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by Mike Dabadie

Marketing Miracles

Categories: 2014, MarchTags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , Author:

When deal­ing with peo­ple, let us remem­ber we are not deal­ing with crea­tures of logic. We are deal­ing with crea­tures of emo­tion, crea­tures bustling with prej­u­dices and moti­vated by pride and van­ity.
—Dale Carnegie

In today’s mar­ket­ing world we can be con­fi­dent and cer­tain of two impor­tant facts:

1. The days when mar­keters or those who develop prod­ucts could sim­ply tell the con­sumer what they would have are over. While Steve Jobs in his own world might have thought that he could pre­dict what a per­son needed in life, before that indi­vid­u­als real­ized it, the real­ity of today’s hyper-connected mar­ket­place means that con­sumers are in the dri­ver seat and want to be included in the con­ver­sa­tion of buy­ing, using, and sharing.

2. While cof­fee is a mas­ter­ful prod­uct that is becom­ing ever more approach­able, it is a dis­ser­vice to not reflect on the emo­tional and phys­i­cal power of the ben­e­fits that such a tiny green bean can unleash upon an indi­vid­ual when trans­formed for con­sump­tion. And these per­sonal ben­e­fits are not just what cof­fee insid­ers think, it is from the heart and mind of the consumer.

Over the years and from many con­ver­sa­tions with cof­fee drinkers of all pro­files, a mindmap of how Americans think ratio­nally and emo­tion­ally about cof­fee can be drawn. Based on the point-of-view of the con­sumer, this blue­print lit­er­ally pro­vides the means of look­ing at the met and unmet needs of the indi­vid­ual, how exist­ing and new prod­ucts can be best posi­tioned, how busi­ness exec­u­tives see the impor­tance of work­place ben­e­fits such as cof­fee, and where the indus­try can uncover new oppor­tu­ni­ties for growth.

Slide1

The image shown here pro­vides the pos­i­tive path­ways of how con­sumers think of cof­fee from prod­uct attrib­utes to per­sonal val­ues. These are the sto­ries of how peo­ple see and talk about the rel­e­vancy of cof­fee in their lives. And these sto­ries reveal for us the power of both what is known and what is pos­si­ble. From these var­i­ous ori­en­ta­tions we can gar­ner sev­eral impor­tant learn­ings and opportunities.

There are two macro sto­ries for cof­fee: one address­ing value and social­iza­tion, and the other is address­ing health and per­for­mance. Think of the social­iza­tion aspect as the “we” and the per­for­mance as the “me.”

Both of these ulti­mately lead to the per­sonal value of accom­plish­ment and self-esteem. That may sound like a long way from a cup in the morn­ing to deep psy­chol­ogy, but in fact if you think about the story of what cof­fee can do for you and how it makes you feel, the jour­ney is not that far. This is a prod­uct that elic­its deep feel­ings both socially and individually.

So how does a mindmap like this work in mar­ket­ing? Consider these few exam­ples and then think of how you could fit your offer­ing in what con­sumers are look­ing for now or into the future.

• The tagline, “The best part of wak­ing up is Folgers in your cup,” is a clas­sic expres­sion that com­bines the ele­ments of smell/aroma to wak­ing up to get­ting started. And in many adver­tise­ments, the Folgers ads have astutely linked this to stronger fam­ily rela­tion­ships and a sense of belong­ing that is visu­ally shown.

• Single-serve con­tin­ues to explode in pop­u­lar­ity and plays directly to cof­fee drinkers want­ing a vari­ety of choices, to sat­is­fy­ing a crav­ing for a par­tic­u­lar type of drink, to sup­port­ing the con­fi­dence that one has that they made the right choice, and ulti­mately lead­ing to per­sonal pride and self-esteem.

• The National Coffee Association (NCA) and the Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA) con­tinue to pub­lish the pos­i­tive phys­i­o­log­i­cal impact that cof­fee con­sump­tion has on humans, both green and roasted! Coffee not only pro­duces an emo­tive response, but a phys­i­cal one as well. Consumers view this in terms of feel­ing phys­i­cally bet­ter and an improved men­tal state. In this case, improved health leads directly to improved per­sonal per­for­mance tied back to coffee.

• Although the idea of third wave cof­fee is just tak­ing hold, the premise is that cof­fee should not be looked upon as a com­mod­ity, but rather as an expe­ri­ence. Indeed, if those in the indus­try want to under­stand how to seed a co-creative, col­lab­o­ra­tive, and customer-centric move­ment founded on higher order com­mu­nity impact, look no fur­ther than these val­ues. Chipotle did it with the Crow Foods video story.

But the big oppor­tu­nity, as one can see from the image, is a desire for less stress in life and a feel­ing of reju­ve­na­tion. This acts as a “bridge” between the social and the per­for­mance ori­en­ta­tions, which is a space that not many cof­fee brands or prod­ucts tend to play today. If there is mar­ket­ing “white space” in the cof­fee cat­e­gory, this is it – for now. In every soci­ety, per­sonal val­ues do not tend to rapidly change. Whereas prod­ucts and ser­vices come and go and are highly influ­enced by short-term events, the fun­da­men­tal human desire for pride, hap­pi­ness, suc­cess, secu­rity, self-esteem, and accom­plish­ment is con­stant. Coffee yes­ter­day, today, and tomor­row is a story of human val­ues. Lets tell the stories.

Mike Dabadie is the founder of Heart+Mind Strategies, LLC, a research con­sul­tancy that con­tin­ues to pio­neer the use of personal-values insights and mar­ket­ing. He can be reached at mdabadie@heartandmindstrategies.com.

Improving Your Product Sales

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

Coffee con­nois­seurs are nat­u­rally curi­ous infor­ma­tion seek­ing peo­ple who are loyal, inclined to seek con­ve­nience, and eas­ily con­nected to strong brand iden­tity and rep­u­ta­tion.
They are social indi­vid­u­als, con­sid­er­ing that dur­ing pre-social media times, the cof­fee shop was where peo­ple gath­ered to social­ize.  Today, while cer­tainly still a social place, shops stand for grab-and-go, a place to hang, or a place for an out of office expe­ri­ence. Café own­ers under­stand that the cof­fee con­sumer expe­ri­ence starts with a great environment.

Promote a warm, wel­com­ing, and friendly envi­ron­ment, rather than copy the big chain style of self-promoting visu­als, struc­tural same­ness, and reg­i­mented lay­outs. Unlike other ser­vice and retail busi­nesses, cus­tomers can engage mul­ti­ple times a day with a café or cof­fee shop, so make them feel like it’s a “home away from home” in your café with inter­est­ing and chang­ing visu­als, a vari­ety of seat­ing arrange­ments, and let the cus­tomer alter the fur­ni­ture to suit them­selves.” – Peter Baskerville on Quora

This goes with Coffee”…Selling prod­uct in the cof­fee chan­nel?
Some key points to improv­ing prod­uct sales:
•    Branding mes­sage
•    Educate the con­sumer
•    Engage with the con­sumer
•    Stay True
•    Know your customer

Sending Your Message:
Tight brand­ing, well-honed, con­sis­tent, and tar­geted prod­uct mes­sag­ing is pri­mary to mak­ing a strong ini­tial impres­sion, at both the retailer and con­sumer touch point, wher­ever, and when­ever, they first find you. Creating mes­sag­ing that rep­re­sents your brand quickly, thor­oughly, effec­tively, and works across the board is a super­high­way towards sales. Make your first shot count.

