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Food 4 Farmers

Building Food-Secure Communities in Nicaragua

Categories: 2015, JulyTags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , Author:

Project Description
In 2011, with fund­ing from Keurig Green Mountain, we began our part­ner­ship with the coöper­a­tive to help the com­mu­nity build a long-term plan to fight sea­sonal hunger. After our ini­tial plan­ning phase with coop staff and work­shops with mem­bers, SOPPEXCCA estab­lished a Food Security Committee, which over­sees the coop’s strate­gic plan and community-appropriate strate­gies to address “los meses fla­cos” – the “Thin Months” of hunger.

In 2013, we began the sec­ond phase of the project: sup­port­ing the imple­men­ta­tion of food secu­rity strate­gies iden­ti­fied dur­ing the plan­ning process, and estab­lish­ing appro­pri­ate indi­ca­tors, time­lines, and mon­i­tor­ing & eval­u­a­tion pro­to­cols. Key to the coop’s suc­cess will be its abil­ity to mon­i­tor progress, rather than rely­ing on exter­nal part­ners. To this end, we worked together to build a mon­i­tor­ing & eval­u­a­tion sys­tem that coop staff can use to mea­sure progress and iden­tify imped­i­ments to success.

A community-based Food Security Committee was estab­lished to over­see all pro­grams and ensure that food secu­rity remains an inte­gral part of SOPPEXCCA’s mission.

SOPPEXCCA also cre­ated a Youth Committee, an eco­log­i­cal school gar­den, and nutri­tion train­ing for youth edu­ca­tion. Our imple­ment­ing part­ner, Pueblo a Pueblo, trained coop staff and a school rep on basic method­ol­ogy, includ­ing gar­den man­age­ment and cur­ricu­lum devel­op­ment for the classroom.

We’ve trained 100 pro­ducer fam­i­lies on the impor­tance of healthy food and nutri­tion, food secu­rity, and crop man­age­ment, and we’ve trained SOPPEXCCCA staff to con­duct these food secu­rity workshops.

Last year, 137 fam­i­lies grew 337 acres of beans, rep­re­sent­ing 243% of the orig­i­nal land area goal and 171% of the orig­i­nal goal for the num­ber of fam­i­lies ben­e­fit­ing. SOPPEXCCA con­structed a stor­age facil­ity that can accom­mo­date 300 tons of basic grains, fea­tur­ing 51 metal silos to ensure quality.

More than 100 coop mem­bers are being trained in the cul­ti­va­tion of at least one alter­na­tive crop. A cacao nurs­ery was cre­ated in 2014, with a goal of estab­lish­ing 24,000 cacao plants in 2015. We are devel­op­ing a busi­ness plan with the coop to cre­ate a local farm­ers mar­ket to sell member-family crops.

160 farm plans were devel­oped to improve food secu­rity and sup­port soil and water con­ser­va­tion practices.

Member-farm inte­grated soil and water con­ver­sa­tion prac­tices have been estab­lished, with 7,000 meters of hedgerows planted on 83 farms. Bean seeds were pur­chased to estab­lish cover crops and improve soil fer­til­ity on land with soil fer­til­ity problems.

Readers can help by
This pro­gram is mak­ing a dif­fer­ence for the 670 fam­i­lies work­ing hard to improve their liveli­hoods and put food on their tables, every day of the year. Over the next two years, we’ll con­tinue to part­ner with SOPPEXCCA to help them sus­tain and build on the great strides they’ve made. They’re com­mit­ted and ener­gized, and we’re excited to be a part of it. The coop needs con­tin­ued invest­ment to help them sus­tain and scale this pro­gram up to ben­e­fit more fam­i­lies in Jinotega. Readers can donate to this project online, or by con­tact­ing Janice Nadworny.

Project Contact:
Janice Nadworny


802 482‑6868

Project URL:

Nicaragua, SOPPEXCCA Coöperative, Jinotega

Project Impact:
This project will empower the SOPPEXCCA coöperative’s 670 mem­bers to build sus­tain­able, locally man­aged food secu­rity, while diver­si­fy­ing their livelihoods.

