Tag Archive for: David

by Dan Ragan

OCS Series">OCS Series

Categories: 2015, AprilTags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , Author:

dg2.epsAs Goliath moved in for the kill, David reached into his bag and slung one of his stones at Goliath’s head. Finding a hole in the armor, the stone sank into the giant’s fore­head and he fell face­down on the ground. The story of David and Goliath com­pares to the cur­rent Office Coffee Service (OCS) envi­ron­ment as Big Box stores move in for the kill. Using the com­pet­i­tive advan­tage requires an under­stand­ing of strengths and weak­nesses, and hav­ing a com­mit­ment to success.

OCS is a con­ve­nience that began in the late 1960’s with a vision of pro­vid­ing cof­fee and equip­ment to offices at a low cost per cup. The OCS con­ve­nience was worth $0.05 per cup to the office buyer, and OCS oper­a­tors had a fast return on the invest­ment in $75.00 brew­ers. Success cre­ates com­pe­ti­tion, and many OCS com­pa­nies started. OCS oper­a­tors cre­ated com­pet­i­tive advan­tages through addi­tional con­ve­niences designed to improve the cus­tomer expe­ri­ence, includ­ing allied prod­ucts, water-connected machines, and inven­tory ser­vice. The indus­try con­tin­ues to inno­vate and cre­ate new con­ve­nience with single-cup prod­ucts, inter­net order­ing, and state-of-the-art equip­ment solutions.

The office buyer wants qual­ity prod­ucts that are easy to acquire at a fair price. Some office buy­ers may have more lofty, environmentally-minded goals. Operators must take these requests seri­ously, and pro­vide solu­tions for today’s chal­lenges. Convenience, alter­na­tive prod­ucts, and per­sonal ser­vice will sep­a­rate the OCS oper­a­tors from other chan­nels. However, the OCS oper­a­tion must clearly com­mu­ni­cate these advantages.

The single-cup trend con­tin­ues to grow because it is con­ve­nient. Proprietary sup­pli­ers of equip­ment and cup solu­tions are moti­vated to place equip­ment at lit­tle or no cost to the oper­a­tor in exchange for a signed agree­ment to pur­chase a cer­tain num­ber of machines, and to use only the pro­pri­etary prod­uct. Alternative sales chan­nels and Big Box stores are tak­ing advan­tage of the low-cost equip­ment to gain mar­ket share through com­mer­cial sales. the oppor­tu­nity to diver­sify the plat­form gives the OCS advan­tage in single-cup.

OCS oper­a­tors diver­sify the single-cup plat­form using non-proprietary prod­ucts, includ­ing bean-to-cup machines and pods. These open plat­form options require the oper­a­tor to under­stand the func­tion­al­ity of the brew­ing equip­ment and prod­uct choices to opti­mize the cus­tomer expe­ri­ence. These machines are plug-n-play from the fac­tory, but oper­a­tors can make adjust­ments that dif­fer­en­ti­ate the prod­uct and cre­ate coffee-shop qual­ity drinks at a lower cost than a closed plat­form sys­tem. Additionally, some equip­ment options offer profit oppor­tu­ni­ties in sol­u­ble prod­uct not read­ily avail­able from the dif­fer­ent sales channels.

Alternative sales chan­nels are typ­i­cally catalog-based with a large num­ber of branded prod­ucts. However, they may not pro­vide spe­cial­ized bev­er­age prod­ucts for the office. Some oper­a­tors use locally roasted prod­ucts with a story to dif­fer­en­ti­ate them­selves from other sales chan­nels. New prod­uct oppor­tu­ni­ties are avail­able from whole­salers. They are eas­ily added to a prod­uct list­ing, and add value to the cus­tomer expe­ri­ence. Also, sup­port­ing local events or orga­ni­za­tions with loy­alty pro­grams (i.e. dur­ing May pur­chases ben­e­fit…) will encour­age orga­ni­za­tions to pur­chase from a home­town operator.

