Tag Archive for: business

by Andy Benedikter and Norbert Niederhauser
Cropster, Inc

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

Take the Initiative and Start Recycling

Categories: 2013, NovemberTags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , Author:

I’m sure all of you have heard that recy­cling that paper cup after you have con­sumed your dou­ble tall non­fat caramel latte will help save the planet. Recycling, how­ever, even more than that, is one of the best ways that you can make an impact on the planet on which we live. Utilizing and pro­mot­ing the use of sus­tain­able prod­ucts also aids in the life of our planet and the cof­fee industry.

According to, “Nearly 90 per­cent of what we throw away could poten­tially be recov­ered through reuse, recy­cling, or com­post­ing.” So with that being said, I now ask those within the cof­fee com­mu­nity, what can we do to recy­cle and sus­tain resources that are impor­tant to the suc­cess and func­tion of our industry?

Gabe Post, Director of Innovation and lead for the SUSTAIN project for Pacific Market International, LLC talks about the impor­tance of recy­cling. Post says, “The Earth’s resources are finite. It is impor­tant for con­sumers to rec­og­nize their role in the prod­uct con­sump­tion cycle, and to recy­cle items appro­pri­ately at their end-of-life. It is the manufacturer’s respon­si­bil­ity to design prod­ucts that are eas­ily recyclable.”

Post expresses the idea that it is a team effort to make a dif­fer­ence in the world when recy­cling. He says, “Together, we can build prod­uct cycles that con­serve energy and reduce car­bon foot­print and envi­ron­men­tal impact.”

Excessive pack­ag­ing has made its way to the cof­fee indus­try. When you go to a cof­fee shop you usu­ally get a one-time dis­pos­able cup – which would be okay if the con­sumer prop­erly recy­cled their cup when fin­ished. But the real­ity of it is, along with that cup, you get a cup sleeve to pro­tect your hand, a wooden stick to stir in your sugar, and the paper waste that stems from the sugar packets.

Post says, “Despite the indus­try going through great lengths to source sus­tain­able cof­fee, almost all of it is still being served in single-use dis­pos­able cups. In America last year alone, we land­filled 16 bil­lion paper cof­fee cups.”

All of these items can be replaced with a more effi­cient prod­uct that is envi­ron­men­tally friendly. Instead of sugar pack­ets, you could use a sugar jar. Instead of the wooden sticks, you can use metal spoons that can be washed at the end of the day. Companies today offer decom­pos­able cup sleeves and reusable cups.

John A. Darch, President and CEO of Doi Chaang Coffee says, “Any effort we can make – whether it’s a com­pany, a fam­ily, or an indi­vid­ual – towards improv­ing our envi­ron­ment and the world we live in, is cru­cial. We can’t dis­card every­thing we use into one spot any­more; the world just can’t han­dle those kinds of actions.” He says, “Whether it’s recy­cling, com­post­ing or con­serv­ing water – every lit­tle bit helps. It’s a way of show­ing respect to the world we live in.”

While these may seem like rel­a­tively small changes, you have to start some­where. However, it is impor­tant to look at the big­ger pic­ture here. How can com­pa­nies and busi­nesses within the cof­fee indus­try start to make a dif­fer­ence and increase their sus­tain­abil­ity efforts?

Post says, “Sustainability efforts suc­ceed most com­monly when they are baked into the NDA of the com­pany. It should be a part of who you are, not just what you do. Sustainability should be a part of the busi­ness strat­egy along with other key growth initiatives.”

When you can set goals and are able to track them, you know that you are doing some­thing right. People feel a sense of pride and accom­plish­ment when they see that the goals the com­pany is set­ting are being accom­plished with a lit­tle bit of their effort.

Did you know that 70 per­cent of cof­fee con­sump­tion is rou­tine? It is when this rou­tine becomes a more respon­si­ble rou­tine with the incor­po­ra­tion of recy­cling and the uti­liza­tion of sus­tain­able prod­ucts, where we will start to see last­ing impacts on the environment.

Post says, “Improving sus­tain­abil­ity in the cof­fee indus­try will help reduce the envi­ron­men­tal impact of the indus­try and con­tinue to influ­ence con­sumer aware­ness and ulti­mately behav­ior change in a pos­i­tive way.”

Darch explains his expe­ri­ence with becom­ing sus­tain­able, “It is reward­ing to engage in sus­tain­able prac­tices. To be able to pro­duce a prod­uct that is high qual­ity, but also pro­duced through eth­i­cally respon­si­ble steps will not only make you feel good – it will make your cus­tomers feel good about what they are drinking.”

Pacific Market International, LLC is just one of the many com­pa­nies striv­ing to make a dif­fer­ence. They have devel­oped a sys­tem whereby their reusable cups are recy­cled at the end of their life and then col­lected and reen­tered into their mate­r­ial sup­ply. The idea is to some­day have their cups be made out of old cups.

Beyond their SUSTAIN effort, Pacific Market International, LLC (PMI) has made sus­tain­abil­ity a part of their cor­po­rate strat­egy, includ­ing Environmental Stewardship as one of five busi­ness strat­egy pil­lars. Since 2005, year-on-year improve­ment has been achieved via con­certed efforts to improve the sus­tain­abil­ity of both man­u­fac­tur­ing processes and prod­ucts. In 2012, the PMI Joinease fac­tory that cur­rently man­u­fac­tures SUSTAIN cups reduced their per-unit green­house gas emis­sions by 25 per­cent while increas­ing pro­duc­tion by 37 percent.