Connecting the Dots

Categories: 2015, JuneTags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , Author:

There was a time in the not-so-distant past when the word “batch brewer” and “qual­ity cof­fee” rarely shared the same sen­tence. Today, how­ever, the word is out – you can have the best of both worlds. A dialed-in batch brewer with fresh and lively beans can solve a myr­iad of cof­fee shop woes. Here are a few rea­sons to rethink your drip sys­tem as some­thing that can ele­vate your customer’s cof­fee expe­ri­ence, rather than com­pro­mise it.

The Coffee

Consistency: Built to be depend­able and reli­able, com­mer­cial cof­fee brew­ers do not leave vari­ables such as water tem­per­a­ture and other recipe para­me­ters to chance. Advanced pro­gram­ming capa­bil­i­ties that con­trol water tem­per­a­ture, water flow rates, and puls­ing sequences pro­duce pre­dictable results every time

Control: You have the power to set the para­me­ters to your coffee’s spe­cific wishes. If you want to take it to the next level by manip­u­lat­ing flow rates and puls­ing sequences, batch brew­ers are happy to oblige with­out devi­a­tion. Set your brew size, tem­per­a­ture, and what­ever else you need in order to cus­tomize your cof­fee program.

The Customer Experience

Speed of Service: Batch brew as much or as lit­tle as you need to serve the cus­tomer quickly and reduce waste.

Aesthetics: Times have changed and so have brew­ers. There are so many brew­ers on the mar­ket now that serve as a com­pli­ment to your café, even as a show­piece. Quality is not only felt but seen, and the brew­ers of the future will surely keep aes­thet­ics at the top of the pri­or­ity list.

Brew what you want when you want: Want to offer 15 dif­fer­ent cof­fees at any given time? By-the-cup brew­ers can accom­mo­date even the length­i­est of cof­fee menus at the press of a but­ton. Decaf and sea­sonal offer­ings can often be wasted if made in exces­sive amounts, but a by-the-cup sys­tem will save that waste while also boast­ing a fresher prod­uct for your customer.


Advancements in Technology: By embrac­ing mechan­i­cal brew­ing, you’re also advo­cat­ing for tech­no­log­i­cal advance­ment. Much has been accom­plished in the world of cof­fee extrac­tion through tech­nol­ogy and engi­neer­ing; whether it’s lime-resistant com­po­nents to keep your sys­tem run­ning strong, energy sav­ing fea­tures for opti­mal per­for­mance while min­i­miz­ing your energy foot­print, or updat­a­ble soft­ware that keeps you always ahead of the curve.

Coffee Freshness: Managing fresh­ness after brew­ing is a crit­i­cal com­po­nent to any cof­fee pro­gram. At-a-glance dig­i­tal sys­tems on dis­pensers make it easy to know when it’s time to brew more coffee.


Ease of Use: Investing in equip­ment is an invest­ment in a tool, and that tool should inte­grate seam­lessly into your oper­a­tions. A good brewer will be designed for easy and intu­itive oper­a­tion, main­te­nance, and clean­ing. Because when it’s time to work, you need a frill-free zone.

Does its job so you can do yours: The more effi­ciently your machine works, the more effi­ciently you can work.

When look­ing at com­mer­cial cof­fee brew­ing equip­ment, it is impor­tant to do your home­work. Make sure the cof­fee brewer can meet your needs today as well as in the future. Other impor­tant fac­tors to take into con­sid­er­a­tion include:

• Number of cups per hour

• Weight of the equip­ment when the water tank and dis­pensers are full to ensure the counter it will be placed on can hold the weight

• Electrical Supply Requirements – Volts, amps, phase, heat­ing con­fig­u­ra­tion, wire, watts

• Dimensions

• Water Supply Requirements – Water con­nec­tor, water pres­sure, min­i­mum flow rate

• Water fil­tra­tion system

Thermal Brewer
by Bloomfield
bloomfieldworldwide.com | 314.678.6336

Volume brew­ing has never been eas­ier! Bloomfield’s tra­di­tional ther­mal brew­ers are per­fect for high vol­ume oper­a­tions. With the supe­rior spray head design, 2 brew vol­umes and fast access to com­po­nents this brewer is the sta­ple for com­mer­cial brew­ing. High qual­ity meets simplicity.