Furthermore, OCS oper­a­tors have capa­bil­i­ties to pro­vide var­i­ous water solu­tions to cus­tomers to improve the cof­fee expe­ri­ence and make drink­ing water avail­able. In cer­tain loca­tions ice mak­ers are an appro­pri­ate add-on item. Water solu­tions offer options for other bev­er­age and food items includ­ing tea, cocoa, soup, and oat­meal. Although these cat­e­gories are not new, prod­ucts are avail­able to dif­fer­en­ti­ate oper­a­tors from main-stream cat­a­log items. Operators should look for prod­ucts that keep com­peti­tors out of the cus­tomer location.

Personal ser­vice pro­vides a clear advan­tage ver­sus Big Box stores. Operators should empha­size the inter­ac­tion between employ­ees and the buyer as a ben­e­fit, and accom­mo­date the con­ve­nience of the buyer. Some buy­ers are eas­ily frus­trated when the ease-of-use regard­ing the Big Box Internet order­ing process is over­whelmed by an inef­fi­cient return process. OCS com­pa­nies are customer-centric, and pro­vide a valu­able resource con­cern­ing the buyer experience.

Communication ties the advan­tages together. The ben­e­fits OCS oper­a­tors offer requires con­stant com­mu­ni­ca­tion. The route dri­ver pro­vides a per­sonal ser­vice the alter­na­tive chan­nels do not. The cus­tomer should know the machine is clean and work­ing prop­erly, the prod­uct is stocked to an appro­pri­ate par level, and new prod­ucts are avail­able to enhance the cus­tomer expe­ri­ence. Everyone in the OCS orga­ni­za­tion par­tic­i­pates in the sales process, and com­mu­ni­cates these val­ues each time they inter­act with the customer.

Regardless of the OCS orga­ni­za­tion size, com­mu­ni­ca­tion will improve the cus­tomer expe­ri­ence. OCS man­agers should pro­vide a theme the employ­ees com­mu­ni­cate dur­ing cus­tomer inter­ac­tion. The theme need not be sta­tic. Examples include sea­sonal prod­uct, local prod­uct, equip­ment inno­va­tion, and allied prod­uct growth. Encourage the employ­ees to pro­vide ideas, and take part in the suc­cess of the business.

Success cre­ates com­pe­ti­tion, and the OCS man­ager can pro­vide incen­tives to employ­ees for growth. The incen­tive should be in line with the goals of the orga­ni­za­tion. The goal of the orga­ni­za­tion may be to exploit the com­pet­i­tive advan­tage by increas­ing cer­tain prod­uct cat­e­gories. Communicating the com­pet­i­tive advan­tage encour­ages a per­for­mance cul­ture in the orga­ni­za­tion, and inspires the employ­ees to be the best in their field. The com­pe­ti­tion cre­ated within an orga­ni­za­tion is a model for sus­tain­able growth.

Today, the OCS cost of con­ve­nience is between $0.10–1.50 per cup ver­sus the $0.05 start­ing point, and brew­ing equip­ment ranges from $100-$3,000. Success con­tin­ues to add com­pe­ti­tion in the mar­ket, and many options exist for the office buyer. Understand the com­pet­i­tive advan­tages avail­able in single-cup, prod­uct alter­na­tives, and per­sonal ser­vice, and then com­mu­ni­cate reg­u­larly to cap­i­tal­ize on the mar­ket. Tradeshows are an excel­lent resource to find new prod­ucts, and improve man­ager and employee exper­tise. Although the com­peti­tors rep­re­sent dif­fer­ent sales chan­nels, the goal for OCS oper­a­tors remains the same: pro­vide cof­fee and equip­ment at a low-cost per cup.

Dan Ragan, Pod Pack International, Ltd

It’s Time To Put Analytics Into Packaging

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

A great cup of cof­fee, with a sleek designed cup, is a great com­bi­na­tion, but when paired with an un-safe lid, it’s a part­ner­ship doomed for fail­ure. Yet, every­day a cof­fee drinker’s expe­ri­ence is damp­ened, both lit­er­ally and fig­u­ra­tively, by this mis­matched cou­pling. Clearly, the next gen­er­a­tion of dis­pos­able cof­fee and tea lids must con­front the prob­lem of unin­ten­tional spillage, which report­edly occur hun­dreds of times a day. This hap­pens when ordi­nary con­sumers, wish­ing to enjoy their cup of cof­fee, believe they have applied it to their cup, only to find out it wasn’t really secure, seated, and thus sealed, thereby result­ing in unin­ten­tional spillage. Indeed, you need look no fur­ther than The New York Times’ 2011 fea­ture arti­cle, “A Changed Starbucks. A Changed C.E.O.,” in which Starbuck’s Founder and Chief Executive, Howard Schultz, reported that J. Crew’s CEO, Millard Drexler, had per­son­ally emailed him to report that the lids at his local Starbucks in Manhattan kept spilling cof­fee on his shirt.