Edu-tise:
Consumers are increas­ingly savvy and look­ing to your brand for edu­ca­tion and infor­ma­tion at all key-messaging points. Asking retail­ers who are will­ing to work with your brand and post in-store sig­nage, and/or agree to prod­uct demon­stra­tions given by knowl­edge­able prod­uct rep­re­sen­ta­tives, as well as smart label­ing, all cre­ate an invalu­able consumer-brand rela­tion­ship faster and more effi­ciently than tra­di­tional adver­tis­ing and mar­ket­ing routes. Always con­sider how your prod­uct will be mer­chan­dised in the retail envi­ron­ment. Don’t miss the oppor­tu­nity to boost your vis­i­bil­ity and strengthen the con­sumer bond with infor­ma­tion on how to con­nect with a brand per­son­ally via social media channels.

Be Responsive and Relatable:
Market aware­ness includes an ever-evolving demon­stra­tion that your brand is up on the same trends and infor­ma­tion that your savvy, dis­cern­ing, and adven­tur­ous con­sumers are.
Create and main­tain a brand per­son­al­ity and derive your mes­sag­ing in ways that show shared inter­ests and con­cerns. Respond with inno­va­tions tai­lored to your retail­ers and your con­sumers needs. Following these guide­lines will take you a long way towards becom­ing a reli­able, relat­able, trustable source for your cus­tomers, and con­tribute to brand loyalty.

Connect, Connect, Connect:
Understand how, where, why, and when your cus­tomer wants to con­nect.
Relating to your cus­tomer in the ways they pre­fer to com­mu­ni­cate, and pro­vid­ing them with what they want, like, and need, is the ulti­mate in brand ori­en­ta­tion. Being fluid and flex­i­ble in these areas, while stay­ing true to your brand, makes for strong and last­ing impact.

Be True:
Staying true to your brand, while build­ing an open dia­logue with your cus­tomer, takes care­ful atten­tion. Consistency bal­anced skill­fully with trans­parency, how­ever, is well worth the effort and goes miles in cre­at­ing a solid mar­ket foothold.

Don’t Forget Who’s Buying, Keep Your Finger on the Pulse:
Always keep an eye on who’s buy­ing and con­sider the fol­low­ing:
“Millennial power: Retailers are not fully under­stand­ing the needs of mil­len­ni­als, who are expected to out­spend baby boomers by 2017, accord­ing to exec­u­tive search firm Berglass + Associates. This includes nearly half of respon­dents being unaware that mil­len­ni­als will out­spend boomers annu­ally within five years and overem­pha­sis on online adver­tis­ing to reach the younger demo­graphic, accord­ing to Berglass.”- Candy & Snack Today

Try to keep focused on your vision, while main­tain­ing some flex­i­bil­ity. It’s all hard work, brand­ing, mes­sag­ing, con­nect­ing, and sell­ing.  Market research is key, how­ever, spend some time, drink some bev­er­ages, and shop in your local cof­fee shop. While you are there, speak to the man­ager and ask them what sells, curios­ity did not kill the cat.  Good luck!

We are proud to share that shortly after launch we were awarded the 2012 Coffee Fest –NY Best New Product in the con­sum­ables category.

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.

What Happened to Our scaa and Appreciation — The View

Categories: 2013, OctoberTags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , Author:

Back in the early 1990’s, when I was much younger and extremely naïve, I was on the out­side of the SCAA look­ing in. I had heard some good things, but my per­sonal expe­ri­ence was that there was a lack of respect and car­ing. What did I do? Being a young, feisty new pub­lisher, I wrote an arti­cle about the orga­ni­za­tion express­ing my concerns.

Well that started my jour­ney into the inside of the asso­ci­a­tion. The result of my “rant” was being invited to the SCAA com­mit­tee meet­ings in Minneapolis, MN and get­ting to see first hand the pas­sion of the vol­un­teers. Then, as well as now, it is the vol­un­teers who are the heart and soul of this orga­ni­za­tion. It was an amaz­ing eye opener and I was sold. I became a ded­i­cated vol­un­teer next 15 years serv­ing on, co-chairing, and chair­ing committees.

Unfortunately, pol­i­tics hap­pen. Changes in lead­er­ship, changes in atti­tude hap­pen. Being a vol­un­teer is a tricky thing with the SCAA. One day you are on a com­mit­tee, or even co-chairing the com­mit­tee, and the next, you find out your com­mit­tee no longer exists and you are not invited to the annual meet­ings. Yes, you must be “invited”, or you are sim­ply not wel­come to attend. It doesn’t mat­ter if you have already pur­chased your non-refundable plane ticket, your name is “not on the list”, and you sim­ply are not invited. I know of at least three of us “old timers” who have expe­ri­enced this very thing, and I assume there are more of us out there.

Okay, I really do under­stand there comes a time to make way for the next gen­er­a­tion. New vol­un­teers who want to give back to the indus­try. New mem­bers who sim­ply want to become “involved.” Unfortunately, it appears that some things never change. Just this sum­mer, a brand new mem­ber of SCAA and Roasters Guild was excited about the oppor­tu­nity to vol­un­teer after I had encour­aged her to “get involved.” It went some­thing like this….

  • Call the SCAA and let them know you want to help! (She did, no response.)
  • I called the SCAA and let them know of this member’s desire. This mem­ber has a par­tic­u­lar set of skills and back­ground to be truly use­ful in the upcom­ing Seattle Events. I asked if some­one could call her, as she had no response from her first attempt to vol­un­teer. I was promised this would happen.
  • She was tele­phoned and told that no such com­mit­tee exists. She was not offered any sug­ges­tion for how she could become involved. She didn’t men­tion this to any­one, think­ing this is just how the orga­ni­za­tion is. I found out weeks later about this and was embar­rassed that she had been treated in such a way. I made another call to the SCAA staff mem­ber, again ask­ing she be invited to vol­un­teer (you know… give her time and money to help the asso­ci­a­tion). Result: one voice­mail and zero follow-ups again.
  • Finally, while I was at the com­mit­tee meet­ings this last week­end, I was able to find a staff mem­ber who actu­ally did appear to care about mem­bers and even appre­ci­ate the offer of help. Dorit, you rock! The end result, I believe she will now be allowed to vol­un­teer. Success! I promised her that once she was actu­ally involved, she would see the pas­sion of the vol­un­teers and it would be a reward­ing experience.

So how did I end up being invited back to a com­mit­tee? The same way I was invited to my first com­mit­tee expe­ri­ence back in 1995. I sent “rant” out into the SCAA uni­verse, but this time only as an email cc’ing the SCAA Board and Roasters Guild Council. It seems the only way to “help” the SCAA is to make a pub­lic com­plaint. I could go on for awhile with this topic, but thank­fully for all of you, our space is lim­ited. However, given my con­tact with so many mem­bers with this cen­tral theme of lack of appre­ci­a­tion and more, I would encour­age the SCAA lead­er­ship to explore this appre­ci­a­tion topic in greater depth.

Questions I would love to see addressed by the lead­er­ship of the SCAA:

Why is it so hard to vol­un­teer and what hap­pened to com­mon cour­tesy?
Here is a quote from another Old Timer I spoke with just yes­ter­day, “I was a com­mit­tee chair. I called the SCAA office… to find out when their plan­ning ses­sion was and I talked to a staff mem­ber. He said… oh, um, well it’s com­ing up on such and such but you are not on a com­mit­tee. I said oh really, I am on that com­mit­tee. He said no, we dis­banded that com­mit­tee. No notice, noth­ing. We worked our butts off on that com­mit­tee. Why would they get rid of the com­mit­tee and not notify the sit­ting members?”

As told to a cur­rent mem­ber think­ing about run­ning for the board by a cur­rent board mem­ber in the last 30 days: “If you think that get­ting on the board of direc­tors is a demo­c­ra­tic process that is elected by the mem­bers, you are wrong. The can­di­dates that run ARE the can­di­dates that are going to get elected.”