Gemini® with IntelliFreshTM
by Curtis
wilburcurtis.com | 800.421.6150

Simplify brew­ing and serv­ing high vol­umes of fresh cof­fee at the per­fect tem­per­a­ture. IntelliFreshTM (IF) tech­nol­ogy main­tains coffee’s ideal fresh­ness and tem­per­a­ture through­out the dis­pens­ing cycle by envelop­ing the satel­lite servers with pulses of gen­tle heat. These pulses keep the cof­fee at a con­sis­tent tem­per­a­ture while main­tain­ing coffee’s chem­i­cal structure.

OCS Survival Strategies">OCS Survival Strategies

Categories: 2015, JuneTags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , Author:

Margins are shrink­ing, and the cost of doing busi­ness con­tin­ues to increase. Will the Office Coffee indus­try be con­sumed by another ver­ti­cal indus­try? The one-stop-shop prin­ci­ple in office deliv­ery has legit­i­mate cost-saving oppor­tu­ni­ties through increased order size, but often increases deliv­ery cost because con­sumers can pur­chase small orders every day with­out penalty. Operators may require a deliv­ery charge for small orders, or add a ben­e­fit for large orders. Regardless of deliv­ery method or require­ment, the con­sumer will buy what they want when they want it. The pric­ing strat­egy is an impor­tant com­po­nent of the busi­ness plan, and remains a valid tool for success.

BANANAS pro­vide cer­tain health ben­e­fits, and may hold a secret to pric­ing strat­egy. Today many peo­ple will pur­chase bananas from their favorite gro­cery store, or as an impulse buy from a con­ve­nience store. What is the price of bananas today? Perhaps the price is $0.49, 0.59, 0.69, or more per pound. Some peo­ple will know the price of bananas before they buy; most will not know the price, but will buy because this is an item they buy on a reg­u­lar basis. Bananas are not the only prod­uct this pric­ing strat­egy applies to, but pro­vide a clear visual for fluc­tu­a­tion in price.

Consumers become loyal to cer­tain gro­cery stores for many rea­sons. The rea­sons for loy­alty may include con­sis­tently low prices, con­sis­tently high-quality items, loy­alty pro­grams, good/friendly ser­vice or a con­ve­nient loca­tion to name a few. One mis­step in ser­vice by the gro­cery store pushes the con­sumer to other options. These basic ideas par­al­lel why con­sumers pur­chase from Office Coffee Service (OCS) oper­a­tors, and why con­sumers move to other providers.

Some pric­ing strat­egy in the OCS indus­try is based on com­pe­ti­tion, whole­sale, and green cof­fee prices. Responding to whole­sale and green cof­fee prices is pre­dictable, so com­peti­tors know when oper­a­tors increase prices. Raising prices based on whole­sale increase only allows oper­a­tors to main­tain a mar­gin. Perhaps the pric­ing strat­egy should reflect the needs of the OCS. Operators desire growth, and profit through a pric­ing strat­egy pro­vides the medium for growth. Pricing for growth requires a daily strategy.

Many accounts are won and lost because of ser­vice or new prod­uct options. Most cus­tomers are loyal until a mis­step occurs, and do not ana­lyze every price on each deliv­ery. A select few cus­tomers have con­tract pric­ing, and prices must match pur­chase orders. Operators should not base the entire price strat­egy on the select few. Operators need to main­tain a high level of ser­vice and con­ve­nience to keep cus­tomers, and the profit mar­gin dic­tates how many assets are avail­able to sus­tain the service.

The con­cept for price increases is sim­ple. Review the items sold most fre­quently, and cre­ate a strat­egy to increase the price. Raise prices less than 10% no more than twice per year on top sell­ing items with a goal to recap­ture lost mar­gin. Common sense strat­egy moves cof­fee prices in the sum­mer and cold bev­er­ages in the win­ter. The strat­egy is not based on a whole­sale price increases, or cof­fee rust in Brazil, rather the need for more profit to main­tain ser­vice lev­els. What is the price of roll tow­els on Wednesday?