Doi Chaang Coffee Company is also push­ing efforts to be more sus­tain­able. With the Keurig being a pop­u­lar and con­ve­nient machine to brew cof­fee, it is inevitable that kcup con­sump­tion, which is in the bil­lions, has a neg­a­tive envi­ron­men­tal impact. Doi Chaang Coffee has “just devel­oped the first ever “Beyond Fair TradeTM” sus­tain­able 90 per­cent biodegrad­able sin­gle serve aroma cup. The cups are Keurig com­pat­i­ble and will break down in any land­fill or dump­ster,” accord­ing to Darch.

StalkMarket is a com­pany that is talk­ing com­postable prod­ucts to a new level. Their core line of prod­ucts is made from a sug­ar­cane fiber-based paper­board called bagasse. The mate­r­ial is made from upcy­cled sug­ar­cane waste recov­ered from sugar refiner­ies. The crushed stalks are taken to a pro­cess­ing plant where they are con­verted into paper­board in much the same way as wood pulp is used for card­board. All of StalkMarket’s prod­ucts are 100 per­cent com­postable. Their prod­ucts are avail­able to con­sumers at major gro­cery chains, office sup­ply stores, organic and nat­ural food retail­ers and online. These prod­ucts would be a great asset to a café that is look­ing to become more green.

As a cof­fee lov­ing indi­vid­ual, who is con­stantly grab­bing and con­sum­ing cof­fee on the go, I will make sure that I will prop­erly recy­cle my latte cup every time I con­sume my favorite cup of cof­fee. Or, bet­ter yet, I will pur­chase a reusable cup and elim­i­nate the waste all together. What are you going to do?

If there are more indi­vid­u­als on the con­sum­ing end and more busi­nesses on the sup­ply­ing end that can come together to increase recy­cling and sus­tain­abil­ity efforts, the cof­fee indus­try would flour­ish in envi­ron­men­tal means.

Revisit your company’s busi­ness strate­gies, think about if you prop­erly deposit your to-go cup in the recy­cling bin, and imag­ine an indus­try work­ing together to make a dif­fer­ence on the envi­ron­ment. Make your next cus­tomer rela­tion­ship with the environment.

Appreciation Makes the World Go ‘Round

Categories: 2013, NovemberTags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , Author:

With last month’s view touch­ing upon the topic of appre­ci­a­tion, we wanted to con­tinue our dis­cus­sion. Customers are what make this indus­try spin. Without the three-cup-a-day cof­fee drinker, with­out the “mom and pop” shops, with­out the sup­pli­ers, and even with­out the local Starbucks, the cof­fee indus­try would not be what it is today.

All of these cof­fee shops and sup­pli­ers need one spe­cial thing to thrive as a busi­ness– cus­tomer loy­alty. However, you can­not cre­ate a great cus­tomer loy­alty base if the cus­tomer does not feel appre­ci­ated. So, my friends, this arti­cle is all about cre­at­ing cus­tomer loy­alty though cus­tomer appreciation.

After pick­ing the brains of many cof­fee pro­fes­sions, three com­mon themes sur­faced to build cus­tomer loy­alty– Respect, ser­vice, and be per­sonal. There are also many rewards pro­grams and com­pa­nies work­ing with orga­ni­za­tions and shops to build cus­tomer loyalty.

Aretha Franklin says it best, “R-E-S-P-E-C-T, find out what it means to me!” And for every­one else as well for that matter!

Kevin Sinnott, cre­ator of Coffeecon, makes respect the core of the event’s val­ues. He says, “We treat event goers with respect, even if it’s just to accept them for drink­ing cof­fee the way they like it– cream and sugar or black.”

Everyone walk­ing the face of this planet is dif­fer­ent. That means that every­one enjoys his or her cof­fee dif­fer­ent than the next per­son in line. Shop own­ers and baris­tas need to under­stand that. If you want that cus­tomer to come back again you must respect the fact that they are dif­fer­ent from you and and you must acco­mo­date their needs and desires. The cus­tomer is always right, remem­ber? Don’t demean them for their taste buds – accept it and wel­come them back for another cup.

Dave Stewart, owner of Vista Clara Coffee, talks about cus­tomer appre­ci­a­tion, “Customer appre­ci­a­tion is show­ing and let­ting the cus­tomer know that you care for them and appre­ci­ate what they do for you!”

If you are a sup­plier, you must also remem­ber that your cus­tomer needs you just as much as you need them. Chances are, you are not the only sup­plier able to pro­vide the prod­uct they are look­ing for. You want to make sure that your cus­tomers are not only pro­vided with the cor­rect prod­ucts and ser­vices, but check up on them post transaction.

Make sure they were sat­is­fied with your ser­vice. If not, ask them what was wrong and what you can do to make it bet­ter. Respect that they were not sat­is­fied; do not argue with them about it. Make the improve­ments and make their next pur­chase supe­rior than the last to cre­ate cus­tomer loyalty.

Joe Behm, President of Behmor Incorporated says, “If your cus­tomers have loy­alty, they become the best form of adver­tis­ing that no money can buy.”

“Consumers have choices, you have to set your­self apart, to give them a rea­son to go out of their way to see you.  If you are a retail store, serv­ing great cof­fee, that is not enough, they can find excep­tional cof­fee, but what makes you dif­fer­ent,” says Mark McKee, Owner of Passionate Harvest Coffee.

With that being said, cus­tomers are not going to go to a cof­fee shop where the barista is not friendly and wel­com­ing. They will pass your shop and go to the next one right down the street that wel­comes their busi­ness. You need to stress the fact that your cus­tomers mean some­thing to you, and not just a paycheck.

Customers feel appre­ci­ated when they can walk into a cof­fee shop and be wel­comed by the staff. If the staff is unhappy and/or rude, it rubs off onto those who walk through the door. Even a friendly smile and a sim­ple “come back again,” can make the world of difference.