Recently, news has been brim­ming with reports of spilled hot bev­er­age claims.  These news reports and arti­cles focus­ing on the defi­cien­cies, inher­ent in past lid designs bol­ster the demand for a bet­ter fit­ting, more secure and safer lid fit. Even main­stream media is focus­ing on bev­er­age pack­ag­ing issues. The main focal point in the excel­lent, 2013 New York Times arti­cle, “Who Made that Coffee Lid,” is the focus on the consumer’s inter­ac­tion with the lid. Which actu­ally defines the hot bev­er­age drink­ing expe­ri­ence, rather than the cup.

The take-away from this arti­cle appears to be that, with all of the man­u­fac­tur­ers bat­tling to “one up” the other’s cup design, the war will actu­ally be won by the indi­vid­ual who deliv­ers a safer more secure drink­ing expe­ri­ence. This, in turn, means atten­tion will finally be focused on the true defin­ing ele­ment in the pack­ag­ing equa­tion: Who can pro­vide the con­sumer a safer, more intu­itive, and more secure lid? Simply chang­ing to a new cup will not resolve the hor­ri­ble safety prob­lem hot bev­er­age drinkers are presently expe­ri­enc­ing with exist­ing single-use lids today.  In order to resolve the prob­lem, it is vital to gen­er­ally under­stand just how design choices in new pack­ag­ing prod­ucts are pro­mul­gated, given the green light and ulti­mately pro­jected through the man­u­fac­tur­ing cycle into the market.

In a recent study, enti­tled “The Product Mindset,” Underwriters Laboratories (“UL”) seeks to untan­gle and clas­sify the global prod­uct ecosys­tem to gain deeper insight in the vari­ance between man­u­fac­turer and con­sumer atti­tudes. In a cat­e­gory rel­e­vant to this arti­cle, UL polls the two groups on prod­uct safety, result­ing in an extremely wide diver­gence between the man­u­fac­tur­ers’ “per­cep­tion” that they are improv­ing in prod­uct safety, and the con­sumers’ belief that man­u­fac­tur­ers value sales over prod­uct safety.  On scale of most (“1”) to least (“7”), man­u­fac­tur­ers ranked the need to improve prod­uct safety as a “4,” while con­sumers scored the goal as a “2.”  Clear met­rics demon­strate the camps are mis­aligned when it came to assess­ing con­sumer con­fi­dence in prod­uct safety. In fact, 84 per­cent of the man­u­fac­tur­ers polled believe con­sumer con­fi­dence in prod­uct safety is increas­ing, while 58 per­cent of the con­sumer group dis­agreed, believ­ing instead that man­u­fac­tur­ers tend to value sales over prod­uct safety.

The import of the UL 2013 study, while mainly applic­a­ble to elec­tri­cal devices and com­po­nents, is clearly trans­ferrable across many indus­tries, includ­ing the food and bev­er­age pack­ag­ing sphere.  Up until recently, new food and bev­er­age pack­ag­ing inno­va­tions arose to fit within spe­cific exist­ing machin­ery. As run under Kaizen or Six Sigma meth­ods of process improve­ment, machin­ery and process drove design criteria.

As an exam­ple, within the hot bev­er­age pack­ag­ing field, inno­va­tions in form­ing machin­ery and plas­tics resins allow for faster cycle times, pro­duc­tion of larger vol­umes of hot bev­er­age lids in less time.   This method­ol­ogy drove design choices, which may not have resulted in pro­duc­tion of the safest prod­uct.  Thus, what appeared to be a drive to improve the over­all process might have resulted in the deci­sion to opt for a design. Which may be prac­ti­cally suited to the manufacturer’s cur­rent machin­ery capa­bil­i­ties, yet may not be the safest design choice lead­ing to a prod­uct that is func­tional with the poten­tial to cause injury or prop­erty damage.