When was the last time the SCAA appre­ci­ated its Exhibitors… those com­pa­nies that account for the largest per­cent­age of your income?
Here is a com­ment from a for­mer exhibitor, “Not only were we an exhibitor,we were also a dues pay­ing, card car­ry­ing mem­ber of the SCAA. The cal­lous and cav­a­lier atti­tude of the SCAA staff forced us to decide never exhibit again with SCAA, nor con­tinue our allied mem­ber­ship. And this was after being a mem­ber and exhibitor for sev­eral years.”

A for­mer poten­tial exhibitor told us, “We have cho­sen not to join the SCAA because you would expect lead­er­ship in the indus­try. After sev­eral attempts, we were not able to find out within even a 10 per­cent mar­gin of error how many cof­fee shops there are in the USA. If any­one should know, it should be them. If they won’t pro­vide the lead­er­ship, we should. We will not be joining.”

How about this com­ment,“We have exhib­ited at many of the related Coffee and Food Service shows (not only the SCAA event) over the years, where the SCAA has had a booth exhibit­ing what they do, mem­ber­ship ben­e­fits and that sort of thing.  Not once, in all those years, despite our post­ing a printed place card show­ing our mem­ber­ship, did any­one from SCAA stop by the booth to just say hello, or ask if there was any­thing they could do for us, or just show their thanks for the sup­port­ing mem­ber­ship etc. Nothing.”

And this com­ment, “We have felt for a few years now that the orga­ni­za­tion really did not care too much about the exhibitors, despite exhibitors being the lifeblood of any tradeshow/convention. And now they want pay­ment two years in advance!!! No way. I run a busi­ness, I have my own bills to pay, salaries to pay etc. They think I am going to tie up money two years in advance to be a sim­ple exhibitor? Nope, not going to hap­pen here. NO show is that good!”

A past exhibitor shares their story: “Last year, our com­pany suf­fered a ter­ri­ble period of time where due to ill­ness and an acci­dent, our trade show staff was just dec­i­mated. We had to can­cel our show par­tic­i­pa­tion just prior to the can­cel­la­tion dead­line, as we were just not in a posi­tion to ade­quately staff our nor­mal booth. We sent in all the required paper­work etc., in the man­ner required etc. We never got a con­fir­ma­tion, or any reply back that the paper­work and can­cel­la­tion request was received, accepted, or any­thing for that mat­ter. The only way we were able to con­firm it, was that on the show floor plan lay­out, our booth had been reas­signed. But noth­ing sent to us con­firm­ing etc.  We had to con­tact repeat­edly to get any response. On top of that, the refund never came, and we were told we had to con­tact some­one else in account­ing in their office!And then the per­son we con­tacted, shuf­fled it off on some­one else. Incredible. We were already deal­ing with major has­sles due to the ill­ness and acci­dent recov­ery of our staff, and these clowns couldn’t even acknowl­edge a can­cel­la­tion as per their own require­ments, and they were too lazy to walk the paper­work across their own office.”

A mem­ber com­ments, “I belong to two other asso­ci­a­tions. When I need their help I can find staff more than will­ing to help. They make me feel like they are work­ing for me, what a great feel­ing right? When I call the SCAA, I feel like I have reached the wrong num­ber. As a “First Responder,” I gave to them even when it was hard for us to do so. But to give was what I felt was the right thing to do. Does any­one even know what a “First Responder” is any­more and what they did to save the SCAA? Why do I feel like I need to watch my back when I attend ‘The Event’?”

I think it is high time the asso­ci­a­tion lead­er­ship under­stands that SCAA’s “The Event” is NOT the only option out there. In fact, one for­mer exhibitor states, “I have exhib­ited as a Roaster in my own home town and it gen­er­ated lit­tle results. My impres­sion is the attendee at the SCAA show is the roaster and the attendee for Coffee Fest is the retailer. It just makes more sense to exhibit at Coffee Fest if you sell to retailers.”

SCAA: It is time to respect and appre­ci­ate your exhibitors, or lose them to another show.

And this par­tic­u­lar com­ment is very telling. Imagine how this cur­rent exhibitor must feel to have this response to my ques­tion of their opin­ion of the SCAA staff: “I can’t really go there. It’s a pretty bru­tal orga­ni­za­tion. Been there and learned that impetu­ous actions with folks like them bite you back. Next thing you know you’re in a booth between the bath­rooms and the food concession.”

Favoritism… Are you treat­ing your mem­bers equally and fairly?
Is it really okay give all of the expo­sure and/or oppor­tu­nity to one par­tic­u­lar mem­ber of the com­pany when there are 5 or 6, or more that are in the exact same cat­e­gory and can pro­vide the exact same ser­vice? Since when does the SCAA staff get to say, “We like that rela­tion­ship. We don’t have any record of how it hap­pened, but we like it and will not but out a bid or RFP, or even bring it up with the board. It is our deci­sion.” Even when asked about the oppor­tu­nity for the orga­ni­za­tion to review if this is the best fis­cal choice to be made for the SCAA Budget. This empow­ered atti­tude of “we will do what we please and there is noth­ing you can do about it” is a recipe for dis­as­ter and can only be fixed if the atti­tude changes from the top down.

SCAA Mission / Strategic Plan… when did it become all about the money?
I found the fol­low­ing on the SCAA web­site: “It’s impor­tant to remem­ber that SCAA is a non-profit, which exists solely for the ben­e­fit of its mem­bers.” And yet, at every turn what I actu­ally hear about is bring me the money. The cur­rent strate­gic plan pre­sented by the SCAA President of the Board had the fol­low­ing three top objec­tives: increase rev­enue, diver­sify income, and increase net assets. Sorry, but where was the focus on actu­ally ben­e­fit­ing mem­bers? I really do under­stand that the asso­ci­a­tion, or any orga­ni­za­tion, must be fis­cally respon­si­ble to be able to con­tinue to serve its mis­sion. However, with­out a focus from the top down on appre­ci­a­tion, the deci­sions seem to have become, how can the SCAA make money, not focus on its mem­bers. To me, this is very short-term think­ing. Without mem­bers, there is NO SCAA.

And as long as I seem to be on a once every 20-year rant, when did it become okay for a trade asso­ci­a­tion whose mis­sion is to ben­e­fit its mem­bers, to become com­pe­ti­tion to their own mem­ber­ship. It seems like more and more I am see­ing SCAA sell­ing things their mem­ber com­pa­nies used to sell. Again, it goes back to the atti­tude… If they exist to make money (funny for a non-profit?), that this makes sense. What was the strate­gic plan focus on again this year: increase rev­enue? What about increas­ing rev­enue for their members?

However…
It would be easy to think, “oh the heck with them!” But then I expe­ri­ence a few staff mem­bers that actu­ally DO care. And I hear them speak directly about mem­ber value. Ildi Revi, just pre­sented an amaz­ing IDP class in Seattle, WA and her com­mit­ment to mem­bers is some­thing to be applauded. The resources of the SCAA are truly amaz­ing. Or rather, they can be, if you know how to find them and ask the cor­rect peo­ple. So no, it is not time to throw out the baby with the bath water. But rather, maybe it is time for lead­er­ship to exam­ine their atti­tudes so that the entire orga­ni­za­tion can be more like those few indi­vid­u­als that are ded­i­cated to ben­e­fit­ing membership.

And back to the begin­ning: Appreciation
Appreciation… CoffeeTalk truly appre­ci­ates all of the amaz­ing work being done in this indus­try to give back. This is pre­cisely why we began ded­i­cat­ing our July issue each year com­pletely to Making A Difference years ago. It is impor­tant to give back. Whether it is your organization’s mem­bers, groups within the com­mu­nity, and/or those in need.