In busi­ness, your cus­tomers are every­thing – with­out them you have no busi­ness, so every­thing you do in the busi­ness has to not only be func­tional, but also build loy­alty,” says Adam Pesce, Director of Coffee and Tea at Reunion Island Coffee. “Some loy­alty comes more nat­u­rally, but pro­vid­ing a great prod­uct, and prov­ing your con­vic­tions through real action and not just talk, are crucial.”

Kris Heinemann from Loring says, “In this part­ner­ship with our cus­tomers, we believe they are enti­tled to our full atten­tion in address­ing their ques­tions, con­cerns, and any ser­vice needs. We build for them and we will con­tinue to lis­ten and respond in every way we can for as long as they are roast­ing on a Loring.”

Educate your cus­tomers. Educate them on the cof­fee they are drink­ing, edu­cate them on the his­tory of the build­ing, edu­cate them about where the cof­fee came from. A cus­tomer feels spe­cial when you take the time to tell them about what they are drinking.

I recently went out to din­ner with some­one who has celiac dis­ease. That means they must con­sume an entirely gluten-free diet. The owner of the restau­rant took the time and sat down with us to edu­cate us about how he makes all of his dishes gluten-free, from the ingre­di­ents down to the prepa­ra­tion in the kitchen. After din­ner, we both had said that we would go back in a heart­beat – and not just because the food was excel­lent, but also because we felt like we mat­tered to the owner. We weren’t just another check at table five to him.

When the staff can edu­cate their cus­tomers in a way that is not snob­bish, the cus­tomer feels spe­cial. Not to men­tion, they know where their cof­fee came from, they know what thought was put into the prod­uct, and they know the thought process behind the ser­vice. Make their expe­ri­ence memorable.

Take the time to learn their names, not just mem­o­rize their order. Ask them how their day is or how their child’s birth­day party was. Know and under­stand that your cus­tomers are not just a writ­ten name upon a cup. They will con­tinue to drink cof­fee, whether it is at your shop or the one across the street. You need to make them to want to come back. It is a good feel­ing, as a cof­fee drinker, when I can walk into a shop and they not only know my order, but they know my name.

McKee says, “The advice I would give is sim­ple, you are embark­ing an excit­ing jour­ney, to become part of people’s lives, it will be hard, dif­fi­cult, you will need to invest your time and resources but with­out it, you will sim­ply be one of the generic cof­fee com­pa­nies, never a place that stands out.”

Loyalty to a brand can’t be bought. It’s earned. Once you have loyal cus­tomers, it’s absolutely nec­es­sary to express your thanks in ways oth­ers don’t by, for exam­ple, includ­ing a follow-up note when they take time to say thanks for the sup­port,” says Behm.

POS sys­tems, like Coffee Shop Manager are a vital ele­ment to get infor­ma­tion about your cus­tomers. Coffee Shop Manager can give key infor­ma­tion on whom and who are not your best cus­tomers are your café. You can reward your best cus­tomers and give the ones trail­ing behind incen­tives to come in and indulge into a great cup of coffee.

Also, Perka soft­ware can be used to cre­ate cus­tomer loy­alty. It is sim­ple to use and a great tool to uti­lize with your café.

Rob Bethge, Chief Marketing Officer at Perka Inc. says, “Perka cre­ates loy­alty by mak­ing it easy and fun for mer­chants to get to know their reg­u­lar cus­tomers bet­ter. Our smart­phone lets the cus­tomer accu­mu­late points for their vis­its and pur­chases that they can redeem from a menu of perks. And the cof­fee shop can send offer to the cus­tomers that encour­age prof­itable behavior.”

Perka ben­e­fits oper­a­tors by giv­ing them a enter­prise class cus­tomer rela­tion­ship man­age­ment sys­tem dis­guised as a sim­ple mobile punchcard.

Bethge says, “Cafes should have a mar­ket­ing plan. And a mean­ing­ful part of a mar­ket­ing plan has got to focus on cus­tomer expe­ri­ence, loy­alty, and engage­ment. Mobile tech­nol­ogy and smart­phones in par­tic­u­lar have become nearly ubiq­ui­tous, so now is really the time to con­sider tak­ing advan­tage of these emerg­ing mobile mar­ket­ing tools.”

All of the indi­vid­u­als quoted above and the com­pa­nies that they are rep­re­sent­ing, we feel as if they are shin­ing exam­ples of com­pa­nies who exude excep­tional cus­tomer appre­ci­a­tion and cus­tomer ser­vice. In return, these com­pa­nies have a great cus­tomer loy­alty base with awe­some cus­tomers who keep com­ing back for more. If you would like more infor­ma­tion, please visit their com­pany websites.

Customers, whether you are a cof­fee shop, a sup­plier, or an orga­ni­za­tion, are the basic foun­da­tion to the fun­da­men­tal func­tions of your com­pany. Creating a good cus­tomer loyal base will keep your com­pany grow­ing and estab­lish secu­rity within the economy.

It is impor­tant to stress that cus­tomer appre­ci­a­tion is crit­i­cal at all lev­els of the indus­try– sup­pli­ers, orga­ni­za­tions, and cof­fee shops. Without ade­quate cus­tomer appre­ci­a­tion at all lev­els the sup­ply chain will become dis­rupted. Remember that your cus­tomers and orga­ni­za­tion mem­bers are vital to the sur­vival to your com­pany – treat them the way that they deserve to be treated.

Selling to Coffee People or Selling Coffee to People?

by Mike McKim, Cuvee Coffee

What is it that keeps a cus­tomer com­ing back? The most com­mon answers are: qual­ity of the prod­uct, the design of the café, and/or our loca­tion. Then, the other things start to come out, like how we steam our milk, or pull our shots, or the microlot on the menu.

I often find myself over com­pli­cat­ing things. I mean let’s face it, the cof­fee indus­try has a lot of lay­ers and so many peo­ple are involved in the jour­ney from seed to cup. I used to think that if I could just teach my cus­tomers every­thing that I have learned over the years, that it would keep them com­ing back. Then I real­ized that the aver­age cof­fee con­sumer doesn’t want or need all that detail. What they are look­ing for is an experience.