As a mat­ter of prod­uct lia­bil­ity law, a man­u­fac­turer need not insure against all pos­si­bil­i­ties of per­sonal injury or prop­erty dam­age.  Indeed, in most juris­dic­tions, a man­u­fac­turer may defend against a claim of neg­li­gent design by demon­strat­ing that, at the time the prod­uct was designed and then pro­duced, it had selected a rea­son­ably safe design as com­pared with com­pa­ra­ble prod­uct design choices known at the time.  And, as a defense to a prod­uct lia­bil­ity claim, the man­u­fac­turer and its insurer may very well suc­ceed.  However, given the grow­ing force and power of the “blo­gos­phere” – i.e., the “Wired Court of Public Opinion” deliv­ered up by the Internet, one can see that this process-driven method of prod­uct design may fail to meet a grow­ing higher level of expec­ta­tion in the light­en­ing fast infor­ma­tion world of today’s consumer.

With the advent of spec­tac­u­larly new design aids, such as com­mer­cially avail­able 3D print­ers and, for the first time ever, a real-time tool-oriented ther­mo­form­ing qual­ity con­trol mon­i­tor­ing sys­tem, best design cri­te­ria can now be suc­cess­fully mar­ried with process dri­ven man­u­fac­tur­ing. This will result in both a safer design pro­duced within an effi­cient man­u­fac­tur­ing process serv­ing to close the gap between con­sumer prod­uct safety expec­ta­tions, and a manufacturer’s real world process deliv­ery program.

With our own inde­pen­dent ther­mo­form­ing engi­neer­ing lab­o­ra­tory, headed by our Technology President, Mark Strachan, SPE Chairman/President and Thermoforming Engineering Professor, Penn State College of Technology, we have even cre­ated an entirely new ter­mi­nol­ogy enti­tled “Packaging Analytics.” And, in 2014, we will co-host, with Penn State College of Technology, the very first “Packaging Analytics” con­fer­ence in the World.  We hope that this annual con­fer­ence will attract the best and bright­est in the pack­ag­ing world, with the intent to launch more inno­va­tions and appli­ca­tions aimed at pro­vid­ing a more sci­en­tific approach to the design and man­u­fac­ture of food and bev­er­age pack­ag­ing; bol­ster­ing safer design deci­sions within accepted meth­ods of pro­cess­ing improvement.

David is the C.E.O. of uVu Technologies. He is also founder of “Packaging Analytics™,” which strives to fos­ter advance­ment in pack­ag­ing tech­nol­ogy as a science.

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

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.

What Exactly do You do Here?

Categories: 2013, SeptemberTags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , Author:

Fresh eyes on a prob­lem is always going to net some inter­est­ing feed­back. If the new eyes under­stand what they are look­ing at, they can give insights as to the cause of the prob­lem and sug­gest how to fix it. New eyes can be a con­sul­tant, a trusted friend, or even bet­ter, some­one who has dealt with your prob­lem before. The new eyes can also be you. You just need a new prism to change the angle of how you are looking.

Semi-Hypothetical Case Study
A cof­fee shop owner had a prob­lem. Let’s call him ‘David’ and his shop ‘Roasting Co’. The busi­ness is a cof­fee roast­ing com­pany with 3 retail out­lets and a whole­sale roast­ing facil­ity. Business is good and it is expand­ing. Employees are loyal and are being pro­moted as the com­pany grows. So far, this is a com­pany with­out a prob­lem. David is proud of his growth and has dealt with the expected pains of expan­sion well.

Brian reached out to a trusted con­sul­tant friend and said, “Something is wrong inside my com­pany and I can’t put my fin­ger on it. I am fully engaged with my employ­ees. They say this is a great place to work. I have lower than aver­age turnover. But I can feel the dis­cord in both my employ­ees and myself. Could you please spend a cou­ple of days in my com­pany and poke around? You have com­plete access to any­one and any­thing you want.”

On the first day, the con­sul­tant went as a secret shop­per to the dif­fer­ent retail out­lets. It was inter­est­ing to see that the cul­ture of cel­e­brat­ing the cof­fee was a top-of-list pri­or­ity for almost all of the employ­ees. Later in the day the con­sul­tant observed the oper­a­tions of the roast­ing plant. In 24 hours the con­sul­tant was able to make a pretty strong con­clu­sion as to why there was dis­cord in the com­pany. Now the task was to get the owner to see the solution.

