt­ing my brain. So my wife and I scrounged up our sav­ings and started a cof­fee com­pany. I drank thou­sands of cups of cof­fee, researched like crazy, and roasted on a home roaster for a year. I had some friends of fam­ily who roasted pro­fes­sion­ally, so I drove to Brooklyn to learn from them. The best advice I received was to always taste what you roast and when it tastes great, do what­ever you did again. My obses­sion con­tin­ues today.

V. What chal­lenges did you face and how did you deal with them?
C. Our biggest chal­lenge is that we essen­tially oper­ate three busi­nesses: two cafes, whole­sale, and online sales. It feels like we are herd­ing cats some­times. My to-do lists every­day are very long with a lot of lit­tle things to do. My head spins quite a lot. There are two things that I do to keep things mov­ing smoothly: 1. I trust my employ­ees. I give them respon­si­bil­ity and allow them to learn from mis­takes to make the respon­si­bil­ity their own. 2. I will for­ever main­tain the rule, that myself and our employ­ees must focus on each cus­tomer, one at a time. No mat­ter how much stuff I have to do, I must always take the time to give each cus­tomer the atten­tion they need. No mat­ter how large our com­pany grows, this rule must never change.

V. I love your awe­some name, Booskerdoo! How did you come up with it?
C. We wanted a name that had no def­i­n­i­tion because we wanted to give the name mean­ing. My wife was a Latin teacher in Harlem, so I had planned to sit down with her and find pre­fix and suf­fix options that had the emo­tional brand ele­ments that we wanted to dis­play. It didn’t end up being that com­pli­cated. It ended up going like this: Amelia started call­ing me Boo, then Boosker, and then finally Booskerdoo. She ran­domly said one morn­ing at break­fast, “You should call the cof­fee com­pany Booskerdoo.” I laughed at her, “Yeah right, that is kind of stu­pid,” I said. About ten min­utes later I brought the topic back up. “I can’t get the name Booskerdoo out of my head… that is a really good name, lets use it.” Our brand is about energy, pos­i­tiv­ity, and not tak­ing our­selves too seri­ously. The pre­fix “boo” has energy, the suf­fix “doo” is very pos­i­tive, and the name as a whole is a lot of fun and a bit silly. Amelia is a genius.

V. What kind of advice/secrets would you give to those start­ing this kind of busi­ness now (both roast­ing and retail)?
C. In retail, we focus on the idea that we don’t sell cof­fee; we are in the busi­ness of mak­ing peo­ple happy. Coffee is just the con­duit. My advice is to fol­low that belief. If you have great cof­fee, but your baris­tas are snobs, you will lose a lot of cus­tomers. If you have nice employ­ees and great cof­fee, but your park­ing sit­u­a­tion will piss cus­tomers off, you won’t have a lot of busi­ness either. Any busi­ness is all about the root of human exis­tence… hap­pi­ness. As for roast­ing, I would sug­gest to any­one start­ing out to not believe every­thing that you read on the Internet. Read blogs and mes­sage boards, but try out what you read, and lis­ten to the taste buds of your­self, employ­ees, and cus­tomers. For exam­ple, to today’s cof­fee con­nois­seurs and in all of their talk on the Internet, it says that light roasted cof­fee is the only cof­fee worth drink­ing. However, our two cafes and whole­sale clients sell and pur­chase more dark roast than light roast cof­fee. To me, that dis­con­nect says a lot.

V. What is unique about you? What sep­a­rates you from oth­ers?
C. There are two points of dif­fer­ence that we focus on. One is lit­eral and the other is emo­tional. Our lit­eral point of dif­fer­ence is our focus on fresh cof­fee. We roast the same day that we mail it out, and we deliver to our whole­sale clients in the same man­ner. In our cafes, we never sell any­thing that has been roasted more than 7 days old. We roast twice a week, so most of our cof­fee is between only one to four days young. We donate all expired cof­fee to our local Red Cross chapter.

The emo­tional point of dif­fer­ence is best described in what reads on our crest, “fresh roasted cof­fee for all.” We focus on inclu­siv­ity. We don’t sneer at café cus­tomers who drink decaf or who have never heard of a mac­chi­ato. Like I men­tioned before, we focus on mak­ing peo­ple happy, and that includes every­one. We work very hard to bring excep­tion­ally good cof­fee to the every­day cof­fee drinker. We don’t focus pri­mar­ily on the cof­fee con­nois­seur, although they love our cof­fee too. We take a lot of pride when we turn the 7/11, Starbucks, or Dunkin Donuts drinkers into cof­fee lovers who can’t drink any­thing else but Booskerdoo.

V. What is your roaster’s brand and its capac­ity?
C. We use a Diedrich IR-12. We love it. Diedrich claims you can roast up to 25 pounds at a time. However, for qual­ity, we have found that we can’t put more than 22 pounds into the machine. But that is our only com­plaint of the IR-12. As we look for a sec­ond roaster, we’ll be buy­ing Diedrich again.

V.  Anything else to say to our cof­fee com­mu­nity?
C. I have just one thing left to say, “Coffee Rules.”

Maxim Vershinin has been a colum­nist for CoffeeTalk for the last few years high­light­ing var­i­ous roast­ers and retail­ers in the indus­try. He has lived in Peru for the last few years and is now fur­ther­ing his edu­ca­tion at Columbia University seek­ing a B.A. in economics.

Booskerdoo Coffee Company

36 Beach Road, Suite 9,
Monmouth Beach, NJ 07750
(732) 222‑0729
James Caverly
www.booskerdoo.com
james@booskerdoo.com

Four Opportunities

Categories: 2013, DecemberTags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , Author:

Healthy Opportunity: The dri­ving force behind the health and well­ness move­ment is Opportunity. Opportunities exist across the board, across America. The sur­veys are show­ing the trend. The mar­ket demand is clear. Your busi­ness can thrive among a clus­ter of com­pe­ti­tion seek­ing to out­per­form you in the health and well­ness arena. Reach for the fresh fruit, the nat­ural and organic choices, energy boosts, less sugar and carbs, the more menu inno­va­tion that dif­fer­en­ti­ates you, can put you a step ahead.

America is Primed and Ready. America is already run­ning to a greater con­scious­ness about calorie-intake, organic foods and sup­ple­ments, and disease-prevention via good nutri­tion. They might stop for a sugar-glazed donut once in a while, but they’ll take the health­ful, vitamin-rich choices at every other oppor­tu­nity; new oppor­tu­ni­ties arrive every day.

Would you Like Repeat Customers? Give them what they’re look­ing for: a menu board cen­tered on healthy choices. You’ve got a guar­an­teed four-opportunities a day: break­fast, lunch, din­ner, and the snacks in-between. Make each oppor­tu­nity count. Your cus­tomer base will come in look­ing at options. Give them sweets, they’ll take one and see you again maybe next month. Give them the option of adding a mul­ti­vi­t­a­min boost to their frappé, smoothie, or iced cof­fee, and as the trends show, they will visit you more often. Most peo­ple are in a rush, and they’re look­ing for con­ve­nience. They eat every day, and they visit a cof­fee con­cept every day. Offer them a quick, healthy option, and you’ve got your­self a reg­u­lar customer.