The Making a Difference issue as you may know, high­lights the var­i­ous non­profit orga­ni­za­tions around the world striv­ing to make a dif­fer­ence in the cof­fee com­mu­nity. These orga­ni­za­tions put their own needs aside, and they help oth­ers first with­out expect­ing to receive some­thing in return. Each non­profit orga­ni­za­tion fea­tured in this issue sub­mit­ted a full-page story. This enabled them to not only spread the word about their cause, but it allowed read­ers and mem­bers of the com­mu­nity to join them in their mis­sion and help make a difference.

We are proud to announce the win­ner of our 2013 July Making a Difference view/click con­test and the recip­i­ent of a $1,000 per­sonal dona­tion for their cause from CoffeeTalk own­ers Kerri & Miles: Pueblo a Pueblo: Maternal Child Health and Education. This pro­gram is designed to reduce the excep­tion­ally high mater­nal and infant mor­tal­ity rates among the T’zutujil Maya in Santiago Atitlan region. MCH cre­ates a con­sis­tent, one-to-one part­ner­ship between inter­na­tional spon­sors and Guatemalan fam­i­lies, giv­ing moth­ers and their chil­dren cru­cial med­ical and edu­ca­tion sup­port.
You can check out these sto­ries, as well as the sev­eral oth­ers fea­tured in this year’s issue online in the back issues sec­tion of the website.

It is when a small spark is lit that a fire of change can spread. Please, be inspired and make a difference.

Kerri & Miles

Game Changers

Categories: 2013, AugustTags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , Author:

The cof­fee indus­try, in many ways, is the same now as when it first became an indus­try. Coffee is grown, exported, imported, roasted, retailed, and con­sumed. But you have to admit that the SPECIALTY cof­fee indus­try today is not what it was even 30 years ago. 60 years ago it didn’t even exist. Segmenting the indus­try into ‘the good stuff’ and ‘the other stuff’ was a game changer in that an entire new mar­ket based mostly on the qual­ity of the cup was born.

The def­i­n­i­tion used for a ‘Game Changer’ for this arti­cle is pretty straight for­ward: A thought, idea, or action that fun­da­men­tally changes how we think, cre­ate, and act in the spe­cialty cof­fee industry.

Compiled in the next sec­tion are SOME of the Game Changers we have seen so far in the indus­try. It is not an exhaus­tive list. If you have a game changer that was missed, please send it to the author. The last sec­tion looks at the sig­nif­i­cant prob­lems to be solved in the next 30 years and what game chang­ers might be com­ing for that purpose.

Game Changers in the Last 60 Years

The Industrial Revolution – This brought cof­fee to the masses and cre­ated the real­ity for Americans that the day does not start with­out cof­fee. It is a sub­set of these drinkers that demanded more fla­vor and spurred the Specialty Coffee Market.

Washed Coffees – When cof­fee started being washed for a more con­sis­tent, effi­cient, and reli­able way to remove the mucilage, a side ben­e­fit was the increase in acetic acid that is gen­er­ated in the process. Acetic acid pro­vided fruity fla­vors to some cof­fees and much more exper­i­men­ta­tion was done. Now there is a ‘mas­ter’ in charge of the tanks to not only know when the mucilage is com­ing off, but to deter­mine how much/little acetic acid is most desirable.

Micro Lots – When fer­men­ta­tion became a craft, indi­vid­ual lots could be manip­u­lated. It is often eas­ier to manip­u­late a sin­gle lot than the bulk of a coöperative’s cof­fee. Farmers are now tak­ing great care with their crops because they real­ize there could be a pre­mium for a high qual­ity sin­gle lot coffee.

Varietal Creation – In an effort to increase qual­ity, yield, and strength of the cof­fee plant, labs such as the Kenya Coffee Research Foundation ini­ti­ated long-term sci­ence pro­grams to splice and cross var­i­ous vari­etals. The results have gen­er­ated hybrids that can be cho­sen for very spe­cific grow­ing goals. Some vari­etals like Geisha have truly put the cof­fee world on notice when it began win­ning all of the top qual­ity awards.

The Q-Grading System – With all of the increase in qual­ity being attempted around the world, there became a need for a com­mon lan­guage through­out the sup­ply chain. The Coffee Quality Institute took up the chal­lenge. Just a few years later there are almost 3,000 Q-Graders rang­ing from Australia to Zambia. Now pro­duc­ers can talk with exporters, importers, and even roast­ers about their cof­fee. This is help­ing improve the qual­ity of life at the farm level, as they become able to real­ize higher prices for their coffee.

Roast Profile Systems – Now that there are micro lots, a roaster has an oblig­a­tion to treat that cof­fee like gold. They learn the Q-Language and then get to work roast­ing the cof­fee in dif­fer­ent ways to get the best out of that par­tic­u­lar bean. Once they have it… they have to be able to repeat it. That is where a roast pro­file sys­tem comes in handy. It records what you did and assists in hit­ting that same spot over and over.

The One-Way Valve – This small device, when applied to a cof­fee bag, allowed for the tran­si­tion from a can to a bag and ush­ered in a whole new level of fresh­ness. Now small bags of ‘right out of the roaster’ cof­fee can be found in gro­cery stores as well as retail shops.

The Espresso Machine – The dis­cov­ery of this shot of liq­uid gold that must be man­u­fac­tured under such high pres­sure drove a whole new way to enjoy cof­fee. Many years later, ‘Barista’ is a new work­force category.

All of the game chang­ers above were orig­i­nally devel­oped to solve a prob­lem. Most were dri­ving qual­ity into the cof­fee at some level. With the advent of the infor­ma­tion age we live in cur­rently, inno­va­tion will become much more dra­matic and sudden.

Game Changers in the Next 30 Years

Quality will con­tinue to be a focus, but much larger, global issues must be dealt with. Some of these Game Changers are already in final stages of development.

Coffee Rust – This dis­ease of the plant is cur­rently dec­i­mat­ing farms through­out Latin America. The cur­rent best answer is to chop down your farm and start over. Companies are work­ing on ways to use new pes­ti­cides, fungi­cides, and to improve farm­ing prac­tices to com­bat the dis­ease. A Game Changer here comes with some sort of treat­ment that will elim­i­nate the dis­ease and improve the health of the tree.

Poverty / Supply Chain Enrichment – It is get­ting harder to turn a blind eye to the dis­par­ity of wealth from grower to retailer. Groups are devel­op­ing ways to get the rela­tion­ship between the con­sumer and the grower to be more obvi­ous and more per­sonal. First there was Fair Trade, then Direct Trade. Both hold to the premise that the farmer is being left out of the profit model. With the cur­rent tech­nol­ogy, a con­sumer can ‘meet his farmer’. With aware­ness there will emerge a solu­tion. A Game Changer here would be turn­ing the sup­ply chain on its head and allow­ing the farmer to fully par­tic­i­pate in profits.

Food Transparency – Technology is pro­vid­ing us with the abil­ity to trace our food to where it comes from and who touches it on its way to us. With poten­tial out­breaks of dis­eases and cer­tain threats against one group of peo­ple from another it is impor­tant that we are able to do this food trace. Think of the e-coli out­breaks where they can trace the head of let­tuce back to the farm. The Game Changer for cof­fee is when we can do this because we can then engage the entire sup­ply chain. There is ZERO chance right now of trac­ing cof­fee in cer­tain parts of the world. If we can find the farmer, we can reward the farmer.

Climate Change – There is no ques­tion that how the grow­ing sea­sons and rain pat­terns change mat­ters to the cof­fee farmer. Someone will come up with a way to see into the future and pre­dict the new pat­terns and will allow farm­ing to be proac­tive to the change rather than reac­tive. A Game Changer here does not alter the weather, but rather, learns how to accept and work with those things we can­not change.