The sec­ond day started with inter­views of key per­son­nel. The key ques­tion was, “What exactly do YOU do here?” The answers were very telling.

Barista 1: “I am respon­si­ble for the cus­tomer expe­ri­ence. We make espresso and hand drip cof­fees.” He then went on to explain step by step how he com­pleted his tasks.

Manager 1: “I do all of the sched­ul­ing of shifts, ini­ti­ate train­ing, man­age con­sum­able inven­to­ries, and mon­i­tor the qual­ity of our drink mak­ing and cus­tomer ser­vice.” She then went on to tell the con­sul­tant, “There are a lot of other things that seem to be get­ting piled on but my team han­dles it ok.”

Roaster / Production Staff 1: “I get the roast sched­ule for the day and then weigh, roast, weigh again and do an inven­tory check to make sure we don’t run out of stock on anything.”

Operations and QC Manager: “It seems like I do every­thing around here. I over­see the retail mangers, the roast­ing staff, equip­ment main­te­nance, staff train­ings and run the cup­ping room to ensure the con­sis­tency and qual­ity of our cof­fee. I cre­ate roast­ing pro­files and blends. I never seem to get every­thing done though because pri­or­i­ties keep chang­ing on me.”

Owner: “I try to move the com­pany for­ward in both sales and qual­ity by del­e­gat­ing respon­si­bil­ity to the man­age­ment team and then fol­low­ing up. I don’t get good report­ing so I often don’t know about sim­ple prob­lems until they are big prob­lems. I am try­ing to con­cen­trate my time on grow­ing whole­sale so we can con­tinue to grow. That seems to be going ok. Retail, though, grabs my atten­tion all the time because as an owner I will walk through the shop and see trash on the floor and dirty coun­ters. It dri­ves me crazy so I tell the ops man­ager to fig­ure it out with the retail man­ager. That never hap­pens so I just go take care of it.”

Does any or all of this sound like where you work? Well it should because most small busi­nesses, as well as depart­ments of large busi­nesses suf­fer from employ­ees not know­ing the answer to, “What exactly do you do here?” So what is the prob­lem with this com­pany? Why are they frus­trated? EASY!

Only the low­est rank­ing employ­ees know what they are sup­posed to be doing because there job is well doc­u­mented. They have check­lists, forms and struc­ture. Expectations have been set and they strive to exceed them. Upper man­age­ment does not hold them­selves to the same rigor of pur­pose and trans­parency of job tasks. They don’t know exactly what they do in the company.

On the last half of day 2, the con­sul­tant called in the Owner and the Ops Manager and said, “Congrats! The top two most expe­ri­enced, loyal and ded­i­cated peo­ple in the com­pany are the cause of the prob­lem. You have over the years cre­ated check­lists for your stores and roast­ing oper­a­tions, and noth­ing for the new and more com­plex man­age­ment tasks you are fac­ing. You have no idea what to do, when to do, it or pri­or­i­ties. You work on what’s in front of you. The good news is, you are empow­ered to be the ones to fix it. Now role up your sleeves because this is going to be a 30 day job and you will have changed everything.

Step 1: Document what you do down to the gran­u­lar level. Everything must be reduced to tasks with a begin­ning, mid­dle and end. Also write the actual time per week in min­utes or hours it takes to accom­plish each task. No task is triv­ial; noth­ing done dur­ing your work week should be ignored.

Step 2: Arrange these tasks into log­i­cal groups like Meetings, Roast Production, Retail Store etc. Now add up how much time you are spend­ing on each group for which you are responsible.

Step 3: For each group you need to make a check­list that you will actu­ally check off each day and week. On the check­list will be the name of the activ­ity, when it must be exe­cuted and a check­box where it can be marked done.

Step 4: Review each week the tasks that got done and those that didn’t. Try to place the undone tasks in next week’s sched­ule such that they are likely to get done. Redo your check­list to bet­ter match your cur­rent priorities.

What hap­pened to David and Roaster Co.?