Marketing Healthy Menu Items is Easy. Most man­u­fac­tur­ers of frappé mixes, chai mixes, and smoothie mixes have fol­lowed Starbucks’ lead and reduced the amount of sugar, trans fats, and high fruc­tose corn syrups. So, if you are buy­ing from the same drink mix man­u­fac­tur­ers that you were using even two or three years ago, you have already begun to serve health­ier drinks! If your refrig­er­ated drink case con­tains Functional RTD Beverages such as Vitamin Water, Energy Drinks, Arizona Iced tea with gin­seng, Horizon Organic milk for­ti­fied with Calcium and Vitamin D, then you are cur­rently pro­vid­ing what your cus­tomers want– healthy menu items.

Example: Starbucks Buys Evolution Juice. “This is the first of many things we’re going to do around health and well­ness. We’re not only acquir­ing a juice com­pany, but we’re using this acqui­si­tion to build a broad-based, multi-million dol­lar health and well­ness busi­ness over time.”- Howard Schultz, chair­man and CEO, Starbucks Corporation

What the Leaders in the Coffee Industry are Doing. Because the lead­ers are the ones who have the where­withal to study con­sumer trends, you should apply their tac­tics to your shop as well.  When they make changes, those changes are a reflec­tion of con­sumer research.

There’s No Way to Miss the National Health & Wellness Movement. The con­sumer is demand­ing health­ier menu items. You can cap­i­tal­ize on that, and here’s how to do it: Healthier menu items with less fat and sug­ars; Drinks with added vit­a­mins and boosts; Packaged grab-and-go snacks and sand­wiches with reduced fat and higher pro­tein contents.

Research Shows It. “Fresh fruit is not only the top snack food con­sumed in America, it is also one of the fastest grow­ing,” accord­ing to the sum­ma­tion of research con­ducted by National Purchase Dairy. “Taking the who, what, when, and where of fresh fruit con­sump­tion into account, the point to be made is that fresh fruit is a top-of-mind snack with most con­sumers,” says Darren Seifer, National Purchase Diary.

Health: Who’s con­cerned about health? Your cus­tomers, most impor­tantly. The major play­ers are show­ing their con­cern for meet­ing that demand: Starbucks, PepsiCo Brands, the Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation, The Partnership for a Healthier America, the American con­sumer … and you too, right?

Innovation. Consumer trends indi­cate a need for more than just a cup of cof­fee, and they’re look­ing for more than just a banana on a tray. The big com­pa­nies are step­ping up inno­va­tion, intro­duc­ing unique prod­ucts, and build­ing a menu board that is directed towards Health and Wellness. If it is just cof­fee you’re offer­ing your cus­tomers will still be attracted to inno­va­tion. The demand is there for sup­ple­ment boosts added into the bev­er­ages. They’re look­ing for nutri­tional boosts in the refrig­er­ated bev­er­age case as well, like Vitamin Water, Energy drinks, and bot­tled teas with boosts in them.

Originally, the cof­fee shop served cof­fee and pas­tries. Next came the frappé and the smooth­ies. Now, boosts are being added to the blended bev­er­ages, pas­tries are get­ting their sugar con­tent dropped, and the ready-to-drink bev­er­ages have gone from sim­ple bot­tled water, to choices includ­ing bot­tled nutri­tion and energy drinks.

Conclusion:
Get Noticed by Telling Your Customers. Make your­self known. If you’re using the same prod­ucts you were using sev­eral years ago, chances are that you are already sell­ing lower sugar-content bev­er­ages. The man­u­fac­tur­ers have already done most of the work by chang­ing their ingre­di­ent base. The dif­fer­ence now is whether or not you are let­ting your cus­tomers know it. Surveys show that peo­ple are look­ing for, pre­fer­ring, and will­ing to pay more, based on key words. Put sig­nage on your win­dows or your walls. Tell your sales team to talk it up with the cus­tomers. In sum­ma­tion, if you’re not geared toward health and well­ness, get on board. If you already are on board, put the word out where your cus­tomers can see it.

Making Sustainability Sustainable Along With Many Other Words

Categories: 2013, DecemberTags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , Author:

When writ­ing about the State of the Industry in our won­der­ful cof­fee world, there are a num­ber of words that can be used. That num­ber of words is shrink­ing, how­ever, as we col­lec­tively emas­cu­late them through overuse or agenda dri­ven usage. If this con­tin­ues we will have no words left! It’s OUTRAGEOUS! It’s EVIL!

The point is, that words which once meant some­thing severe like OUTRAGEOUS and EVIL, no longer carry the ‘ummph’ because our first reac­tion to some­thing starts at these lev­els. To say that a per­son swoop­ing in to steal a park­ing spot exe­cuted an OUTRAGEOUS act per­pe­trated by an EVIL per­son should be con­sid­ered a bit over­stat­ing of the facts. Perhaps it should have been an INCOSIDERATE act by a THOUGHTLESS per­son. Hyperbole rules the day, dimin­ish­ing our abil­ity to use cer­tain words.

The cof­fee indus­try has been around for a while and only con­tin­ues to grow. The words are in dan­ger of IMMINENT ERADICATION if we don’t try to save them! Let’s look at some exam­ples of words that have lost their meaning.

Green:  It used to be a badge of honor that you went above and beyond to pro­tect the planet. If you oper­ated in a Green Way, you accepted higher oper­a­tional costs for the greater good. You led by exam­ple as you blazed a high moral trail. Then came the ‘green­wash­ing,’ where if a com­pany used 25 per­cent recy­cled paper in their enve­lope stock they proudly dis­played some newly crafted ‘earth-do-gooder’ logo on their busi­ness card and adver­tis­ing. This word is so badly beaten up, that a com­pany could just paint their build­ing green and pro­fess to be nur­tur­ing the planet.

Fair: Brought into the cof­fee indus­try pri­mar­ily in the con­text of Fair Trade where the gen­eral under­stand­ing was that if you believed in fair busi­ness prac­tices then every­one in the sup­ply chain should make a profit and no one got squeezed. Fair in our indus­try is incred­i­bly impor­tant because in many of the pro­duc­ing coun­tries our sup­pli­ers have to walk away from their homes and jobs because the mar­ket forces have dic­tated some falsely low num­ber below the cost to pro­duce. On the other end of the chain, if the retailer can’t make any prof­its due to high cost of goods, then they close and can’t buy cof­fee. At some point fair became divi­sive. Groups with agen­das wielded Fair as a sword to smite down those that did not see fair in the same way. The “I’m more fair than you” folks that would smear your rep­u­ta­tion in social media as killing babies because you did not par­tic­i­pate in their ver­sion of Fair. Fair even started to become a bad word as it tended to indi­cate what ‘camp’ you were in. Many even replaced the word with other words like ‘direct.’