It is really that sim­ple. I think in gen­eral peo­ple just want to feel spe­cial and I am not sure if telling them you do not offer sugar or an alter­na­tive to milk makes them feel spe­cial. Now I am not knock­ing that busi­ness model and I under­stand the phi­los­o­phy behind it. And if you are sell­ing to cof­fee peo­ple, it makes sense.

No mat­ter how big we think our indus­try is, I am con­stantly reminded that it really is pretty small. And there are way more peo­ple who are not cof­fee pro­fes­sion­als out there. So what about them? Sometimes I am left won­der­ing if spend­ing less time sell­ing to cof­fee peo­ple and more time sell­ing cof­fee to peo­ple is all it takes to build a loyal following.

Estate Auctions, a Growing Sales Trend?

Categories: 2013, NovemberTags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , Author:

The first Internet cof­fee auc­tion was held in 1999.  It was called the Gourmet Project and offered spe­cialty cof­fees from Brazil.  Ten year later, Price Peterson, Hacienda la Esmeralda in Boquete, Panama engaged Mr. Malcolm Stone, Stoneworks Coffee Auction Platform to con­duct the Esmeralda  Estate Special auc­tion.  A total of 46 lots were sold for a value of $441,010.00 at an aver­age price of $31.21 per lb.

It wasn’t until 2011, that Finca El Injerto and Santa Felisa Estate, decided to join Hacienda la Esmeralda  and sell their cof­fee via auc­tion. They also decided to work with Stoneworks and, like Price Peterson, found an excit­ing new venue for sell­ing coffee.

Table 1

Most notable are the aver­age sale prices of auc­tion cof­fees com­pared the spot “C” aver­age price.

Table 2At first glance, the reader might be think­ing, “this is a no brainer, every estate should have an auc­tion”.  The real­ity of the sit­u­a­tion is there is more to the estate auc­tion busi­ness than select­ing some cof­fees and hir­ing a plat­form and say­ing “start the bidding.”

The fol­low­ing Q&A with Mr. Stone helps us under­stand what is required to build and exe­cute a suc­cess­ful Estate auction.

What makes an Estate a can­di­date for an Estate Auction?
•    Coffee must score +85 per­cent using SCAA cup­ping guide­lines
•    Well known branded farms have a higher chance for suc­cess
•    Farm with an unique fac­tor
—Certified …Organic, Rainforest, Fair Trade, etc.
•    Traceability from tree to export
•    Micro lots
•    Packaging
—Vacuum sealed in a box less than 70# per box
—Good art, logo and label­ing
•    Back office to sup­port billing and logis­tic
•    Ability to ship sam­ples in a timely man­ner
•    Proficient in English and man­age­ment skills
•    A com­mit­ted and engaged staff

What are the keys to suc­cess?
•    Great cof­fees
•    Excellent pack­ag­ing, pro­mo­tional mate­ri­als and web­site
•    Don’t offer too much cof­fee …less is more and qual­ity is king
•    Good cof­fee descriptions…accurate, doc­u­mentable cof­fee infor­ma­tion
•    Keep lots small…same lot of cof­fee can be divided into small lots

What are the pri­mary pro­ducer ben­e­fits?
•    Ability to sell small lots of cof­fee at a pre­mium price
•    The price of the cof­fee is deter­mined by the buyer not a com­mod­ity mar­ket
•    Enhanced recog­ni­tion of the brand and rep­u­ta­tion of the farm

What do you charge to con­duct an Estate auc­tion?
The cost to hire Stoneworks Auction Platform to man­age and con­duct an auc­tion is a flat all-inclusive price for up to 100 lots.

What do the pro­duc­ers get for their invest­ment?
•    Instruction and coach­ing with auc­tion orga­ni­za­tion and pro­mo­tion mate­ri­als
•    Pre-auction pro­mo­tion on Stoneworks web­site
•    Pre and post infor­ma­tion man­age­ment and track­ing
•    Buyer reg­is­tra­tion
•    Sample order tak­ing at time of bid registration…$250.00 per set
•    Active data­base of global buy­ers
•    Data input of auc­tion cof­fee and pro­mo­tional infor­ma­tion
•    Run the auc­tion
•    Post auc­tion report
•    Recommendation for start­ing price and incre­men­tal pricing

What are the pro­ducer respon­si­bil­i­ties
•    Selection of cof­fees and lots
•    Shipment of sam­ples to bid­ders
•    Development of cof­fee descrip­tions and cup pro­files
•    Development of mar­ket­ing mate­ri­als to accom­pany sam­ples
•    Promotion of their auc­tion through their net­work
•    Billing and arrang­ing for ship­ment of pur­chased coffees

How long does the auc­tion last?
Most auc­tions last 5–6 hours

What are the buyer’s respon­si­bil­i­ties?
•    Register to bid and pur­chase sam­ples
•    Cup sam­ples
•    Develop a bid­ding strat­egy
•    Bid and pur­chase
•    Pay and arrange for shipping

Understanding the mechan­ics of the auc­tion is inter­est­ing and help­ful if you are a poten­tial seller or buyer.  But there is more…what moti­vated these Trend Setting Producers to attempt mar­ket­ing via auc­tion. I was able to inter­view Arturo Aguirre S., Finca El Injerto, and Antonio Meneses, Santa Felisa Organic Estate.  Thank you to both for their time and open­ness in answer­ing my many questions.

Why did you decide to auc­tion some of your cof­fee?
Arturo and Antonio knew there were roast­ers inter­ested in unique cof­fees but had no way to reach them.  The auc­tion sys­tem pro­vided a non-traditional way to build their cus­tomer base.  Additionally, Arturo wanted to sell some new vari­etals and small lots that they had found on the farm.  He had no idea how to price them.  The auc­tion is a great tool for deter­min­ing price.