What are the next Game Changers that we will see over the next 30 years? You should expect to be amazed at the sim­plic­ity of some of them like the one-way valve and awed by the inge­nu­ity of oth­ers like cre­at­ing new vari­etals. The real ques­tion is, “What is the Game Changer YOU are going to come up with?”

Rocky can be reached at rocky@INTLcoffeeConsulting.com

To Give or Not to Give? — Is That Even a Question?

Categories: 2013, JulyTags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , Author:

In a world where most indi­vid­u­als have a ten­dency to think about them­selves first, it is more impor­tant to help those in need even before that.

Nonprofit orga­ni­za­tions do just that. They help oth­ers out of the kind­ness of their hearts, their pas­sion to make a dif­fer­ence, and the urge to improve global well­be­ing. Even more than that, they do not ask, nor expect any­thing in return.

From pro­vid­ing for those who live in poverty stricken areas to build­ing homes for dis­as­ter relief, the oppor­tu­ni­ties are end­less for non­profit orga­ni­za­tions to help oth­ers. It is the small ges­tures that build upon each other to make a big dif­fer­ence. And it is when small ges­tures are accom­pa­nied with pas­sion­ate indi­vid­u­als that even a greater dif­fer­ence is possible.

For CoffeeTalk, it is not even an option; it is a must to help oth­ers and give back. This issue is our Making a Difference issue. It high­lights non­profit orga­ni­za­tions that are mak­ing a dif­fer­ence and improv­ing the cof­fee industry.

It is orga­ni­za­tions like these in this issue that make the cof­fee indus­try proud. It is orga­ni­za­tions like these that allow the cof­fee indus­try to grow and become not just an indus­try, but rather a heart­felt com­mu­nity.  A com­mu­nity that works together to pro­vide one of the world’s most beloved bev­er­ages, while simul­ta­ne­ously stim­u­lat­ing eco­nomic growth around the globe.

Nonprofit orga­ni­za­tions are mak­ing a dif­fer­ence one can, one dol­lar, one shirt, and one ham­mered nail at a time. It is impor­tant to give back and help oth­ers. Not just because it is “the right thing to do,” but because is it what we ought to do.

COFFEECARES
Programs have been cre­ated to keep track of such dona­tions. Profits4Purpose was first built four years ago by five young men who saw an unfilled niche to give online for small to medium sized businesses.

Karen Cebreros, owner of CoffeeCares says, “It is a new inno­v­a­tive tech­nol­ogy and slowly gain­ing momen­tum but it is here to stay.  We came along 18 months ago and fell in love with it.”

CoffeeCares was granted a license to sell this soft­ware. There are two ver­sions, the basic CoffeeCares soft­ware and the cus­tomiz­able Profits4Purpose intended for the larger companies.

Cebreros says, “CoffeeCares is a ver­ti­cal plat­form built for our indus­try only so we can aggre­gate all cof­fee NGOs into one platform.”

There are three dif­fer­ent sizes for the CoffeeCares soft­ware: small, medium, and large. The largest pro­gram is Profits4Purpose with the CoffeeCares non­prof­its dropped into it. That way an orga­ni­za­tion or a com­pany can choose which size soft­ware is best for them to utilize.

Companies can license the soft­ware and then give their employ­ees access through a pass­word based func­tion. After that each com­pany builds out the non­profit orga­ni­za­tions they would like to donate to. Employees can make a mon­e­tary dona­tion or a prod­uct dona­tion through this soft­ware. They can also donate time and vol­un­teer for events in and around their location.

Each com­pany can cus­tomize their dash­board to show or hide items they wish to share with employ­ees. This pro­gram tracks all of the hours, dol­lars, and prod­ucts donated within a company.

The con­cept is so new but will catch on in sev­eral more years. We can no longer have a planet with half the world starv­ing and the Western coun­tries using up 80% of the nat­ural resources,” says Cebreros.

While the con­cept is new, many promi­nent com­pa­nies are using it already. Gavina, Mars, Appfels, Prometheus, and Rebecca’s Coffee House are just nam­ing a few.

This soft­ware pro­vides report­ing so that man­age­ment can involve and report effec­tively, effi­ciently, and also eas­ily to not only employ­ees, but clients on the entire organization’s efforts. This soft­ware is cloud-based, it is a way of the future that many com­pa­nies will adopt and uti­lize to get give back.

If peo­ple in our indus­try care about stop­ping plagues, eras­ing poverty, build­ing schools, help­ing ani­mals, what­ever the case may be; we have a way to har­ness the indus­try to cap­ture every dime, every pound of cof­fee, and show the indus­try Coffee Moving Millions and have a say in how the money applies,” says Cebreros.

CoffeeCares does not take any money from the dona­tions, none, zero, ever! “If you want to donate a dol­lar, all 100 pen­nies goes right to the orga­ni­za­tion, every time,” she continues.

The cof­fee indus­try is the first indus­try to band together to cre­ate change in a pub­lic man­ner. Cebreros’ pas­sion to move oth­ers to make a change and ‘Track the Impact’ is inspi­ra­tional. It is peo­ple like Cebreros that have the drive to cre­ate soft­ware to pro­mote change. It is reward­ing when an indi­vid­ual can see that their dona­tion is mak­ing a dif­fer­ence to some­one who can be 1,000 miles away in another country.

Her soft­ware allows indi­vid­u­als within the cof­fee com­mu­nity to step out­side their daily job as a barista for the cor­ner cof­fee shop, or pres­i­dent of a high-end cor­po­ra­tion and help oth­ers who really need a help­ing hand.

The fol­low­ing sto­ries in this issue are just a hand­ful of the non­profit orga­ni­za­tions help­ing the cof­fee indus­try. Some are small in size and some are larger, but they all have some­thing in com­mon– they are all giv­ing back and help­ing oth­ers. You too can help. By just view­ing these sto­ries you are giv­ing one of these orga­ni­za­tions an oppor­tu­nity to gain $1,000 for their cause. CoffeeTalk Media will donate $1,000 to the project in this issue that receives the most views and clicks. Be inspired, find pas­sion in some­thing, and make a dif­fer­ence. It could be a mon­e­tary dona­tion or a few hours of your time. Start a chain reac­tion and care to help oth­ers. Now, start click­ing and start view­ing, be a part of the change!

Watch our short video here!

Leading With Game Changing Technologies

Categories: 2013, JulyTags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , Author:

gavina Track Impact 5Project Description
“What is com­pas­sion? It is not sim­ply a sense of sym­pa­thy or car­ing for the per­son suf­fer­ing, not sim­ply a warmth of heart toward the per­son before you, or a sharp clar­ity of recog­ni­tion of their needs and pain, it is also a sus­tained and prac­ti­cal deter­mi­na­tion to do what­ever is pos­si­ble and nec­es­sary to help alle­vi­ate their suf­fer­ing.” – Sogyal Rinpoche

For 150 years, Gavina has been giv­ing back to the com­mu­nity. The first two gen­er­a­tions gave back in Cuba when the com­pany was first started. The Catholic Church and the good work it enables was the favorite recip­i­ent. Generations three and four have con­tin­ued that tra­di­tion since the fam­ily moved the busi­ness here in the 1960s. In addi­tion to their long-standing sup­port of the church, Gavina today sup­ports a wide vari­ety of causes impor­tant to them, their employ­ees and their community.

Anna Valls is the dona­tion coör­di­na­tor. In the inter­est of help­ing all stake­hold­ers, Anna and her com­mu­nity involve­ment team have cho­sen to install Profits4Purpose, an inno­v­a­tive employee engage­ment and dona­tion track­ing soft­ware plat­form. P4P will help Gavina be more effi­cient, give every staff mem­ber the oppor­tu­nity to par­tic­i­pate, and com­mu­ni­cate all good works in real time.