The Ops Manager fig­ured out that by being pro­moted, he didn’t really have a job. The Owner never gave clear job func­tions to the Ops man­ager with­out the tools to orga­nize the chaos. When his task list was com­plete he dis­cov­ered he did not actu­ally have many real respon­si­bil­i­ties. He merely over man­aged oth­ers to fill time. David dis­cov­ered that his actual day to day tasks only accounted for about 55 hours per week. When he put them in an orga­nized, time acti­vated check­list he was able to give about 30 hours to his Ops man­ager in an orga­nized way with expected results. He was then able to focus efforts where he wanted to grow. And the com­pany did.

For more detailed sug­ges­tions for fix­ing your busi­ness; sug­gested read­ing is ‘The E-Myth Revisited’ by Gerber.

Rocky can be reached at

The Death of Coffee Certification — Let’s Hope

Categories: 2012, MarchTags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , Author:

Editor’s Note: The ques­tion of the future need for social and envi­ron­men­tal cer­ti­fi­ca­tion – and their asso­ci­ated costs – is very much on peo­ples’ minds. Instead of the reg­u­lar “View” from us, we decided instead to devote this space, and much of the rest of this issue, to opin­ions from promi­nent mem­bers of our com­mu­nity. First off is Jim Stewart, co-founder of Seattle’s Best Coffee and one of our industry’s early pio­neers in how to do “spe­cialty.” Farther on we hear from Bill Fishbein, co-founder of Coffee Kids and Founder of the Coffee Trust; Sandra Marquardt joins in sup­port­ing Organic cer­ti­fi­ca­tion; and Fair Trade – USA™ par­tic­i­pates with a Q&A about their resent pol­icy changes. We hope you enjoy this exchange of opin­ions.
Kerri & Miles

In my opin­ion, cer­ti­fi­ca­tions in the cof­fee indus­try are a crutch used by roast­ers and to some degree, by pro­duc­ers as well. It facil­i­tates them not tak­ing the time to get on an air­plane, fly­ing to a pro­ducer coun­try, and form­ing their own close per­sonal rela­tion­ship with a cof­fee pro­ducer. Why should a pro­ducer pay a fee to some cer­ti­fi­ca­tion group, plus then an exporter and an importer each pay another fee to be in the pro­gram, and finally the roaster pays yet more fees, so some stranger can ver­ify their story? Why not tell it your­self? Surely, your cus­tomers will trust you! Let me tell you why. You get the lit­tle sticker so when Mrs. Housewife comes in and says I want Fair Trade, shade grown, rain for­est friendly, etc. etc. etc. cof­fee, Mr. Roaster can point to his lit­tle sticker or maybe 2, 3, or 4 lit­tle stick­ers and say, “yup” we got it lady. What a cop out!

Let’s back up
I live on Vashon Island in Washington State. A very unique place, in fact I expect the sec­ond com­ing to occur there. With lots of cre­ative, sen­si­tive, organic, earth friendly, results ori­ented, opin­ion­ated types of folks. They are on the cut­ting edge of many trends that are way ahead of their time.

So, early one morn­ing in Costa Rica watch­ing CNN, sip­ping my farm’s wild har­vest typ­ica cof­fee, on the screen appears a ring of 24 naked les­bians toe to toe form­ing a “cir­cle of peace” on the cold wet rocks of a Vashon Island beach. It was the first pub­lic nation­ally tele­vised protest of the Iraq inva­sion. As I said these Vashonites are the lead­ers of many trends.

I would say, it was maybe 5 or 6 years ago that some of these same peo­ple, pri­mar­ily the Vashon organic pro­duce farm­ers said “NO”! NO MORE, to organic cer­ti­fi­ca­tion. Why, they said, should we pay a total stranger in New York City who may not have as much as a flower pot in his or her win­dow a fee that says to my cus­tomers that I am an organic farmer? Further. I know my cus­tomers and they know me. They are wel­come to visit the farm and see first hand what my farm­ing prac­tices are. See my chil­dren play­ing in the fields and know for sure that it is safe. They can choose to trust me the farmer, their neigh­bor and not rely on the word of a total stranger. This is hard to argue with in itself and we have not even touched on the added cost to the con­sumer for this ser­vice. This cost, when push comes to shove, is meet­ing with high resis­tance at the con­sumer level. Fact is in my 40 years at SBC the cus­tomer never was will­ing to pay for all the cer­ti­fi­ca­tion costs and much of it was born by the company.