Specialty: Ask 20 peo­ple what Specialty Coffee is, and you’ll get 20 dif­fer­ent answers. It used to be a way to say, “My cof­fee is dra­mat­i­cally bet­ter than com­mer­cial cof­fee.” Now it car­ries almost as lit­tle value as Gourmet. Some will think that cof­fee is spe­cialty if they buy it from a major chain rather than a store. Some will say spe­cialty means ‘not in a can.’ Others have said that spe­cialty cof­fee is an espresso drink. The term is so widely used and in so many ways that the term cre­ates more con­fu­sion than clar­i­fi­ca­tion. For the cof­fee wonks out there the word is being replaced by a num­ber with the SCAA / CQI scor­ing sys­tem. But this is too hard to explain to most folks so there is very lit­tle way to define a qual­ity dif­fer­ence in cof­fee anymore.

There are also words that are start­ing to be co-opted but still have value. Consider this an effort to try and save them. It’s not too late if we as an indus­try use them prop­erly and call out those who don’t.

Certified: This lit­er­ally means that an inde­pen­dent cer­ti­fy­ing agency has done an eval­u­a­tion and cer­tain cri­te­ria have been met. When we talk about ‘organic’ we should talk about cer­ti­fied organic. When we talk about Q Grades of cof­fee they should be Certified Q Scores. Certified adds depth and clar­ity to some of the words on the endan­gered list above.  The way this word gets mar­gin­al­ized is when com­pa­nies make up their own cer­ti­fi­ca­tions that only they can achieve such as ‘Certified BOB-Friendly.’ While funny, it min­i­mizes the real cer­ti­fi­ca­tions that actu­ally mean some­thing. Call these peo­ple out. They are hurt­ing you and the industry.

Relationship: This is a tricky one as there are many types of rela­tion­ships. It used to be that you had a rela­tion­ship if you ate a meal together, or talked on the phone more than once. With social media you might have 30,000 ‘friends’ you have never met. For the cof­fee indus­try we want to pre­serve the spe­cific use of the words ‘direct rela­tion­ship’ to mean only those peo­ple where you have shaken hands and deal together with­out inter­me­di­aries.  You do not have a direct rela­tion­ship with a farmer just because you buy beans from the roaster that has one. That is noth­ing more than a sup­ply chain rela­tion­ship. The farmer won’t know your name, has never met you in per­son. Let’s agree that this is NOT what we mean by rela­tion­ship and specif­i­cally a direct rela­tion­ship. Call the oth­ers out. They are hurt­ing you and the industry.

This brings us to one of the most cru­cial words to save before it is too late:

Sustainable: In order to save this word, we have to stop using it by itself. There is almost always a qual­i­fier for it. The qual­i­fier gives us a con­text, and then we can judge the verac­ity of the ‘sus­tain­able’ claim. An exam­ple: “We run a sus­tain­able com­pany!” The obvi­ous response is, “Duh! Otherwise your com­pany wouldn’t exist.” What was the per­son try­ing to imply? That they act respon­si­bly in their busi­ness deal­ings? Everybody wins? The Earth is not harmed? In fact they may have none of these char­ac­ter­is­tics but by claim­ing Sustainability they get to claim it all. Let’s agree to only use this word qual­i­fied in some way that can be ver­i­fi­able. Some options are:

SELF Sustainable:  Runs on its own with­out out­side help.

SOCIALLY Sustainable: Treats peo­ple with dig­nity and does not take advan­tage of others.

FINANCIALLY Sustainable: Built on a model of ongo­ing best busi­ness prac­tices to ensure long term success.

ECOLOGICALLY Sustainable: What you take out of the world in terms of resources is bal­anced by what is returned in such a way to keep the planet ‘healthy’.

Sustainable ENERGY: Sources of power that have less of an impact on the earth than oth­ers and is renewable.

You get the idea. In order to keep ‘sus­tain­able,’ sus­tain­able, we must pay atten­tion to its use and try to be spe­cific in our inten­tions. When you see oth­ers tak­ing advan­tage of the word by mak­ing it imply more than the truth, point it out. If they con­tinue, call them OUTRAGEOUS and EVIL and let’s make sure they are NOT sustainable!

Rocky Rhodes started as a cof­fee lover, became a cof­fee roaster, evolved into a cof­fee edu­ca­tor and is cur­rently serv­ing time as a cof­fee addict. He loves telling other peo­ple his opin­ion so being a con­sul­tant suits him well. Rocky can be reached at rocky@INTLcoffeeConsulting.com

The Borer And The Never Boring: The 2013 Coffee Review

Categories: 2013, DecemberTags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , Author:

The Great Durante was fond of say­ing, “Everybody wants ta get inta the act!,” The act is K-cups®, and it was the dom­i­nant fea­ture of the US indus­try in 2013. There remains a mad scram­ble to get into the sin­gle serve busi­ness, with just about every roaster aspir­ing to pro­duce them, and most inde­pen­dent multi-store oper­a­tors eager to have their own pri­vate label Keurig® com­pat­i­ble line of cof­fee. Every hot served liq­uid food, from apple cider to soup, is now being brewed in a Keurig®. If the tech­nol­ogy con­tin­ues to extend its plat­form in American kitchens and work­sta­tions, foods pre­pared from por­tion con­trol cups of dry ingre­di­ents, may brew long term change in American food prepa­ra­tion habits in the home and workplace.

At ori­gin, there are gen­eral con­cerns about cli­mate change, and spe­cific ones that are con­sid­ered, in part, the result of cli­mate change as cof­fee rust in Central America (attrib­uted to lower rain­fall), where “roya” may, accord­ing to the ICO (as reported by Reuters in March) reduce cof­fee out­put in affected areas by 20 per­cent. But, losses will not be even, and some coun­tries such as El Salvador are expect­ing to be hurt dis­pro­por­tion­ately (35 per­cent), while oth­ers as Costa Rica may only suf­fer a “man­age­able” loss (13 percen). Hypothenemus ham­pei, the cof­fee borer, is also a seri­ous con­cern. It is being fought, with vary­ing degrees of suc­cess this year, in Brazil and Hawaii.

The Arabica mar­ket con­tin­ued to drift down­ward dur­ing 2013, with only the very best grades hold­ing a value of 50 per­cent or bet­ter above the New York “C”. The bet­ter Robusta grades, on the other hand, held value against the Arabicas, such that by year end grades, as Vietnam GR1, SC16, Wet Polished, were being offered in New York at prices com­pa­ra­ble to “C” grade Arabica beans. These Robusta cof­fees from Vietnam, and other ori­gins offer­ing neu­tral cup and bold bean style, have found favor in recent years in the espresso brands of American roast­ers, some of whom would not have con­sid­ered the ingre­di­ent only a few years ago. Uganda, the 4th largest Robusta cof­fee pro­ducer, is plant­ing 300 mil­lion addi­tional Robusta cof­fee trees in a large eco­nomic wager, that in the West, the espresso mar­ket will con­tinue to bal­loon, and that in the East and in the Southern hemi­sphere, a grow­ing world mid­dle class will choose to be cof­fee drinkers.