We’re going to be able to broaden our impact and hope­fully help even more wor­thy causes because we’re going to do it smarter and involve more of our employ­ees who want to help,” said Valls.

Conscious cap­i­tal­ism is not new to Gavina. The found­ing fam­ily always had core val­ues around their busi­ness role in soci­ety. Donating for over a cen­tury demon­strates trust, com­pas­sion, col­lab­o­ra­tion, and value cre­ation. Business doing good is good for business.

CoffeeCares founder, Karen Cebreros, knew of Gavina’s com­mu­nity com­mit­ment. She brought P4P to Gavina’s atten­tion, know­ing it would help them help others.

CoffeeCares and Profits4Purpose is proud to part­ner with F Gavina & Sons to make a dif­fer­ence, match­ing employee inter­ests and com­pany val­ues with com­mu­nity needs,” stated Cebreros. “They do excel­lent work and will make good use of the platform.”

Gavina makes over 100 dona­tions each month.  In addi­tion to prod­uct dona­tions, com­pany activ­i­ties include many staff mem­bers get­ting together to walk in the LA Breast Cancer annual fundraiser.  Now shar­ing infor­ma­tion around events will be a snap.  Gavina is rein­vent­ing how they live and work in the world as busi­ness vision­ar­ies and a force for good.

gavina Track Impact 4Who Benefits from this project?
The ben­e­fi­cia­ries of Gavina using Profits4Purpose to enhance their char­i­ta­ble giv­ing is broad. All the local non­prof­its in the Los Angeles area that are cur­rently helped by them will ben­e­fit. As P4P becomes fully imple­mented, the non­prof­its will be able to request prod­uct dona­tions and event sup­port by fill­ing out a form accessed from Gavina’s website.

It will be an easy process and since they are fill­ing out a form, they will know exactly what infor­ma­tion Gavina needs to process their request, rather than hav­ing it held up while wait­ing for more infor­ma­tion. Should Gavina still need more infor­ma­tion, with a click of a but­ton they will be able to email the requestor and then keep the sub­se­quently sub­mit­ted infor­ma­tion all in the same place, elim­i­nat­ing search­ing for mul­ti­ple let­ters or emails.

The cof­fee NGOs around the world look to ben­e­fit too. Available on the P4P plat­form will be dona­tion links that go directly to those non­prof­its sup­port­ing the cof­fee­lands, mak­ing it eas­ier for Gavina to sup­port them.

Gavina’s employ­ees ben­e­fit as well. P4P links up each employee account and allows them to search for and sup­port causes that they care about. They will be able help broaden the scope of all who Gavina touches and impacts.

gavina Track Impact 3How Can I Help?
Make an impact in your com­mu­nity. If like Gavina, your com­pany has sup­ported your com­muity and the cof­fee NGOs for years or decades, con­sider look­ing to do that more effi­ciently. Rather than spend­ing time and effort on admin­is­ter­ing your good work, do it the easy way, and spend more of your time doing more good work.

If you’ve been think­ing of start­ing a Corporate Social Responsibility pro­gram at your com­pany, there is no time like the present to start!

Contact Name:     Anna Valls
Web Site:     http://www.gavina.com/
Location:     Vernon/California/USA
Email Address:     anna.valls@gavina.com
Phone Number:     800.428.4627 ext. 6106

Coffee Education — Is the Certificate important?

Categories: 2013, JuneTags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , Author:

Rocky RhodesBack in the day… (This is what old timers say when about to make a com­par­i­son to cur­rent changes in some­thing) edu­ca­tion in the cof­fee indus­try had only one fla­vor – free peer-to-peer / mentor-to-mentee. But times they are a-changin’!

Our indus­try is inter­est­ing in that we all want our col­leagues, and com­peti­tors, to make good cof­fee so the indus­try is eas­ily iden­ti­fi­able as some­thing bet­ter than aver­age. If the indus­try suc­ceeds, then every­body can charge an arti­sanal price rather than a com­mer­cial one. Education was given away to assist this iden­tity sep­a­ra­tion. “Is it work­ing?” is a smart and insight­ful ques­tion to eval­u­ate. To do so requires peel­ing back a few lay­ers of this edu­ca­tion onion.

The Evolution of Education
Back in the day, peo­ple were just feel­ing their way through things like sourc­ing, roast­ing, and pulling shots. We would pick up the phone to a friend in the indus­try and declare some­thing like’ “I found that if I roasted a lit­tle slower and a lit­tle lighter I got some inter­est­ing fla­vors.” Or “I found that if a shot of espresso takes longer than seven sec­onds to pro­duce it can actu­ally taste com­plex and inter­est­ing.” The per­son on the other end would will­ingly share their expe­ri­ences and that became a col­lab­o­ra­tive learn­ing experience.

As the col­lab­o­ra­tion became wider, guilds formed. Now we had orga­nized group col­lab­o­ra­tion for edu­ca­tion. The guilds found that it would be eas­ier for every­one if the infor­ma­tion was orga­nized into classes so cur­ricu­lum was devel­oped for that ‘level one’ type infor­ma­tion. The infor­ma­tion was still ‘free’ but you needed to join one of the guilds and go to a retreat to get it. It was still con­tained in the most pas­sion­ate of the cof­fee enthu­si­asts who were will­ing to join, share, par­tic­i­pate, and pay to be a member.

The word got out that there were orga­nized classes for the indus­try. Demand became extremely high for not only the Level One classes, but for deeper knowl­edge for the early adopters who were look­ing to move up in their learn­ing. Volunteers were still devel­op­ing cur­ricu­lum, but at some point it became clear that this ser­vice would be bet­ter served by the SCAA where some staff could be added to apply a struc­ture to the classes and help develop the ‘look and feel.’ At the same time, the con­cept devel­oped of mak­ing this edu­ca­tion like that of other pro­fes­sions in that it could be a ‘cer­ti­fied cre­den­tial’ stat­ing your pro­fi­ciency in the skills of that trade: Certified Barista, Certified Roaster etc. Also, other orga­ni­za­tions started offer­ing sim­i­lar classes that were often based on the same mate­ri­als so it was con­fus­ing as to who should be run­ning the classes and where you could take them.

Coffee Quality Institute (CQI) devel­oped the Q-Grader Certificate pro­gram uti­liz­ing some of the work of SCAA edu­ca­tion devel­op­ment and tech stan­dards. SCAE offered classes of their own that looked sur­pris­ingly like those of SCAA… pri­vate train­ers jumped in, now there are lots of choices, sev­eral qual­ity lev­els of the deliv­ery of those classes, and dif­fer­ent cre­den­tials and cost structures.

SCAA decided to rein this in and cre­ate cer­ti­fi­ca­tion pro­grams for the dif­fer­ent voca­tional groups of the indus­try. Now you can become a cer­ti­fied Roaster, Barista and Cupper and do it at dif­fer­ent lev­els that rep­re­sent your mas­tery of the skills. Volunteers con­tinue to add tech­ni­cal input to the class mate­ri­als but the infor­ma­tion is con­trolled and sold by SCAA. We have come a long way from that peer-to-peer collaboration.

Are the Certificates Worth It?
This is an inter­est­ing conun­drum for the cof­fee indus­try. The answer to the ques­tion in the U.S. is dif­fer­ent than other coun­tries. To answer we need to under­stand the value to the learner.

The cof­fee pro­fes­sional in the US is still a pas­sion­ate craftsper­son set on learn­ing as much as pos­si­ble. Their desire for a cer­ti­fi­ca­tion is only so they can ‘join the club’ rather than for pro­fes­sional advance­ment. The real goal of tak­ing classes is knowl­edge and craft improvement.