Several years ago, I stood up, totally out of char­ac­ter, and stated the above at a cer­ti­fi­ca­tion sym­po­sium in Costa Rica’s Sintercafe. My point being that I pre­dicted the end of the cof­fee cer­ti­fi­ca­tion folly in the next five years based on the actions of the Vashon Island organic pro­duce farm­ers. The room, mostly made up of pro­duc­ers and roaster retail­ers plus 6 to 8 of the var­i­ous cer­ti­fi­ca­tion groups exploded in applause.

I hate to com­plain if I can­not offer an alter­na­tive or a solu­tion. I went on to explain that I, in 1977 as a tiny break-even-at-best cof­fee roaster retailer got on a plane and trav­eled through­out Central and South America vis­it­ing cof­fee exporters and pro­duc­ers and how that trip lead to buy­ing directly from pro­duc­ing coun­tries (always thru exporters). I formed per­sonal busi­ness rela­tion­ships and friend­ships that I still keep today. I spoke directly to farm­ers about my con­cerns and rec­om­men­da­tions with regard to the envi­ron­ment, tra­di­tional prepa­ra­tion, the vari­ety of tree, social well­be­ing, etc. etc. etc. You see I was the buyer offer­ing to buy their prod­uct at a pre­mium when my sug­ges­tions were fol­lowed. I was not from some cer­ti­fy­ing orga­ni­za­tion charg­ing for my ser­vice, and leav­ing the farmer with a dream that buy­ers would be clam­or­ing for their cof­fee and pay­ing mag­nif­i­cent prices because they had some stamp of approval. I went on to explain how these rela­tion­ships lead to the for­ma­tion of The Vashon Island Coffee Foundation (the sec­ond best kept secret in the cof­fee indus­try). Thru this foun­da­tion we returned some of the inter­na­tional value of the cof­fee we pur­chased directly to cof­fee pro­duc­ing com­mu­ni­ties in many coun­tries but in par­tic­u­lar to Santiago de Atitlan in Guatemala. In that com­mu­nity, we built two schools, a water sys­tem, a road, and a clinic. You see we did that because we thought we should, because it was right, and not because it was a mar­ket­ing strat­egy. You guys can do it too, you can, and I know you will, in time, just like those Vashon Island pro­duce farm­ers did.

The mod­er­a­tor then gave the cer­ti­fy­ing guys a chance for rebut­tal and I will never ever for­get what Chris Willy of The Rain Forest Alliance said! “We don’t want you build­ing schools!” I was so shocked I could not respond. “‘Scuse me ‘scuse me, what did you just say?” I was so stunned that I never did go to him for clar­i­fi­ca­tion. We were so proud of the work we did, those projects changed lives, and they were the great­est projects. What could he have pos­si­bly have meant?

I made these com­ments after I had sold SBC and was very clear then as I am now that these are my per­sonal feel­ings and have noth­ing what­so­ever to do with cur­rent SBC pol­icy, sup­pos­ing they have any policy.

I more or less for­got about it, went on about my busi­ness of enjoy­ing life and then about three years ago I began help­ing two roast­ers, one on Vashon Island and the other on Whidbey Island buy cof­fee directly from pro­duc­ing coun­tries. These roast­ers are con­tin­u­ing my per­sonal rela­tion­ships and mak­ing them their own. They have trav­eled to the farms that sup­ply their cof­fee to wit­ness first hand the ded­i­ca­tion and pas­sion. They also tes­tify to their own com­mit­ments, pas­sion, and appre­ci­a­tion for the producer’s effort. The roast­ers use the expe­ri­ence to edu­cate their cus­tomers thereby sup­port­ing and jus­ti­fy­ing the value and price of the prod­uct. This fur­ther cre­ates a great feel­ing for the cus­tomer for their con­tri­bu­tion to rais­ing the stan­dard of liv­ing for cof­fee work­ers in devel­op­ing countries.