To the grat­i­fi­ca­tion and relief of small inde­pen­dent roast­ers, and prob­a­bly the big roast­ers too, the stran­gling effects of the his­tor­i­cally high cof­fee mar­kets of recent years, fade into mem­ory as money flows back into their pock­ets and out of their inven­tory val­ues. In June, Starbucks raised prices into the teeth of con­sumer aware­ness of a falling mar­ket. They’ve got grit.

Usually, we would expect that reduced exports from Central American, and pos­si­bly some Brazilian regions, would echo through the mar­ket putting upward pres­sure on cof­fee prices; with increased rev­enues per pound help­ing to defray a por­tion of the loss to blights and bugs. That may not be the case this year as there may be an abun­dance in Arabica cof­fee sup­plies, as the ICO expects sup­ply to out­strip demand by 4-million bags, or roughly equal to the cof­fee crop of Mexico. If this comes to pass, there will be added eco­nomic pres­sure on sub­sis­tence coffee-farm fam­i­lies brought about by the double-whammy of hav­ing less cof­fee to sell, while receiv­ing a lower price per pound for that which remains. The answer, of course, is to pro­duce cof­fee at such a high level of excel­lence that its value breaks free of the “C” con­tract. Sadly, becom­ing as La Esmiralda, Clifton Mount Estate, or La Minita is not an attain­able goal, but only an aspi­ra­tion for most farmers.

Espresso has changed cof­fee in America. Espresso machines are found in every man­ner of food ser­vice oper­a­tion today, and Nespresso® and Keurig® are work­ing hard to bring easy-access espresso bev­er­ages into upper-middle class homes and apart­ments. Simultaneously, Italian cof­fee brands as Illy, Lavazza®, Danesi®, and Segafredo® con­tinue to pour into the American cup sat­is­fy­ing the insa­tiable American taste for the exotic, and seem­ingly upscale taste for that which is European.

It has been a long time since Lauren Bacall pitched Instant Maxwell House cof­fee, and once again celebri­ties are being iden­ti­fied with cof­fee. In Australia, Al Puccino hawks Vittoria Coffee. Hugh Jackman and Leonardo DiCaprio sup­port Laughing Man brand, and David Hasselhoff pushed Farmhouse Blend Iced Coffee. Rarely does a celebrity enter the indus­try as a strictly busi­ness ven­ture, but that’s what Patrick Dempsey appeared to do this past year, tak­ing an own­er­ship stake in the Tully’s® chain of 48 retail out­lets dur­ing bank­ruptcy pro­ceed­ings in January. Mr. Dempsey was evi­dently burned by the expe­ri­ence, though accord­ing to the Associated Press, he never invested money in the chain, as by August, Dempsey had divested him­self of his hold­ings in the cof­fee retailer. In other celebrity cof­fee news, Marley’s Coffee, who went pub­lic in 2011, (JAMN) is still los­ing money, though sales are gyrat­ing. 12 OZ Marley’s® cof­fee was spot­ted not long ago at a Long Island T.J. Maxx out­let for $4.99.

The year saw the re-launch of a grand old name in the trade, Martinson®. A top brand in New York in the first half of the last cen­tury, it had been brought low (to the price/value level) by a suc­ces­sion of own­ers who did not appre­ci­ate what they had. Joe Martinson’s brand is now owned by Mother Parker®, and the re-positioning in the mar­ket includes sin­gle serve, soft bags, and fiber cans. The blend selec­tion is mid-line with names such as Joe’s Light Latin, Joe’s Donut Shop, and Joe’s Rich African Brew. It’s nice to see Mr. Martinson’s brand out there again.

Another old New York brand, an A&P orig­i­nal, 8’Oclock® cof­fee, now a Tata com­pany, rebranded itself in 2013 with strik­ing new red 11 OZ pack­ag­ing fea­tur­ing infor­ma­tional strips on the right shoulder…and of course, a sin­gle serve line.

No one with access to iTunes needs to go through the day with­out a decent cuppa. The Find Me Coffee app can find you a cof­fee shop around the cor­ner or around the globe, give you direc­tions to get there, and can even place an order. The iPhone’s cof­fee­hunter app has a col­lec­tion of 7,000 inde­pen­dent cof­fee places.

In the age before mechan­i­cally bot­tled beer, the bev­er­age was car­ried in tin pails. They were known as Growlers, which may be related to the sound made by the slosh­ing of beer, and the release of car­bon diox­ide caused by that action in the pails as they were car­ried. Later, the pails were replaced with bot­tles, but the name stuck. The Growler was returned to the tav­ern as desired, where it would be refilled with fresh beer at mod­est cost. Today, a Growler is a refill­able con­tainer (usu­ally 64oz) and an affec­ta­tion used by Cold Brew Coffee entre­pre­neurs as a descrip­tion of the pack­age in which they mar­ket their wares.

Cold Brew Iced Coffee began to take hold in the sum­mer of 2013, with amber glass bot­tles of iced brew found in trendy cof­fee bars and upscale mar­kets, where local iced brew­ers are located. Among Brooklyn, New York’s entries is Grady’s New Orleans-Style. Others around the coun­try, include Slingshot 16oz read to drink Iced Coffee, Raleigh, NC, Installation Coffee Co’ Cold Brew, Los Angeles, CA, Jittery John’s Cold Brew, San Francisco, CA, and Chameleon Cold Brew, Austin, TX. Gorilla Coffee, Brooklyn, NY renowned for their prod­uct mar­ket­ing graph­ics has, per­haps, the most strik­ing pack­age for their Cold Brew cof­fee. You can see it here.

gorillacoffee.com/collections/cold-brew

Some cafés have declared war on WiFi squat­ters this year, and oth­ers con­tinue to make a point of adver­tis­ing free WiFi. The tug of war between pro­vid­ing added value to your cup, ver­sus the loss of seat­ing when some patrons take unfair advan­tage of the ser­vice by sit­ting for hours over a sin­gle cup of cof­fee depriv­ing the shop of open seat­ing for newly enter­ing cus­tomers, is becom­ing some­thing that is heard more fre­quently in con­ver­sa­tion between oper­a­tors. Along with the belief that WiFi squat­ters cre­ate a squalid atmos­phere that chases away a bet­ter qual­ity clientele.

Brooklyn Farmacy and Soda Fountain, Reiney’s Soda Fountain in Denison, Iowa, and Vincent’s Drug Store and Soda Fountain, John’s Island South Carolina aside, the old fash­ioned soda foun­tain, a fix­ture on Main Street in the first half of the last cen­tury, that as an indus­try, did not sur­vive the post WWII era, may be about to make a come­back with Starbucks in the van­guard. Stephan Wermuth reported in a Reuter’s piece that Starbucks, using Soda stream-like car­bon­a­tion machines is mak­ing old-fashioned soda foun­tain style sodas, by adding car­bon­a­tion to its juice, tea, and cof­fee bev­er­ages in an exper­i­ment in selected stores in Atlanta, GA, Austin, TX, and Asia.