The price strat­egy is the most impor­tant task each day. Operators have seen mar­gins erode from 60% or greater down to upper 30%, or lower 40%. The orig­i­nal mar­gins were not based on greed, rather the need to main­tain equip­ment, and ser­vice. Lower mar­gins com­pro­mise oper­a­tions, and are unsus­tain­able. Occasionally oper­a­tors increase pric­ing across the board on a sin­gle cus­tomer because of the cus­tomer pur­chas­ing habits, or loca­tion. This method increases the pos­si­bil­ity that a cus­tomer will stop pur­chas­ing, and is counter-productive. What is the price of Splenda on Thursday?

Grocery store adver­tise­ments cir­cu­late reg­u­larly, and do not adver­tise increases. The cir­cu­lar explains when the prices are in effect, and when the pric­ing ends. OCS oper­a­tors may employ a sim­i­lar strat­egy to pro­mote new items, or increase sales on items not sell­ing well. Operators are not required to send a let­ter to cus­tomers explain­ing price increases. Some cus­tomers, not the major­ity, may push-back on an increase, and should be addressed indi­vid­u­ally. The push-back is an oppor­tu­nity to become a hero by mov­ing the price back, but should also be used as a sales oppor­tu­nity. Take time to meet with the cus­tomer, and talk about other prod­uct cat­e­gories avail­able includ­ing new cof­fee options. What is the price of tea bags on Friday?

New cus­tomers pre­fer to have a term for price guar­an­tees, which is nego­ti­ated dur­ing the sale. The pric­ing strat­egy should be in effect when the guar­an­tee term ends. Prices should not be sta­tic, because the cost of doing busi­ness con­tin­ues to change. This method is not a dis­hon­est shell game used to trick cus­tomers, rather a jus­ti­fi­able process to main­tain a high level of ser­vice to the con­sumer. The pric­ing strat­egy is an oblig­a­tion to share­hold­ers, and pro­vides an expected return on invest­ment. What is the price of hot choco­late today?

Big Box stores and other com­peti­tors con­tinue to reduce oper­a­tor mar­gins. Consumers desire good ser­vice at fair prices. Operational costs con­tinue to increase. The OCS indus­try is not bul­let­proof, and oper­a­tors should con­tinue to edu­cate them­selves to pro­vide the exper­tise the con­sumer desires. The indus­try will con­tinue to inno­vate, and bring solu­tions to con­sumers expect­ing con­ve­nience and qual­ity. The price strat­egy allows oper­a­tors the finan­cial needs to trans­form the indus­try, and pro­vide the best ser­vice possible.

by Dan Ragan, Pod Pack International, LTD.

Coffee Nerd

Categories: 2015, MayTags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , Author:

the little coffeeCoffeeTalk is proud to pro­vide a series of sneak pre­views of Dr. Shawn Steiman’s new book, The Little Coffee Know-It-All: A mis­cel­lany to grow­ing, roast­ing and brew­ing the world’s best cof­fee, uncom­pro­mis­ing and unapolo­getic.

Dr. Steiman’s forth­com­ing book explores the mul­ti­ple aspects of the cof­fee plant and of cof­fee pro­duc­tion through the lens of a sci­en­tist. And while backed with sci­en­tific data and facts, his easy­go­ing and infor­mal writ­ing style makes it acces­si­ble knowl­edge to all.

Shawn is a cof­fee sci­en­tist, Q-grader, author, and con­sul­tant. He’s a grad­u­ate of Oberlin College as well as the University of Hawai‘i. His cof­fee research has included cof­fee pro­duc­tion, ento­mol­ogy, ecol­ogy, phys­i­ol­ogy, bio­chem­istry, organolep­tic qual­ity, and brew­ing. Aside from being an owner of Daylight Mind Coffee Company, he also owns Coffea Consulting, a coffee-centric con­sult­ing firm. Shawn reg­u­larly presents sem­i­nars, work­shops, and tast­ings for both pub­lic and pri­vate events.

Why can’t I call it a siphon brewer?