The cof­fee pro­fes­sional in Asiatic con­sum­ing coun­tries is moti­vated more by the piece of paper. With an addi­tional cer­tifi­cate, there is proof of some spe­cial­ized learn­ing so there is more pos­si­bil­ity to find a job or advance in a com­pany. Often the cer­tifi­cate is being sought and paid for per­son­ally, so price is impor­tant, and return on invest­ment is cal­cu­lated. Further down the list is the qual­ity of that edu­ca­tion. This is why you see a huge array of cof­fee cer­ti­fi­ca­tions in these countries.

In pro­duc­ing coun­tries, they really have a focused goal; to sell their cof­fee and improve the qual­ity so they can sell it for even more. A cer­tifi­cate is valu­able in that it tells the poten­tial buyer that there is an under­stand­ing of qual­ity and opens a line of com­mu­ni­ca­tion. Often it is the exporters that will take classes, as farm­ers gen­er­ally can­not afford the classes now that they are fee based. The good news is that peo­ple in Coffee Corps will vol­un­teer their time and exper­tise to deliver the classes free.

Dilution and Dishonesty
The dan­ger of a cer­ti­fi­ca­tion is that the industry’s desire to make every­one bet­ter is being sub­verted by a small per­cent­age of peo­ple that only want to claim that they know, and actu­ally want to cut cor­ners and cheat the con­sumer. They want to claim to be cof­fee spe­cial­ists but then serve some crappy cof­fee that they can buy cheap. They have a dis­dain for the sophis­ti­cated cof­fee drinker as well as third wave cof­fee houses. They think those peo­ple are fool­ish and could not tell one cup of cof­fee from another. These are the folks our indus­try must some­how police against as they will dilute the Special out of Specialty and fur­ther con­fuse the consumer.

The solu­tion to this prob­lem is to hold a cer­tifi­cate pro­gram to extremely high stan­dards. If you can get one for merely show­ing up for a class then the cer­tifi­cate has no value. Have infor­ma­tional classes avail­able for those that just want to get started. Have cer­tifi­cate pro­grams for those that want actual exper­tise. To the SCAA’s credit, there has been devel­oped (as a part of the cer­ti­fi­ca­tion) a cri­te­ria a num­ber of hours that you must doc­u­ment as devel­op­ing your skills over a period of months. Bravo!

We have come a long way from ‘Back in the day.’ Us old timers should take some of these new-fangled cer­ti­fi­ca­tion courses. Maybe we can share some peer-to-peer knowl­edge dur­ing the class!

Rocky can be reached at rocky@INTLcoffeeConsulting.com

The View

Categories: 2013, MarchTags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , Author:

La Roya, also known as Coffee Rust fun­gus has moved from a minor irri­ta­tion in Latin America into a plague of mas­sive pro­por­tions. Why now? And, why at all? Without going all pseudo sci­en­tific, it would seem that the loom­ing threat of cli­mate change has finally shown itself and, as pre­dicted, cof­fee agri­cul­ture is the canary in the coalmine.

This is one of my pet phrases and it seems that a sur­pris­ing num­ber of folks have no idea what it means so, never let­ting a chance to be pedan­tic pass me by with­out a fight, I will explain it.

In England, before mod­ern sens­ing equip­ment, coalmin­ers used to take canaries in small cages down into the pits. Canaries are much more sen­si­tive to dan­ger­ous gases such as methane, a com­mon byprod­uct of coal. If the canary drops dead it is time to leave the mine, fast.

Coffee, par­tic­u­larly Arabica cof­fee, is very sen­si­tive to changes in its envi­ron­ment and grow­ing con­di­tions. When the trop­i­cal cli­matic con­di­tions started to change five or so years ago, the tem­per­a­ture started to go up and the usu­ally pre­dictable rain cycles began to be erratic. Coffee started to show the harm­ful effects.

In the thoughts of a few of us doom and gloom pre­dic­tors, the ques­tion was not whether the result­ing loss of yields would hap­pen, but rather how it would first man­i­fest itself. My money was on wide spread Borer Beetle infes­ta­tion (and in some respects that was cor­rect); but what seems to be killing the canary is Coffee Rust.

Coffee Rust seems so frag­ile and sim­ple but in the real world, it is the sin­gle most deadly cat­a­stro­phe Mother Nature can throw at cof­fee. It is a fun­gus, the least sophis­ti­cated of the higher orders of plants, but with a fierce will to sur­vive expelling bil­lions of spores into the wind and quickly spread­ing across a large area of cof­fee trees.

It has always been man­age­able, since the con­di­tions to sup­port Coffee Rust only occurred in small micro­cli­mate pock­ets. However last year con­di­tions across the Andean and Central American cof­fee regions all hit that tem­per­a­ture and rain sweet spot that La Roya loves so much.

The rea­son that Coffee Rust is such a fear­ful prob­lem is that once it hits a plant, it spreads rapidly unto the leaves block­ing the plants abil­ity to carry out pho­to­syn­the­sis. The leaves wither and drop pre­ma­turely, car­ry­ing the fun­gus to the leaf clut­ter below the tree. As new leaves form to replace the loss, the cof­fee rust reasserts itself upon the next rainy sea­son. Unlike other pests and dis­eases that can hit cof­fee, the dam­age is not lim­ited or selec­tive. It does not just wreck a few cher­ries, or shrivel a branch or two. Coffee Rust is homi­ci­dal and if left unchecked, depletes and may even­tu­ally kill the host tree. Use of expen­sive and poten­tially toxic fungi­cides as well as quar­an­tine and pre­emp­tive plant removal seem to be the prime defense against Coffee Rust. Eradication how­ever seems to not be pos­si­ble. And there is the prob­lem! By even the most con­ser­v­a­tive esti­mates, this cur­rent weather pat­tern is going to remain for at least the next year, which means that the poten­tial exists for a con­tin­u­ing destruc­tion of cof­fee plants. This poten­tially means total destruc­tion, not a tem­po­rary inconvenience.

Why does this mean destruc­tion? It is the “human fac­tor.” It does not mat­ter if the cur­rent weather pat­terns last for five years or five thou­sand years – let the sci­en­tists and politi­cians argue that out. From a prac­ti­cal aspect, once a farmer’s trees drop below a con­sis­tent min­i­mum yield to sup­port the fam­ily, the farm will cease to exist.

We face the prospect of hill­sides cov­ered with the skele­tal remains of cof­fee trees for as far as the eye can see. Sound apoc­a­lyp­tic, not really. Remember the American Elm, the Chestnut, and soon the Lodge Pole Pine forests of the Rocky Mountains? All were too spe­cial­ized and fell vic­tim to chang­ing conditions.

Within three years, farm­ers may be pulling out their cof­fee trees and replac­ing them with a new, more viable, agri­cul­tural, pas­toral, or real estate devel­op­ment enterprises.

It is sad that there is very lit­tle we can do. All the fuel-efficient cars and recy­cling pro­grams in the world – even if there was the polit­i­cal will to change today – can­not change this sit­u­a­tion quickly enough.

So are we sim­ply done? Well prob­a­bly not. There will still be cof­fee, albeit very expen­sive cof­fee and ulti­mately new vari­etals are com­ing on-line that are resis­tant to this plague. According to Peter Baker of CABI, the renowned sci­en­tific research insti­tute in London, “Resistant vari­etals are already avail­able. But many farm­ers haven’t planted them because spe­cialty roast­ers say the cup qual­ity is infe­rior. But some of them, like Castillo in Colombia for exam­ple, seem to have a pretty good cup pro­file.” Hopefully researchers will be proac­tive enough to also antic­i­pate the next plague com­ing down the pipeline – one can hope.