During the Summer, while we were all drink­ing from Growlers and dream­ing of soda foun­tains of yore, SCAA Lifetime Achievement Laureate, Dan Cox, was spilling the beans on cof­fee spills with the pub­li­ca­tion of Handling Hot Coffee: Preventing spills, Burns, and Lawsuits. It is filled and over­flow­ing with help­ful infor­ma­tion on keep­ing hot cof­fee bev­er­age safe for the oper­a­tor, wait staff, and consumer.

The need for this thin vol­ume (98 Pages) pub­lished by Red Barn Books, ISBN-10: 1935922246, ISBN-13: 978–1935922247 should be obvi­ous to all in the trade, as law­suits over spilled hot cof­fee have been a reg­u­lar occur­rence since the ill-famed judg­ment in the 1994, California Liebeck v. McDonald’s case. Until Dan’s help­ful, orga­nized, anno­tated, illus­trated, and indexed sin­gle source book, oper­a­tors and attor­neys were forced to find answers from many dif­fer­ent resources. The trade owes the SCAA Past President, Cox, a thanks for help­ing his fel­low man (and mem­bers of WIC, too) with this use­ful tool.

McDonalds®, who upgraded the qual­ity of their cof­fee pro­gram some years ago, has seen the light, and is switch­ing to paper cups from poly­styrene. Big Mac® should be thanked for mak­ing this change, which will cost them money as the two mate­ri­als are not com­pa­ra­ble in price. McCafe® will taste bet­ter, and the envi­ron­ment will not have to con­tinue try­ing to ingest 10-million Styrofoam cups each day. Thank you, McDonalds®.

Joh. A. Benckiser, the new owner of Peet’s® and Caribou® cof­fee chains, has the two now-sister com­pa­nies play­ing dosey-doe your part­ner. Minnesotta based Caribou will become a regional North-Midwestern brand, with addi­tional out­lets in neigh­bor­ing Iowa, the Dakotas, Wisconsin, Kansas, and Colorado. They will also retain out­liers in North Carolina. Caribou® stores in the rest of the coun­try will be con­verted to Peet’s®.

At the end of October, Kraft® announced that they would begin test mar­ket­ing McDonald’s® McCafe® brand cof­fee in selected mar­kets. In November, an arbi­tra­tor deter­mined that Starbucks must pay 2.76-billion dol­lars for walk­ing away from their pack­aged cof­fee deal with Kraft® to dis­trib­ute Starbucks®. One went in and the other went out.

Ron Popeil, move over, for as the year ground down, Keurig® infomer­cials were becom­ing omnipresent on cable TV.

In the Coals-to-Newcastle depart­ment, The Wall Street Journal reported that Starbucks®, whose stated goal is 20,000 retail stores by the close of 2014, plans to open its first retail shop in Bogota, Colombia in the com­ing months. This pilot store is hoped to be the first of 50 Starbucks stores in Colombian cities, to be opened over the next 5 years. So you see, with all that tran­spired in 2013, we still have things to which we can look for­ward to in the New Year, such as 50 more Starbucks®.

Distinguished roaster/cupper Donald Schoenholt is cof­fee­man at cel­e­brated Gillies Coffee Co., Brooklyn NY, now begin­ning its 175th year. Don, a found­ing father of both SCAA and Roasters Guild, doesn’t look 175, but he says there are days when he feels as he, and not the firm, is America’s Oldest Coffee Merchant. Mr. Schoenholt can be reached at coffeeman@gilliescoffee.com

IT Supported Quality Management Systems">Game Changer: IT Supported Quality Management Systems

Categories: 2013, DecemberTags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , Author:

Simply put, cof­fee is com­plex. A count­less num­ber of processes involv­ing tem­per­a­tures, humid­ity, air­flows, pres­sures, speeds, dura­tions, color val­ues, and more, need to be taken care of at the right time, any­time. For endur­ing suc­cess in the spe­cialty cof­fee busi­ness, it is a must to under­stand these processes and where qual­ity hap­pens or lacks and how it can be upheld.

That is where up-and-coming cof­fee spe­cific Quality Management (QM) sys­tems come into play. They cap­ture, dis­play, and orga­nize this vast jun­gle of infor­ma­tion that con­tains the secret to out­stand­ing and con­sis­tent cof­fee quality.

Any cof­fee roaster can tell his/her story about how tough it is to fully con­trol cof­fee in its meta­mor­pho­sis from a bag of green to becom­ing a delight­ing cup of cof­fee, rich of fla­vors and aro­mas. Let’s take the exam­ple of “Perfect Roasters,” a spe­cialty cof­fee roast­ery. Perfect Roasters gets their green cof­fee through an importer, stores it at the rather humid har­bors or in the roast­ery; batches of cof­fee are then roasted on demand on a small drum roaster that con­trols gas pres­sure, drum speed, and air­flow. A dig­i­tal temp dis­play reads the bean tem­per­a­ture dur­ing roast­ing and the val­ues are tracked in a spread­sheet. The roast­ery sells every­thing from light sin­gle ori­gin fil­ter roasts to darker blended espres­sos with very vary­ing tastes and fla­vors. Every cof­fee is treated dif­fer­ently, but any cof­fee should even­tu­ally reach the same high qual­ity stan­dards in the cup.

Specialty cof­fee, in par­tic­u­lar, demands for out­stand­ing and con­sis­tent qual­ity. By the very nature of cof­fee, raw mate­ri­als change rapidly and fre­quently, and processes need to adjust quickly to keep up with these qual­ity stan­dards. The many dif­fer­ent par­tic­i­pants in cof­fee sup­ply chains don’t really make this easier.

Only struc­tured, real-time infor­ma­tion that is respon­sive to all these vari­ables can help to under­stand the qual­ity crit­i­cal processes at every stage. But that infor­ma­tion would get lost imme­di­ately if it isn’t cap­tured right where and when it occurs. A key point is to have rel­e­vant infor­ma­tion in the right res­o­lu­tion at the time; timely enough to still influ­ence the result. However, the load of infor­ma­tion cap­tured can even make things more com­plex, rather than eas­ier, if it isn’t orga­nized from the beginning.

The spe­cialty cof­fee com­mu­nity is increas­ingly aware of this dynamic. That is why IT sup­ported cof­fee qual­ity man­age­ment (QM) sys­tems have been com­ing up on the hori­zon over the few years. These rather new tech­nolo­gies are specif­i­cally respon­sive to coffee’s pecu­liar processes and sys­tem­at­i­cally reveal where qual­ity can be improved. Basic solu­tions help to cap­ture and struc­ture this infor­ma­tion and feed it back to the user. Some data is logged auto­mat­i­cally such as roast tem­per­a­ture, while oth­ers are man­u­ally eval­u­ated such as cup­ping results.
More inte­grated solu­tions go a step fur­ther. They bring the user into the next level of activ­ity man­age­ment. Beyond sim­ply pro­vid­ing infor­ma­tion, they pin­point to where action has to be taken, and it helps users make bet­ter deci­sions more quickly based on new, real-time insights.