There are a vari­ety of meth­ods for brew­ing cof­fee, each manip­u­lat­ing the brew­ing para­me­ters slightly to pro­duce a dif­fer­ent end result. To describe them all indi­vid­u­ally would be not only be overkill, but tedious and bor­ing to read. There is one method, how­ever, that war­rants a closer look. Not only does it draw upon some of the chemistry/physics prin­ci­ples dis­cussed ear­lier, but it is a fas­ci­nat­ing and mes­mer­iz­ing brew method that intrigues every­one who sees it. This brewer, the vac­uum pot or siphon brewer, also hap­pens to be a dar­ling of the spe­cialty cof­fee indus­try right now.

This beau­ti­ful and inter­est­ing brew method has been around since before 1827. Often when some­one first sees a vac­uum pot brewer, they think of lab­o­ra­tory chem­istry. The com­mon ver­ti­cally aligned, two-compartment con­trap­tion that begins with water on the bot­tom and cof­fee on the top cer­tainly presents an image of sci­en­tific mys­tique. Apply some heat and the water moves to the top cham­ber, through a tube, and mixes with the cof­fee. Remove the heat and the now-brewed cof­fee returns to the lower cham­ber while the cof­fee grounds remain on top, thanks to a fil­ter nes­tled in place at the top of the tube.

All of this sounds very com­pli­cated. One might even think the name, siphon pot, alludes to how it works. Unfortunately, no siphon­ing is occur­ring using this brew method, mak­ing the name rather fal­la­cious. Let’s explore just how this brew method works and dis­cover why they should always be called vac­uum pots and not siphon pots.

Implications for the cup profile

This brew method is a fun pre­sen­ta­tion of some basic sci­en­tific prin­ci­ples. It also tends to be well regarded as a method of brew­ing cof­fee. While the vac­uum itself prob­a­bly doesn’t impart any influ­ence on the taste of the bev­er­age, the method does offer two unique aspects that likely do influ­ence the taste.

First, while the cof­fee is in the upper com­part­ment brew­ing, the heat from the ris­ing steam allows the tem­per­a­ture to be held con­stantly at the proper brew­ing tem­per­a­ture. Other brew meth­ods begin with prop­erly heated water but the water quickly cools as it comes into con­tact with air and the cof­fee bed. How this influ­ences the taste has yet to be documented.

Second, there is always a small amount of water that remains in the lower com­part­ment. When the cof­fee returns to the lower com­part­ment, it mixes with this water and becomes diluted, a process unique to this brew­ing method. This, too, needs explo­ration but it seems rea­son­able to guess that it is anal­o­gous to adding a few drops of water to a scotch.

Dr. Steiman has authored numer­ous arti­cles in sci­en­tific jour­nals, trade mag­a­zines, newslet­ters, and news­pa­pers. He is the author of The Hawai‘i Coffee Book: A Gourmet’s Guide from Kona to Kaua‘i and is a co-editor and author of Coffee: A Comprehensive Guide to the Bean, the Beverage, and the Industry. His forth­com­ing book, pub­lished © 2015 by Quarry Books, will be avail­able in the spring of 2015. Stay tuned to future issues of CoffeeTalk for more excerpts from The Little Coffee Know-It-All.

Through the Lens

Categories: 2015, MayTags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , Author:

HJ and Dukale walk_highrez-2Ethiopia. It is an old land of ancient peo­ple with courage so calm that it whis­pers rather than shouts. It is a courage that speaks of hope, of strength, of unfail­ing deter­mi­na­tion. It is the land that many of us know as the birth­place of coffee.

As a teenager, what I knew of Ethiopia was what I saw on the tele­vi­sion in the 80’s: the Ethiopia of extreme droughts and a starv­ing peo­ple. The images moved a world into action and brought aid to peo­ple in need. And then we went about our lives and the aid ran out. Eventually, the rains came back, but by then, the tele­vi­sion crews had long since moved on to another equally dev­as­tat­ing dis­as­ter. But the Ethiopian peo­ple worked their land, loved their fam­i­lies and built their dreams.

Ethiopia is the home of Dukale’s Dream.