What per­cent­age of your pro­duc­tion do you present for auc­tion?
Arturo …3 per­cent    and Antonio…5 percent

How do you decide which cof­fees will be auc­tioned?
Both pro­duc­ers begin with cup­pings on the farm to select the cof­fees they will send to either an inde­pen­dent pro­fes­sional cup­per and/or to ANACAFE for eval­u­a­tion.  This year Antonio invited Joe Hsu, from Taiwan, to par­tic­i­pate in the final cup­ping panel. Arturo “selects only lot that cup 89+”.

Income aside…what are the addi­tional ben­e­fits you receive from the auc­tion?
Arturo…”First of all, it’s a great sat­is­fac­tion for our fam­ily and our peo­ple that this was a suc­cess­ful project, since past gen­er­a­tions we have worked hard to dif­fer­en­ti­ate our­selves.  This has moti­vated our team to con­tinue to work hard because they know we are mak­ing a dif­fer­ence.”
Farm recog­ni­tion and access to new mar­kets has been fan­tas­tic.  Antonia said that in three short years they have dou­bled the num­ber of vis­i­tor they see on the farm.

What are your pri­mary chal­lenges of an Estate auc­tion?
•    The need for trace­abil­ity requires doc­u­ment­ing every aspect of the cof­fee from the seedling to the exporter.
•    Working directly with the buy­ers, begin­ning with sam­pling and ulti­mately ship­ping the cof­fee, is a logis­tic chal­lenge.
•    Must offer some­thing unique and inter­est­ing and meet the wants and needs of the roast­ers.  Making these selec­tions can be risky business.

Do you feel that auc­tions are a viable mar­ket­ing tool for Estate cof­fee?
Both pro­duc­ers answered “Yes!”  But, cau­tion fel­low pro­duc­ers to only par­tic­i­pate if you have proven excep­tional qual­ity.  It is help­ful to be active in the indus­try.  It is impor­tant to be will­ing to spend money and time to uti­lize the auc­tion for mar­ket­ing.  Also, to under­stand that pay­ment for the cof­fee doesn’t come until long after the cof­fee has been harvested.

Do you watch the auc­tion?
Arturo…Of course, all the fam­ily meet and we have break­fast watch­ing it!
Antonio…For sure, we get ner­vous and don’t sleep the night before.

There is a new orga­ni­za­tion in Estate auc­tions… Alliance for Coffee Excellence, ACE, the orga­ni­za­tion behind Cup of Excellence has entered the Estate auc­tion arena.  On April 25, 2013, ACE con­ducted their first Estate auc­tion in con­junc­tion with Fincas Mierisch.  Fifteen cof­fees were fea­tured, sep­a­rated into thirty-nine small lots, in a selec­tion named Los Favorites. The lots sold from $4.90 – 100.90 per pound.

Are Estate auc­tions a trend or here to stay? If you ask Price, Arturo, and Antonio then the answer is yes!  They will con­tinue to seek those unique won­der­ful gems from their farm and take the risk of sell­ing them at auc­tion.  In November, 2013, Daterra Coffee of Cerrado, Brazil will be added to the list of Estate Auction participants.

Reference web­sites… If you want to learn more about Estate cof­fee auc­tion con­tact
Hacienda la Esmeralda    www.haciendalaesmeralda
Finca el Injerto
Santa Felisa Estate
Stoneworks Coffee Platform

So You’ve Opened a Coffee Shop. Now What?

Categories: 2013, NovemberTags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , Author:

A lot of cof­fee house own­ers begin with the impres­sion that the hard­est work is behind them once they open their doors. Like Ray Kinsella, Kevin Costner’s char­ac­ter in the movie “Field of Dreams,” they believe cus­tomers, like Ray’s ballplay­ers, will appear as if by magic now that they’ve built their cof­fee shop.

The truth is, your most intense activ­ity will come in the months after you open. Coffee busi­nesses are built incre­men­tally. You need to attract cus­tomers and keep them com­ing back, all while becom­ing an expert at other aspects of run­ning your busi­ness. Here are some solid strate­gies to put you on the path to success.

Ease into Operating Hours. It is best not to set for­mal oper­at­ing hours when you open your doors. During the first sev­eral weeks, you will not know the exact traf­fic pat­terns of your loca­tion. Therefore, plan to open the doors around 7 a.m. and stay open until you con­sis­tently see a long break in cus­tomers, which may be in the late after­noon or early evening. If you want to expand your busi­ness hours, do so in stages. If for exam­ple, there is a line of cus­tomers wait­ing when you open, try open­ing an hour ear­lier. Remember that once you post your oper­at­ing hours, you have made a com­mit­ment to your cus­tomers and must not fail to open on time or close early.

Practice to Perfection. Specialty cof­fee cus­tomers will walk past ten com­pet­ing cof­fee shops to get the best espresso. How do you become the best? Source the high­est qual­ity beans, syrups, dairy, and other ingre­di­ents that you can find. And then prac­tice, prac­tice, prac­tice. You will usu­ally have some peri­ods of slow cus­tomer traf­fic dur­ing your first months of oper­a­tion. Use this time to per­fect your drink prepa­ra­tion skills. Remember, cus­tomers hate to wait, so you must craft a per­fectly pre­pared drink in a mat­ter of minutes.