Supported by an inte­grated QM sys­tem, Perfect Roasters roast­ery inte­grates the roast­ing oper­a­tion with green inven­tory, which can be kept either on site in a green room or in larger ware­houses. Roast tem­per­a­ture, dura­tion, roast­ing machine con­trol adjust­ments (like gas or air flow), and bean color val­ues can be mea­sured auto­mat­i­cally and tied back to the roast batch for later com­par­i­son and analy­sis. Added cup­ping scores and com­ments bring another vital dimen­sion into play and com­plete the eval­u­a­tion and learn­ing cycle.

These vari­ables sup­port Perfect Roasters when decid­ing on how to roast which green cof­fee on which pro­file, how quickly to heat up dur­ing the roast­ing, which cof­fee to buy from where and how often, how to store it, how a cer­tain sup­plier has devel­oped over time, etc.
Everything is nar­rowed down to the most cru­cial bits and pieces. Real-time infor­ma­tion allows Perfect Roasters to take imme­di­ate action where it is needed. Other data is for­mat­ted in the back­ground for later analy­sis. Auto-consistency checks high­light out­liers and decrease risk of hav­ing defected pro­duc­tion going out for sales.

In the end, the roast­ery will be rewarded with a more con­sis­tent prod­uct qual­ity and a bet­ter under­stand­ing of where qual­ity hap­pens or lacks. Processes can be linked to qual­i­ties at every stage, work­flows are designed more effi­ciently, and busi­ness deci­sions are put on a solid infor­ma­tion base. However, that is not the end of the story.

As in many other sup­ply chains, many will agree, that also the future of spe­cialty cof­fee lies within fast, real-time inter­ac­tion between sup­ply and pro­cess­ing. That is why some cof­fee QM sys­tems offer to effi­ciently share qual­ity, quan­tity, or trace­abil­ity infor­ma­tion with part­ners to cre­ate improved trade relationships.

With a fully inte­grated QM sys­tem, a pro­ducer or exporter will assess the qual­ity of a cof­fee sam­ple and can share it vir­tu­ally with their poten­tial buy­ers. On the buy­ers’ end, they receive the sam­ple along with the sam­ple qual­ity assess­ment. The buyer runs a qual­ity check in his lab to see if the sup­plier can deliver what is promised. If there is a match, per­fect. With a mis­match, the buyer will feed back his opin­ion to the sup­plier. The full trace­abil­ity pro­vided by well-integrated QM sys­tems through­out the sup­ply chain, allows both par­ties to dig in and see what caused the prob­lem; whether or not the mis­match came from dif­fer­ent per­cep­tions, dif­fer­ent sam­ple roast­ing, green cof­fee trans­port, stor­age, or any other poten­tial error source. This cre­ates com­mon grounds for suc­cess­ful and endur­ing busi­ness rela­tion­ships. The involved par­ties estab­lish a trans­par­ent and com­plete infor­ma­tion base for bet­ter deci­sion mak­ing, will grow as they exchange this infor­ma­tion with part­ners, and gain com­pet­i­tive­ness in the more effi­cient sup­ply chain.

To be fair, IT sup­ported QM sys­tems don’t make cof­fee less com­plex, but they pro­vide solid tools to cap­ture, orga­nize, and ana­lyze infor­ma­tion. They also allowed Perfect Roasters to make the right deci­sions, at the right time, all for the sake of con­sis­tent cof­fee qual­ity. Integrating the entire work­flow, includ­ing roast mon­i­tor­ing, QC, inven­tory man­age­ment, infor­ma­tion shar­ing, etc. into an IT sys­tem may have the poten­tial to over­whelm indi­vid­u­als, espe­cially smaller, up-and-coming roast­ers. However, the ben­e­fits of QM sys­tems greatly out­weigh the tem­po­rary dis­com­fort of change. Many IT sys­tems pro­vide entry-level ser­vices, and offer a mod­u­lar struc­ture for growth that responds to the need of both small and large busi­nesses. Either will ben­e­fit from trace­able and con­sis­tent cof­fee qual­ity that makes the dif­fer­ence between a reg­u­lar cup of cof­fee and an out­stand­ing cof­fee that delights the cus­tomers’ senses over and over again.

Under The Microscope

Categories: 2013, DecemberTags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , Author:

It’s been a year of scrutiny for the cof­fee busi­ness. Legislative and reg­u­la­tory mea­sures have put cof­fee under the micro­scope, both lit­er­ally and fig­u­ra­tively. Coffee is much more than the sum of its parts, as we cof­fee lovers know bet­ter than most. But some of its con­stituent com­pounds are behind 2013’s tough­est challenges.

Spurred by Congressional atten­tion, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) launched a new exam­i­na­tion of caf­feine in the U.S. diet. Congress focused on ill effects of highly caf­feinated prod­ucts and the addi­tion of caf­feine to new foods, but the FDA said it would do a com­pre­hen­sive review of caf­feine con­sump­tion. The FDA’s focus raised imme­di­ate con­cerns that a new FDA guid­ance doc­u­ment could call for low­er­ing its rec­om­mended daily caf­feine intake or requir­ing con­tent label­ing in foods con­tain­ing caffeine.

As part of its inves­ti­ga­tion, the FDA tasked the National Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Medicine to hold a pub­lic forum on the sub­ject. NCA attended the meet­ing and found the focus to be pri­mar­ily on energy drinks rather than cof­fee. However, NCA remains cau­tious and will keep a watch­ful eye on devel­op­ments. NCA also plans to meet with the agency and present a sci­en­tific paper, devel­oped by NCA’s sci­en­tific com­mit­tee, that dis­tin­guishes cof­fee from other caf­feine sources and sets out sci­en­tific find­ings about coffee’s health­ful prop­er­ties. The goal is to con­firm the safety of cof­fee con­sump­tion and avert reg­u­la­tory rec­om­men­da­tions that could unnec­es­sar­ily impact the industry.

A more direct move toward caf­feine label­ing came in a bill intro­duced in the U.S. House of Representatives. The bill calls for pack­age label­ing when a food con­tains ten mil­ligrams or more of caf­feine per serv­ing. Other pro­vi­sions call for changes to Nutrition Facts Panel infor­ma­tion, a new def­i­n­i­tion of “nat­ural” that pro­hibits arti­fi­cial fla­vors, col­ors, and ingre­di­ents that have under­gone chem­i­cal changes, such as corn syrup, mal­todex­trin, and alkali, and addi­tional infor­ma­tion on nutri­tional value. Like all pro­posed leg­is­la­tion, with poten­tial impact on the cof­fee indus­try, NCA is con­tin­u­ing to mon­i­tor devel­op­ments closely and will take all appro­pri­ate action going forward.