I recently was invited to pre­view the doc­u­men­tary film titled, “Dukale’s Dream”, fea­tur­ing Hugh Jackman and his wife, Deborra-lee Furness. The doc­u­men­tary tells the tale of how Jackman and his wife, as ambas­sadors of World Vision Australia, travel to Ethiopia to see how a devel­op­men­tal project is impact­ing the peo­ple and help­ing to empower a community.

On their jour­ney they meet Dukale, a 27-year-old cof­fee farmer from the Yirgacheffe region of Ethiopia. The nar­ra­tive of Dukale and his fam­ily unfolds with sim­ple elo­quence and is woven into a much larger tale, help­ing us under­stand the chang­ing role of devel­op­ment within coun­tries of need.

Giving money is remark­ably easy to do—we write checks, swipe cards, check the box all the time. But few of us are given the oppor­tu­nity to wit­ness first-hand the impact devel­op­ment has on a com­mu­nity. While watch­ing the film, you lose the idea behind his fame, you only see a man try­ing to make a dif­fer­ence and try­ing to under­stand how to con­tinue to empower from afar.

This is not the way things are meant to be, and it is not the way they have to be.”1

—Hugh Jackman

I spoke with the direc­tor of “Dukale’s Dream”, Josh Rothstein, known for his doc­u­men­tary work in the areas of social change and devel­op­ment. Rothstein is no stranger to a peo­ple in plight. I asked him what he hoped the impact of “Dukale’s Dream” would be?


There are con­cepts in the film that the gen­eral audi­ence is aware of and have some famil­iar­ity with. We have an oppor­tu­nity to dis­till some of those parts and weave them together. I don’t think there has been enough pop-culture expo­sure to artic­u­late the mes­sage to a broader audi­ence; we hope to do that here.

It is not just about “fair trade”, as one could argue there are under­ly­ing issues with fair trade, but it is more about the com­mu­nity devel­op­ment and the com­plex issues fac­ing the cof­fee farm­ers all over the world. As a con­sumer, you have an oppor­tu­nity to artic­u­late the idea of why it matters.

Ultimately, in that way, we have a larger respon­si­bil­ity to speak to our audi­ence, apply this mes­sage to their every­day lives and help them under­stand their role in the value chain as buyers.”

Through the lens of Dukale’s Dream, you begin to under­stand what many non-profit orga­ni­za­tions and com­pa­nies in the cof­fee indus­try already know, our world is so very much con­nected. Our sis­ters, our broth­ers, live in vil­lages, sleep in huts, strug­gle for run­ning water, they need “a hand up—not a hand out.”2

Two pre­vail­ing paths of trans­for­ma­tion emerged within the last decade. The first was the shift from just giv­ing money or aid, to cre­at­ing change through devel­op­ment. The other is the sheer con­nec­tiv­ity that tech­nol­ogy has made pos­si­ble, shrink­ing the size of the globe and expand­ing our marketplace.

We have to get to a point where peo­ple in extreme poverty are at a level beyond get­ting the min­i­mal needs of sur­vival met. Once beyond that, devel­op­ment or empow­er­ment of a com­mu­nity can take hold and be transformative.

Development is the root of change that empow­ers peo­ple to expand their own lives through com­mu­nal sus­tain­abil­ity. Building stronger com­mu­ni­ties through edu­ca­tion, train­ing, men­tor­ing and growth through new oppor­tu­ni­ties. Communities thrive through inno­va­tion and if we give regions the tools nec­es­sary to solve regional issues, sus­tain­able trans­for­ma­tion takes hold and the next gen­er­a­tion ben­e­fits exponentially.

Those of us who have spent much of their lives in “cof­fee” under­stand. But what of those who are just out­side our “world” of cof­fee? Do they under­stand the impact they could have if they chose to drink cof­fee that is fairly traded, with sus­tain­able prac­tices?  The chal­lenge lies in tap­ping into their buy­ing voices. This is the next level of true sus­tain­able development—utilizing the buy­ing power of the con­sum­ing coun­tries and cre­at­ing last­ing change with each cup.

This trans­for­ma­tion must occur all along the sup­ply chain and goes beyond telling the story of the cof­fee we drink in the morn­ing on an artis­ti­cally drawn chalk­board. The power of sus­tain­able change means get­ting the end user fully vested in the accep­tance that they have the power to trans­form lives.