Get the Word Out. You’ve already invested in your suc­cess with a great loca­tion and promi­nent sig­nage, but this is just the ante in the game. You need to tell every­one in your com­mu­nity – fam­ily, friends, area res­i­dents, and busi­nesses, about your cof­fee shop. Leverage the power of social media to con­nect with friends and fans through Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Google+, and the like. Try out some of the grass­roots mar­ket­ing tech­niques I dis­cussed in my April 2013 col­umn. One of the sim­plest yet most effec­tive is to hand out pro­mo­tional cards offer­ing any espresso drink for $1 (about the cost of the drink). Every time one of these cards is redeemed, you have a chance to acquire a cus­tomer at no cost to you. Savvy mar­keters con­sider this a win-win proposition.

Track Customers and Sales. The more you know about your cus­tomers, the bet­ter you can sat­isfy their needs and keep them com­ing back. So track their habits and col­lect feed­back. When do they come in? How much time elapses between cus­tomers dur­ing busy peri­ods? What are the most pop­u­lar drinks? How many $1 espresso cards have been redeemed? How much is your aver­age sale? What is your ratio of espresso drink to drip cof­fee sales? What are cus­tomers say­ing about your drinks? (If they’re not rav­ing about the qual­ity, find out why!). Collecting this type of infor­ma­tion allows you to tai­lor your hours of oper­a­tion, menu, and staffing pat­terns to enhance profitability.

Set Up Systems. Operational sys­tems estab­lish order and help staff mem­bers under­stand and mas­ter their respon­si­bil­i­ties. You should put sys­tems and check­lists in place for every­thing from drink recipes to open­ing and clos­ing the shop to order­ing and stor­ing sup­plies and main­tain­ing equip­ment. You will want to keep indi­vid­ual recipes and check­lists where they are eas­ily acces­si­ble and assem­ble every­thing in an oper­a­tional man­ual. Refine and update sys­tems as you iden­tify bet­ter ways to do things.

Get Backup. It’s lonely at the top with every­one depend­ing on you. It’s a good idea to cre­ate a sup­port sys­tem of peo­ple who can help you through the rough spots. You can set up a for­mal advi­sory board or make time to con­nect infor­mally with men­tors, busi­ness peers, and bankers. Your busi­ness, and your spouse, will thank you.

If you fol­low these strate­gies, your cof­fee shop should begin to fill up with a reg­u­lar cast of return­ing customers.

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. The author of Seven Steps to Success in the Specialty Coffee Industry can be reached at

Operations: Designing the Customer and Staff Experience

Categories: 2013, NovemberTags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , Author:


From Tip 1 – We cre­ated your Brand Experience

From Tip 2 – We learned about your Customers

From Tip 3 – We explored your Identity

From Tip 4 – We cre­ated your Space

From Tip 5 – We cre­ated your Physical Space

From Tip 6 – We cre­ated your Business Plan

From Tip 7 – We ana­lyzed your Location and Customers

From Tip 8  – We pre­vented Nasty Permitting Surprises

Cafe SeriesNow that we have cre­ated your brand, your phys­i­cal and vir­tual expe­ri­ence, and your per­mit process is well under­way, let’s design the staff and cus­tomer experience!

In our Tip 7 arti­cle, you learned about your cus­tomers and loca­tional demo­graph­ics. With this infor­ma­tion we have a good cus­tomer under­stand­ing. Sharing this infor­ma­tion with your staff will be help­ful in their train­ing and under­stand­ing of your poten­tial cus­tomers and brand.

Having a for­mal­ized and ongo­ing train­ing and engage­ment pro­gram is impor­tant in retain­ing great employ­ees. This includes a writ­ten man­ual for all oper­a­tional processes, menu com­mu­ni­ca­tion, human resource poli­cies, and any items that your staff or man­age­ment needs to refer to easily.

Pre-opening train­ing should start at least 1 week prior to open­ing – prefer­ably 2 weeks. This is after you have already inter­viewed and selected the key peo­ple.  Having clear and writ­ten com­pany poli­cies for being late, miss­ing work, sick days, hol­i­days and vaca­tions will aid in clear communication.

The major­ity of your staff will be the mil­len­nial gen­er­a­tion (those born between 1983–2000). This group appre­ci­ates being engaged more than pre­vi­ous gen­er­a­tions. Getting to know their hob­bies, fam­ily, friends and inter­ests will gain their respect and loy­alty. Having a happy and engaged staff is your goal so hire for atti­tude and you will have a win­ning recipe for cus­tomer service.

Now that your staff and man­ager are trained, let’s engage the cus­tomer with your new brand. Similar to your staff, get­ting to know your cus­tomers on a per­sonal level is impor­tant in build­ing cus­tomer and brand loy­alty. You are in the cus­tomer ser­vice busi­ness; there­fore always make your cus­tomers feel wel­comed and valued.

Observe your staff’s con­ver­sa­tions with cus­tomers and pro­vide feed­back as nec­es­sary. These cus­tomers will be more likely to sign-up for your pro­grams because they want to be a part of your com­mu­nity. This may seem like com­mon sense, but cus­tomer can dif­fer­en­ti­ate you from the competition.

If you chose to use mar­ket­ing ana­lyt­ics and pro­grams, eval­u­ate their ROI over an annual period.  Geo-fencing is being used in some areas to under­stand cus­tomer pref­er­ences in your geo­graphic area – and then inter­face with your mar­ket­ing cam­paigns. Mobile engage­ment of your brand with your cus­tomer is grow­ing rapidly.  Get to know the options and have a respon­sive web­site. Make it easy – have peo­ple sign-up for your pro­mo­tions by sign­ing into their Facebook. Make sure staff are aware of your mar­ket­ing cam­paign so they can sup­port the com­mu­ni­ca­tion of your cam­paign to cus­tomers. There are many sophis­ti­cated and costly meth­ods of mar­ket­ing and reach­ing your cus­tomers, but the one-on-one rela­tion­ship build­ing is often the best.