Another sub­stance formed nat­u­rally in roasted cof­fee is keep­ing legal pres­sures on the indus­try in California. Acrylamide, formed nat­u­rally in the roast­ing of cof­fee, like it is in bread, potato chips, crack­ers, and other foods, is the basis of a major law­suit under the state’s Proposition 65 law. That statute requires a con­sumer warn­ing of the pres­ence of any of 800+ listed chem­i­cals, includ­ing acry­lamide. With the over­whelm­ing weight of sci­ence behind it, the indus­try main­tains that there is nei­ther statu­tory basis for a Proposition 65 warn­ing in California nor rea­son for con­sumer con­cern, nor any rea­son for con­sumer cau­tion as a mat­ter of pub­lic pol­icy to pre­serve and pro­mote health. Coffee is a healthy bev­er­age, con­firmed by a grow­ing body of lit­er­a­ture asso­ci­at­ing cof­fee with mea­sur­able health benefits.

The long-term solu­tion for pre­vent­ing unwar­ranted legal action, like the California law­suit, is amend­ing Proposition 65. As a pub­lic ref­er­en­dum, it is very dif­fi­cult to change, requir­ing two-thirds of both houses of the California leg­is­la­ture or another pub­lic ref­er­en­dum. But, NCA seized an oppor­tu­nity when California Governor, Jerry Brown issued a call for amend­ing the statute to tackle abu­sive law­suits. Working with other affected stake­hold­ers, NCA crafted leg­isla­tive lan­guage to estab­lish key statu­tory mod­i­fi­ca­tions and lever­age the governor’s ini­tia­tive into effec­tive reform for the cof­fee indus­try. Among NCA’s rec­om­men­da­tions were amend­ing the law and reg­u­la­tions to estab­lish an explicit excep­tion when a Proposition 65-listed sub­stance is cre­ated from nat­u­rally occur­ring com­po­nents dur­ing cook­ing. NCA also spelled out its reform plat­form in a for­mal com­ment let­ter to the California Environmental Protection Agency (CalEPA). The governor’s office ulti­mately tabled its leg­isla­tive efforts, but NCA con­tin­ues to pur­sue changes on the reg­u­la­tory front.

Also impact­ing the cof­fee indus­try were more pro­posed rules under the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). That law fun­da­men­tally changed the fed­eral government’s process for pro­tect­ing food safety, mov­ing from rem­e­dy­ing con­t­a­m­i­na­tion to pre­vent­ing it. This year, pro­posed reg­u­la­tions for one of the most far-reaching pro­vi­sions of FSMA were released by the FDA. Spelling out the law’s approach to haz­ard assess­ment and pre­ven­tive con­trols, the new reg­u­la­tions impact fun­da­men­tal con­cepts that drive safety pro­to­cols in food pro­duc­tion facilities.

NCA filed for­mal com­ments with the FDA, seek­ing to clar­ify cer­tain pro­vi­sions that could cre­ate unnec­es­sary addi­tional bur­dens on cof­fee roast­ers and retail­ers.  In the com­ments, NCA called for clearer align­ment with cur­rent food safety pro­ce­dures, both to make sure the new reg­u­la­tions would not dis­rupt effec­tive sys­tems already in place, as well as to pre­serve the flex­i­bil­ity com­pa­nies need to con­tinue to adapt plans to address real-time con­cerns. NCA also asked for a clearer, appro­pri­ately nar­row def­i­n­i­tion of “pro­duce,” that would exclude cof­fee from the law’s stricter stan­dards for fruits and veg­eta­bles. Moving into 2014, NCA is study­ing the next set of pro­posed FSMA rules, which tar­get safety mea­sures to be deployed prior to importation.

Clearly, it’s been a chal­leng­ing year for cof­fee in the pub­lic pol­icy arena, and year-end won’t neatly wrap up these chal­lenges. But, as always, NCA will con­tinue to pur­sue every avenue to achieve out­comes that pro­tect and pro­pel the cof­fee busi­ness. In line with its mis­sion, NCA will con­tinue advo­cat­ing aggres­sively for the well-being of the U.S. cof­fee industry.

Publisher’s Prologue

Categories: 2013, DecemberTags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , Author:

Welcome to CoffeeTalk’s 2014 State of the Industry.

This new year brings with it a sense of excite­ment and hope. Change is all around us, and if we wish to sur­vive and thrive, we must embrace it. I am per­son­ally thank­ful for the amaz­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties the cof­fee indus­try has bestowed, and I hope to some­how give back in some mean­ing­ful way this year next year, 2014. And to begin, we share with you the wis­dom of some of the most respected pro­fes­sion­als in the industry.

Reading through each arti­cle I found myself hum­bled. Even after 20 years, I am just a “baby” in this indus­try. The com­bined wis­dom in this issue quite lit­er­ally has the power to change the world.

I hope to entice you to read all of the arti­cles by giv­ing you a brief glimpse with my favorite nugget of wis­dom in each arti­cle. However, there was one arti­cle that had just too many gems to limit it to a sin­gle quote. These con­cepts from one of our writ­ers* embody the spirit of this entire issue:

• Our indus­try con­tin­ues to pro­vide a means of expres­sion, hope, and income for a mul­ti­tude of peo­ple around the world.

• Our hard work and suc­cess does not come with­out strug­gle, and many chal­lenges await us as 2014 quickly approaches.

• […] This issue should not be left to the next gen­er­a­tion of roast­ers. It must be addressed.

• It is wrong to think there is noth­ing left to learn.

• As both mature and imma­ture mar­kets see new shops open­ing their doors, famil­iar ter­ri­tory is becom­ing any­thing but that.

• Learning from our past mis­takes and dis­cussing our future will help us sus­tain and survive.

So, cof­fee pro­fes­sion­als, remem­ber that knowl­edge is power… don’t miss out on the oppor­tu­nity to learn from the sea­soned souls who have cre­ated this 2014 State of the Industry.

Clearly, it’s been a chal­leng­ing year for cof­fee in the pub­lic pol­icy arena, and year-end won’t neatly wrap up these chal­lenges.”
Under The Microscope
John Boyle, National Coffee Association of U.S.A. Page #16

Once con­sumers start drink­ing bet­ter qual­ity cof­fee, they tend not to trade down. This puts greater pres­sure on roast­ers to main­tain and pre­serve qual­ity…”
One-Way Coffee Degassing
Alma Likic, Plitek, Llc. Page #18

For endur­ing suc­cess in the spe­cialty cof­fee busi­ness, it is a must to under­stand these processes and where qual­ity hap­pens or lacks…”
Game Changer: IT Supported Quality Management Systems
Andy Benedikter and Norbert Niederhauser, Cropster Inc. Page #20

There remains a mad scram­ble to get into the sin­gle serve busi­ness, with just about every roaster aspir­ing to pro­duce them, and most inde­pen­dent multi-store oper­a­tors eager to have their own pri­vate label Keurig® com­pat­i­ble line of cof­fee.”
The Borer And The Never Boring
Donald N. Schoenholt, Gillies Coffee Co. Page #22