One thing is cer­tain how­ever. The world of cof­fee in Mexico, Central, and South America will look very dif­fer­ent than it does now. The Great American drought that cre­ated the dust bowl in the 1930’s ended for­ever the “40 acre and a mule” farm fam­ily in the USA and ush­ered in the era of cor­po­rate farm­ing. Corporate farm­ing is able to be more resilient to lose caused by weather or pests because the farms are so much more vast. A hail­storm can destroy 100 acres of wheat and barely effect the total farm yields on today’s agro-business farms

I pre­dict that the same will hap­pen in cof­fee. The small­holder farm will give way to the large cor­po­rate estate as big inter­na­tional money inter­ests pur­chase and con­sol­i­date the rav­aged lands once held by small fam­i­lies. Only big money will have the finan­cial oomph to invest what it will take to re-establish cof­fee pro­duc­tion in Latin America to the scale that it has been.

Is this a ter­ri­ble thing? I do not know – maybe, maybe not. It may be an inevitable and nat­ural pro­gres­sion that is only pre­cip­i­tated by La Roya. I hope though that I am wrong.

Kerri & Miles

Employment Law 2012 Review and the Employer Landmines to Avoid

Categories: 2012, DecemberTags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , Author:

12_12 9-B2012 was a year of change, progress, digress, and a Presidential Election – all of which brought sig­nif­i­cant devel­op­ments in employ­ment law, espe­cially for employ­ers. Here are just a cou­ple of high­lights from 2012:

Social Media – Can Employees Really Say That About Us On-Line?
There are mil­lions of peo­ple on social media these days. If it be Facebook©, Twitter©, LinkedIn©, inter­net blogs – you name it. With all the social media avenues out there in cyber­space inevitably come employ­ees want­ing to vent and com­plain about their jobs. They com­plain about pay­checks, the salary they make, or they don’t like the way their employer han­dles the work­force. Once the employer gets wind of the inap­pro­pri­ate posts, the employer’s first instinct is to fire that employee. NOT SO FAST! Generally, under the National Labor Relations Act, employ­ees are allowed to con­gre­gate and dis­cuss their work­ing con­di­tions for mutual aid and pro­tec­tion free from employer retal­i­a­tion. Now the National Labor Relations Board (“NLRB”)(the gov­ern­men­tal agency that gen­er­ally pro­tects employ­ees’ rights to union­ize and have unions rep­re­sent them) says it does not mat­ter in what forum the employ­ees have their pow-wows. This is because the NLRB views social media as an appro­pri­ate forum to con­gre­gate and should not give the employ­ees any LESS pro­tec­tion, and essen­tially it just gives them more due to the power of social media in today’s soci­ety. The cur­rent deci­sions in 2012 com­ing down from the NLRB are very much pro-employee. The broader the pol­icy on restrict­ing the employ­ees’ con­duct in social media, the worse off the employer is. States are even get­ting involved with their own leg­is­la­tion, such as, as of Jan 1, 2013, it will be unlaw­ful in Illinois and other states for oper­a­tors to request pass­words and log in infor­ma­tion to access employ­ees’ per­sonal social media sites. Revising your social media poli­cies is a must and not an option!

Employee Background Checks – What Is Really Fair & Consistent Treatment In Hiring?
Background checks came into the employ­ment spot­light in 2012. Traditionally, employ­ers thought they could com­ply with dis­crim­i­na­tion laws by hav­ing blan­ket poli­cies that state, for exam­ple, no employee would get hired if they had a felony crim­i­nal con­vic­tion in the past 7 years. It is a con­sis­tent pol­icy and it treats every indi­vid­ual the same, right? Well, not accord­ing to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) (the gov­ern­men­tal agency that enforces fed­eral laws that make it ille­gal to dis­crim­i­nate against a job appli­cant or an employee because of an individual’s pro­tected class). The EEOC has recently fine-tuned its guid­ance on back­ground checks. The EEOC finds that these gen­eral poli­cies have a dis­crim­i­na­tory effect on African Americans and Hispanics because these two races have a higher sta­tis­tic of get­ting arrested and ulti­mately con­victed. Thus, employ­ers must go through an indi­vid­u­al­ized case-by-case assess­ment before they can dis­qual­ify appli­cants from posi­tions. This assess­ment includes, among other fac­tors, the nature and grav­ity of the crime; the time that has elapsed from when the crime was com­mit­ted; reha­bil­i­ta­tion efforts; and post-conviction employ­ment. State laws may also throw another layer of restric­tions that you should be aware of in the states you oper­ate. It makes good sense to have writ­ten guide­lines for those admin­is­tra­tors in your com­pany that per­form and ana­lyze such back­ground checks.

Wage & Hour Violations – To Pay Or Not To Pay, That Is The Question!
Employee-side attor­neys have made it a pri­or­ity in 2012 to sue com­pa­nies for wage and hour vio­la­tions, and it is not dying down. This could be for not pay­ing employ­ees min­i­mum wage; not cal­cu­lat­ing over­time pay cor­rectly; pay­ing them salary when they should be paid hourly; call­ing them an inde­pen­dent con­trac­tor when they are truly an employee; inap­pro­pri­ately deduct­ing from employ­ees’ pay­checks for short­ages, uni­forms or bro­ken com­pany equip­ment; or not giv­ing them their required meal or rest breaks – to just name a few. Unfortunately for employ­ers, they must stay abreast of not only fed­eral laws, but also dif­fer­ing state-specific laws that dic­tate how, when, where, why, etc. to pay employ­ees. Getting re-educated on these chang­ing laws should hap­pen sooner rather than later as hon­est mis­takes can hap­pen so eas­ily, yet cost your com­pany a lot of money in fees, penal­ties and interest.

Practice Tips
•    Review exist­ing writ­ten poli­cies for com­pli­ance, or cre­ate ones if your hand­book is defi­cient.
•    Train man­age­ment employ­ees as there can never be enough train­ing to ensure they are enforc­ing your poli­cies and prac­tices cor­rectly, con­sis­tently, and uni­formly.
•    Sign up for employ­ment labor blogs from law firms and state and fed­eral agen­cies! This is an easy and quick way to get news alerts on new laws.

What to watch out for in 2013? For those employ­ers who are non-unionized, the NLRB will con­tinue to make its pres­ence known in your work­force, if it be reject­ing your “at-will employ­ment” dis­claimers in hand­books and con­tracts, restrict­ing your social media prac­tices, or requir­ing the post­ing of the NLRB’s “Employee Rights Poster” that gives employ­ees guid­ance on how to union­ize (although this require­ment is cur­rently put on hold by a fed­eral court). Along the same lines, the NLRB is look­ing for a faster way employ­ees can get union­ized, which cuts down the time frame for employ­ers to cam­paign for man­age­ment. Lastly, health care reform is not going any­where. You should keep your eyes and ears open for new or revised man­dates to ensure your com­pany is fol­low­ing the right steps for com­pli­ance come January 1, 2014 – some manda­tory com­pli­ance has already started.

We rec­om­mend you con­tact your employ­ment coun­sel to ensure your poli­cies and prac­tices are tuned up, and you can also con­tact the author — an attor­ney with a focus on rep­re­sent­ing com­pa­nies on labor and employ­ment law issues since 2001.

12_12 9-AHeather A. Bailey, Partner with SmithAmundsen LLC
Email: hbailey@salawus.com
Heather has emerged as a thought leader in the labor and employ­ment indus­try and is a fre­quent con­trib­u­tor to the Illinois Chamber of Commerce’s HR Advisory blog and the NAMA Quarterly In-Touch mag­a­zine for the vend­ing indus­try. NAMA Employment Layer.