Think about rewards and incen­tives for cus­tomers to return on a con­sis­tent basis. Some ideas could include a hol­i­day event where you give a per­cent­age of your sales to a com­mu­nity orga­ni­za­tion that your staff or cus­tomers have selected. Listen to what your cus­tomer is say­ing about you. Look at your online reviews and respond quickly and effectively.

Having a strong train­ing pro­gram is worth money in the bank. Having fun and engag­ing staff will keep cus­tomers com­ing back. The cost of turnover can be high, there­fore cre­at­ing a sound pro­gram that includes a firm under­stand­ing of your brand, the menu, the cus­tomer demo­graphic and on the job train­ing will go a long way in retain­ing great staff and customers!

Melanie Corey-Ferrini is the founder of Dynamikspace ( She has cre­ated the “10 Tips to Jumpstart your Café” work­books and speaks at indus­try con­fer­ences on how to cre­ate a suc­cess­ful café.

Direct Trade: a Honduran Success Story

Categories: 2013, NovemberTags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , Author:

Aside from sourc­ing awe­some cof­fee, one of the thrills of direct trade is con­nect­ing with the farm­ers who grow the crop. At Crimson Cup, we’ve been for­tu­nate to build a rela­tion­ship with David Lopez, one of the dri­ving forces behind the trans­for­ma­tion under­way in the remote Honduran vil­lage of El Socorro de la Penita. Working with David and other local farm­ers since 2011, we’re see­ing sig­nif­i­cant impact in the com­mu­nity school and improve­ment in the qual­ity of coffee.

Growing up in the vil­lage, David attended its one-room Jose Cecilio del Valle ele­men­tary school through the sixth grade. Formal edu­ca­tion ends there for 95 per­cent of the community’s chil­dren. David how­ever, was deter­mined to keep learn­ing. He left to attend junior high and then high school in larger communities.

After grad­u­at­ing high school, David took a job at one of the area’s larger cof­fee mills. There, he received a ground­ing in the cof­fee trade. Among other lessons, he learned the impor­tance of qual­ity in deter­min­ing cof­fee price. He wit­nessed the power of coops in nego­ti­at­ing prices. And he expe­ri­enced the enhanced qual­ity of life that came about as a result.

DSC00329A deep com­mit­ment to his her­itage drew David home in 1999. Upon his return, his father gave him 18 acres of land that were being used for cat­tle pas­ture. He began the process of cre­at­ing a cof­fee farm, plant­ing shade trees, and high-quality cof­fee trees. He did not see a yield until 2003, when he har­vested six bags of cof­fee. Ten years later, he owns 40 acres, with 15 ded­i­cated to cof­fee. Through David’s focus on proper cul­ti­va­tion, yields have grown steadily so that, this year he har­vested 11 tons of cof­fee. He projects a 13-ton crop in 2014.

As in many small com­mu­ni­ties, the 21 cof­fee farm­ers in El Socorro had been at the mercy of cof­fee coy­otes when sell­ing their crop. They earned barely enough to cover the costs of cul­ti­va­tion. David decided to change that. He helped orga­nize his neigh­bors into Coop Cultivadores del Reino, allow­ing them to nego­ti­ate higher prices by sell­ing as a group. He also built a wet mill to process their cof­fee locally, improv­ing its qual­ity and consistency.

David’s hard work came to our atten­tion in 2011. Since then, we’ve devel­oped a direct trade rela­tion­ship with David and other coop mem­bers designed around four pil­lars of impact – price, qual­ity, pro­duc­tion, and education.

Cash is the fuel of com­mu­nity growth, and the amount of cash cir­cu­lat­ing in the com­mu­nity depends directly on the price of the cof­fee crop. Crimson Cup has com­mit­ted to pur­chase a large amount of El Socorro cof­fee at a pre­mium over mar­ket price.

We’re in the busi­ness of sup­ply­ing the best cof­fee avail­able and the farm­ers under­stand that price depends on qual­ity. The secu­rity of know­ing that they will be paid for high-quality cof­fee gives them an incen­tive for using bet­ter pro­cess­ing meth­ods and invest­ing in sus­tain­able cul­ti­va­tion techniques.

Having a com­mit­ted buyer also strength­ens the coop and moti­vates the farm­ers to main­tain con­sis­tent pro­duc­tion. They are will­ing to rein­vest prof­its in equip­ment, nurs­eries, and rust-fighting pro­to­cols to keep pro­duc­tion where it needs to be. Moreover, they are look­ing at putting more land into cof­fee pro­duc­tion instead of mov­ing to other crops.

The demand for qual­ity has inspired a renewed focus on edu­ca­tion. With David set­ting the exam­ple, com­mu­nity mem­bers’ eyes have been opened to what edu­ca­tion can achieve. To sup­port edu­ca­tional improve­ments, Crimson Cup has donated new text­books, com­puter desks, and other improve­ments to the school. We’re get­ting ready to launch a crowd-funding ini­tia­tive through Indiegogo to raise funds for an English-speaking teacher for the school.

In 2013, we spon­sored a ser­vice learn­ing trip to the vil­lage by five stu­dents from The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences. Working with David, other com­mu­nity lead­ers and Stephan Erkelens of Axiom Coffee Ventures, we helped the stu­dents craft a thriv­ing cof­fee enter­prise. We will be work­ing with Ohio State stu­dents, David and other local lead­ers to imple­ment the plan.

Of course, the stu­dents learned as much from the farm­ers as the farm­ers did from them. That is the beauty of direct trade – it is a con­tin­u­ing cycle of mutu­ally ben­e­fi­cial relationships.

How to Reconcile 3rd Wave Coffee and Pumpkin Spice Lattes

Categories: 2013, NovemberTags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , Author:

A Snob, as defined in Free Dictionary:

1. One who tends to patron­ize, rebuff, or ignore peo­ple regarded as social infe­ri­ors and imi­tate, admire, or seek asso­ci­a­tion with peo­ple regarded as social superiors.