You can imag­ine my glee when this January I asked the roast­ers how much cer­ti­fied organic cof­fee they wanted and they both said, “none!” Independent of one another they both said we are drop­ping cer­ti­fied organic. “The gov­ern­ment reg­u­la­tions have become too dif­fi­cult, too expen­sive, and we do not need the aggra­va­tion. The vol­ume does not sup­port the headache and the cost. We are devel­op­ing our own pro­grams based on our trav­els and explain­ing this to our clients directly face to face, one on one. The folks like it bet­ter to be shar­ing with us our per­sonal expe­ri­ences and feel a real con­nec­tion to the cof­fee farm­ers. Quite hon­estly there has been a lot of resis­tance to the added cost of certification.”

Food for thought!

Jim Stewart, along with his brother David, founded Seattle’s Best Coffee within their ice cream par­lor called the Wet Whisker. Seattle’s Best grew to become one of the pre­em­i­nent spe­cialty cof­fee com­pa­nies world-wide. An early true believer in spe­cialty cof­fee, Stewart is truly one of our industry’s great­est luminaries.

The Strategy for Success is a Healthy Choice

Categories: 2011, DecemberTags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , Author:

What you need to under­stand is the strong con­sumer demand for healthy menu items. The big chains have done sig­nif­i­cant con­sumer research to val­i­date the con­sumer demand for health­ier menu selec­tions. QSR cat­e­gory lead­ers Starbucks, Subway, and McDonalds have repo­si­tioned their brands to appeal to the health & wellness-minded con­sumer, and sales and prof­its are up. Small cafes can employ the same “healthy” strat­egy for success.

Take a look at the menu boards for Starbucks, McDonalds or Subway and you’ll see that they are respond­ing to the fact that cus­tomers are shop­ping for foods and bev­er­ages with health and well­ness ben­e­fits. The aver­age house­hold spends close to 20 per­cent of their income on foods that have a well­ness ben­e­fit. Functional foods and bev­er­ages (with sup­ple­ment boosts included) totaled $153 bil­lion in 2010.

It is com­mon knowl­edge Starbucks has trimmed the calo­ries and trans-fats from their baked goods. Likewise, they have trimmed the calo­ries from the blended drinks. But most recently, they have bought out Evolution Juice. According to chief exec­u­tive Howard Schultz, “This is the first of many things we’re going to do around health and well­ness.” Again he explains, “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.”

A look at Subway’s menu board reveals a com­mit­ment to the broad con­sumer (spend­ing / behav­ior / atti­tude) trend towards main­tain­ing or improv­ing per­sonal health with low fat selec­tions, fresh veg­eta­bles, and whole grains. Subway recently began for­ti­fy­ing their bread to include cal­cium and vit­a­min D.

Several years ago McDonalds added sal­ads and intro­duced French fries with no trans-fats. Recently McDonalds added smooth­ies and fruit.

Most cof­fee con­cepts are cur­rently offer­ing bot­tled func­tional bev­er­ages (with vit­a­mins, min­er­als sup­ple­ments included) in their refrig­er­ated case. Many con­sumers want vit­a­mins but do not like the taste of Vitamin Water. Consumers may want the ben­e­fit of 5-Hour Energy or Red Bull but want to order a blended drink. SOLUTION: The café owner can offer Nutritional Supplement-Boosts! The con­sumer who wants vit­a­mins can now add Multivitamin Blend to their favorite smoothie or frappé. The con­sumer in search of the ingre­di­ents found in Red Bull and 5-Hour Energy can now add Energy Blend to their favorite beverage.

Promoting supplement-boosts puts the café owner in a win-win-win situation.

  • Win 1: Nutritional instantly posi­tions your con­cept to the health and well­ness minded individual.
  • Win 2: Blended bev­er­age sales will increase.
  • Win 3: Nutritional Supplement-Boosts are a high-margin item.

Are you pro­mot­ing the health ben­e­fits of your menu items? If not, why not? If you have the health­i­est menu in your mar­ket area, your chances for suc­cess increase.

David Gross President of Juice Bar Solutions, man­u­fac­turer of Smoothie Essentials Supplement-Boosts started a chain of smoothie bars in the 1980’s. David was not sat­is­fied with the selec­tion of avail­able sup­ple­ments, so came up with his own recipes. Thus Smoothie Essentials Supplement-Boosts were designed to make it eas­ier for the con­sumer to choose what benefit(s) they wanted added to their blended drink.

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