Best of all it is grown by some of the kind­est, most gen­tle peo­ple any­where.”
Myanmar And Specialty Coffee: Critical Crossroads
Rick Peyser, Green Mountain Coffee Roasters Page #24

There are too few cof­fee sci­en­tists…”
The Art & Science Of Specialty Coffee
Spencer Turer, Coffee Analysts Page #26

I believe we’re in a Renaissance. Growth + Innovation = Renaissance.”
New & Views From NAMA Chair
Pete Tullio, NAMA Board Page #28

Words, use them wisely. Self, social, finan­cial, and eco­log­i­cal sus­tain­abil­ity…”
Making Sustainability Sustainable
Rocky Rhodes, International Coffee Consulting Page #30

‘Packaging Analytics’ is entirely new ter­mi­nol­ogy and intent to launch more inno­va­tions and appli­ca­tions aimed at pro­vid­ing a more sci­en­tific approach to the design and man­u­fac­ture of food and bev­er­age pack­ag­ing.”
It’s Time To Put Analytics Into Packaging
David Weiss, uVu Technologies LLC Page #32

The dri­ving force behind the health and well­ness move­ment is Opportunity. America is primed and ready. Would you like Repeat Customers? Give them what they’re look­ing for.”
Four Opportunities
David Gross, Add a Scoop Page #34

Coffee con­nois­seurs are nat­u­rally curi­ous infor­ma­tion seek­ing peo­ple who are loyal, inclined to seek con­ve­nience, and eas­ily con­nected to strong brand iden­tity and rep­u­ta­tion.”
Improving Your Product Sales
Torie Burke, Torie & Howard, Llc. Page #36

Is America really the land of the “pod” peo­ple? Can it really be true that the indi­vid­u­al­ism we’re so proud of can actu­ally be sat­is­fied by a ‘pod?’”
The Rise Of Single Cup Coffee
Mike Gronholm, Single Cup Accessories, Inc Page #38

Life is hard for farm­ers. Winston Churchill once said that, ‘If you are going through hell, keep going’… They did not give up on their love and pas­sion for their farm, and they never lost faith in the impor­tance of qual­ity.”
Colombian Coffee, A Story (Still) To Be Told
Juan Esteban Orduz, Colombian Coffee Federation, Inc Page #40

In retail, if it’s not mak­ing you money — it’s cost­ing you money.”
Cup Sleeve Marketing
Don Scherer, BriteVision Page #42

Big busi­ness is most cer­tainly bet­ting on tea.”
The Hottest Thing In Coffee Right Now Is Tea
Stefanie Makagon, TEAJA Office Page #44

Especially when con­sid­er­ing the inde­pen­dent owner, there is a com­mon thread that bonds these retail­ers. With all of the var­i­ous con­cerns vying for their atten­tion, typ­i­cally there is title time left to con­sider what is required to develop a suc­cess­ful retail mer­chan­dise pro­gram.”
Profit Building Merchandise Strategies For Coffee Houses
Erez Toker, Vessel Drinkware Page #46

We all like doing the things that we are com­fort­able doing, but it may be time to step out of our com­fort zone and not let our com­peti­tors beat us to the punch.”
Single Cup Solution, What Are You Waiting For In 2014?
Thomas G. Martin, Pod Pack International, Ltd. Page #48

Does the new gen­er­a­tion of cof­fee afi­ciona­dos embrace Direct Trade because of its hip and fancy appeal, or do they sell direct rela­tion­ships for the right rea­sons– to truly help the farm­ers?”
Changing Our Industry One Caring Soul At A Time
Karen Cebreros, Coffee Cares Page #50

I have this grow­ing con­cern that the spe­cialty cof­fee indus­try is bro­ken.”
The Fourth Wave Arrives In 2013: Collaboration To Fix A Broken Coffee Industry
David Griswold, Sustainable Harvest Specialty Coffee Page #52

From out­moded per­cep­tions of the “mobile con­sumer,” to evolv­ing cus­tomer habits, there’s much to learn about mobile, and the many ways you can profit from that knowl­edge.”
Mobile Usage Is Exploding. Is Your Coffee Business Ready?
Rob Bethge, Perka, Inc Page #54

The sus­tain­abil­ity of cof­fee lies in the hands of its farm­ers.”
Subsidy Programs: A Glimmer Of Hope For Struggling Coffee Farmers
Alexis Rubinstein, FCStone, LLC Page #56

[…] We are on a clear path toward a new way of doing busi­ness in the cof­fee world.”
The Fourth Wave And Functional Sustainability Models
Miles Small, CoffeeTalk Foundation Page #58

Unless mar­ket con­di­tions change, the strug­gles that farms are fac­ing to remain prof­itable will have seri­ous con­se­quences on cof­fee qual­ity […] Every voice should be heard, and every mem­ber should have an unequiv­o­cal oppor­tu­nity to con­tribute to the orga­ni­za­tion (SCAA).”
Think Global Time To Align
Marty Curtis, Combustion Systems Sales Service, Inc Page #60

Our indus­try should be hav­ing these con­ver­sa­tions, not because we are nec­es­sar­ily doing things wrong, but because we might be able to do things bet­ter.”
Discussing Coffee Quality Assessment Strengthens The Industry
Shawn Steiman, Daylight Mind Coffee Company Page #62

Data will become an equal­izer […] but it’s the busi­nesses that know how to use it well that will win.”
Why Data Matters
Jason Richelson, ShopKeep POS Page #64

It is wrong to think there is noth­ing left to learn. As both mature and imma­ture mar­kets see new shops open­ing their doors, famil­iar ter­ri­tory is becom­ing any­thing but that. And, Learning from our past mis­takes and dis­cussing our future will help us sus­tain and sur­vive.”
Roaster’s Resolutions
Andrew Russo, Roasting Expert Page #66

One of the more dif­fi­cult con­cepts for the cof­fee mer­chants to grasp is that sus­tain­abil­ity at ori­gin is not about cof­fee. It is about the farm­ers, their needs, their val­ues, their cul­ture, and their own com­mu­ni­ties, and it all must be long-term or it can­not be con­sid­ered sus­tain­able.”
Sustainability At Origin
Bill Fishbein, The Coffee Trust Page #68

The learn­ing curve of spe­cialty cof­fee has advanced dra­mat­i­cally, and the end con­sumer is now bet­ter edu­cated and curi­ous about the top­ics.”
A New Set Of Critical Questions
Josué Morales, Mayaland Coffee Page #70

We are lucky, for few jobs offer the fun, the com­mit­ment, and the pas­sion that we enjoy…”
A Roaster’s Checklist For Optimal Packaging
Jeff Beer and Chris Burger, Fres-co System USA, Inc. Page #72

*By the way, Andrew Russo has just moved to the area and is seek­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties within the cof­fee com­mu­nity in the Pacific Northwest. You can reach him at andrew.russo83@gmail.com.