2. One who affects an offen­sive air of self-satisfied supe­ri­or­ity in mat­ters of taste or intellect.

A 3rd wave cof­fee shop has made a com­mit­ment to cel­e­brat­ing the unique fla­vors in cof­fee and brings their pas­sion for the prod­uct to their cus­tomers. So a snobby barista in a 3rd Wave cof­fee shop that hand-crafts a sin­gle serve Chemex for you, and then looks down at you for not being as cool or pas­sion­ate as them, can drive a per­son insane. Snoppy busi­ness own­ers will encour­age the cre­ativ­ity of its employ­ees and embold­ens their egos by giv­ing them a bit of train­ing and con­vinc­ing them that they are “socially supe­rior” and should be “admired.”

The cus­tomers, unfa­mil­iar with this new breed of rude baris­tas, enables the behav­ior by pay­ing $5 for a brewed cup and assumes that some­one so full of them­selves MUST know what they are doing. This ends up doing a dis­ser­vice for the entire indus­try. An indus­try built on the idea that peo­ple should come together in a cof­fee­house to openly share ideas and be social with their neigh­bors is being undone by snobs in fedo­ras serv­ing up atti­tude and treat­ing the patron as infe­rior. Who would want to hang out there?

One can be reminded at times of the Seinfeld episode fea­tur­ing the “Soup Nazi.” It’s like a Coffee Snob yelling from behind the counter, “NO COFFEE FOR YOU!” Don’t you dare speak to the barista or ques­tion what they do!

Thank good­ness not all, or even most of the good cof­fee shops do this. But there are enough to tar­nish the indus­try. One of the best expe­ri­ences you can have is to be treated to a hand crafted cof­fee and then be engaged by the barista as to why this cof­fee is spe­cial and who grew it and what to look for in a taste profile.

There has been a dis­cus­sion now among cof­fee folk about whether or not fla­vor­ings should be allowed in 3rd wave shops. Some will say they com­pletely ruin the cof­fee. If the idea is to cel­e­brate cof­fee why would you want a Coconut ½ caf ½ decaf cap­puc­cino with nut­meg on top? Why indeed? Others argue that if you do not offer this, you are a cof­fee snob. The irony here is that the same cap­puc­cino drinker could well be a cof­fee snob as they look down on those that would not serve them what they want when they want it.

So let’s break this down and use a great hol­i­day favorite in our example:

A guy walks into a cof­fee bar and orders a “Double Pumpkin-Spice Latte.” Let’s find the snobs.

1)    The barista says, “We don’t serve that here cause it ruins the cof­fee!” SNOB or NOT SNOB?

2)    The cus­tomer says, “It’s the hol­i­days and I always get these. Why are you guys so stuck up that you won’t serve it to me?” SNOB or NOT SNOB?

3)    The owner over­hears the customer’––s ques­tion and answers, “Look, the farmer put a lot of sweat and effort to get us this cof­fee and we would never alter the fla­vor of his work with a sugar syrup. Would you put sugar in wine to make it sweeter?” SNOB or NOT SNOB?


Everyone above has a valid point. Everyone wants what they want for valid rea­sons. The prob­lem with snob­bery is that they only see what they want and don’t stop to con­sider the other per­son. Here is another way the above could have transpired:

A guy walks into a cof­fee bar and orders a “Double pumpkin-spice Latte.” He is greeted in the fol­low­ing way:

1)    The barista says, “Oh I’m sorry. I love Pumpkin Spice lattes around the hol­i­days as well. Our shop, how­ever, has taken a posi­tion that the cof­fee is so del­i­cate in its fla­vors that if we add fla­vor­ing we will stop cel­e­brat­ing the hard work that got it here. Can I get you a reg­u­lar latte instead?”

2)    The cus­tomer says, “Oh bum­mer. I was really look­ing for­ward to that. I under­stand your posi­tion so I guess I will have to go some­where else to get one.”

3)    The owner real­iz­ing he is los­ing a cus­tomer says, “Hang on a minute! I will make you a deal! Let us make you a latte. Our espresso blend is awe­some and we directly sourced the beans from Ethiopia, Honduras, and Brazil. We think it has a great fla­vor in a latte, and I would love for you to expe­ri­ence that. So please have a latte and take a few sips and see if we did our job okay. If you don’t like it, it is on the house! After that, if you wish, I have a bot­tle of Pumpkin Spice and would be happy to mix it in. We both win; I want you to expe­ri­ence our cre­ation and you want a pump­kin spice latte.”

Welcome to a snob free zone! It would be even a bet­ter solu­tion if the owner had stayed with his com­mit­ment to qual­ity and devel­oped his own sug­ary spicy con­coc­tion made from organic pump­kins and fair trade spices. He would be set­ting him­self apart from every­one else and enhanced the expe­ri­ence of fla­vor­ing in a coffee.

So the debate asks the wrong ques­tion. Instead of, “Should a 3rd wave cof­fee shop serve pump­kin spice lattes?” it should be, “How could a 3rd wave cof­fee shop stretch its pas­sion for cel­e­brat­ing cof­fee find a com­pli­men­tary way to add pump­kin spice with­out com­pro­mis­ing its val­ues for quality?”

Snobs stand on elit­ist prin­ci­ples. Good cof­fee peo­ple and smart busi­ness own­ers will find a way to sat­isfy the needs of their cus­tomers with­out aban­don­ing principles.

Use the cre­ativ­ity of your staff to develop prod­ucts and ser­vices the patrons have been ask­ing for. The baris­tas hear it every day from their cus­tomers and they should be involved in the process of find­ing solutions.

By the way, if you are read­ing this and think­ing, “This Rocky guy is full of crap!”… You are prob­a­bly a snob!

Rocky can be reached at as well as

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