Through the inspir­ing jour­ney in “Dukale’s Dream,” we are shown the power of our choices here at home and how we have the abil­ity to help those who, like us, dream of cre­at­ing some­thing more for our fam­i­lies and those we love.

The world is a very small place in real­ity. People are cul­tur­ally diverse but our needs are the same. We under­stand the quite courage of the Ethiopian peo­ple and we hear their dreams like our own, whis­pered in the dark, tak­ing shape in the night, trans­form­ing with the dawn.

1 Hugh Jackman, Dukale’s Dream, film, 2015

2 Hugh Jackman, Dukale’s Dream, film, 2015

by Kelle Vandenberg

SCAA Awards Process">SCAA Awards Process

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

What we award when we award awards…

A career might be com­pared to a meal at a new restaurant’s com­mu­nity table: you find a seat and intro­duce your­self and start slowly, cau­tiously; you might intro­duce your­self or sit back and watch the oth­ers for a bit. Perhaps you’ll have a sip of wine, or, more care­fully, a glass of iced tea, maybe even a bite of bread.  You’ll look to see what oth­ers order, and who knows whom.

You might start out with an appe­tizer or a light snack. This first course could be con­sid­ered your intern­ship or pro­ba­tion­ary period. Then you dive into the main course — years of hard work. If you’re lucky, and you love what you do, this is the best part. Dessert, obvi­ously, is where you sit back and reflect on the entire meal, the company…you may have got­ten to know a cou­ple of peo­ple at the table over the course of the meal; you may feel per­suaded, espe­cially if you’ve had a glass of wine or two, to make a toast to some­one who you believe added some­thing spe­cial to the evening.

It is that toast at the end of a glo­ri­ous meal that an indus­try award might be com­pared to. We want to rec­og­nize those who added to our enjoy­ment of the meal, even if we both eyed the same drum­stick, or rib, before yield­ing up one for the other.

Granted, a forty-year career is a much more com­plex under­tak­ing than an evening’s meal, but the sen­ti­ment of want­ing to acknowl­edge those who con­tributed to our enjoy­ment and nour­ish­ment is the same.

In the cof­fee indus­try, and in the spe­cialty cof­fee indus­try espe­cially, this com­par­i­son works par­tic­u­larly well because so many of us enjoy the com­pan­ion­ship of a great meal. We also appre­ci­ate the craft, artistry, and arti­sanal exper­tise that go into mak­ing a great meal come together, per­haps because that effort is so sim­i­lar to all that goes into mak­ing a great cup of coffee.

The offi­cial awards that our trade orga­ni­za­tion, the Specialty Coffee Association of America, has bestowed upon the var­i­ous par­tic­i­pants and allies of our indus­try, over the years have been a group effort and a work in progress. As a group, we’ve wanted to acknowl­edge past accom­plish­ment but also to moti­vate and inspire future break­throughs and suc­cess. It is hard to say which aspect is more important.

Competing with and some­times enhanc­ing those two desires is a third more com­plex endeavor, one that is not as man­i­festly self­less but finally just as impor­tant. We want to ally our­selves with and nur­ture those who can bring future ben­e­fit to us: through their good name; through their recog­ni­tion of us; or through the resources they can bring to us, whether out of their own good will or mutual ben­e­fit. It may be viewed as crass to con­sider this third aspect, but it is some­times the sole rea­son many non-profit orga­ni­za­tions give awards to their com­mu­nity mem­bers at all. Rather than ignore the fact that we want to praise those whose promi­nence might bring more to us than our award will impart to them, we are bet­ter off acknowl­edg­ing this as a nat­ural part of the award dynamic and ensure that it is con­ducted trans­par­ently and forthrightly.

It must be noted that not all awards or moti­va­tions dri­ving them orig­i­nate from a gen­uine desire to help the indus­try as a whole, but rather to help par­tic­u­lar per­sons or com­pa­nies. It is even pos­si­ble for cer­tain indi­vid­u­als to gain a rep­u­ta­tion for the abil­ity to ensure that cer­tain awards are granted to cer­tain mem­bers. Whether this is done out of some notion of cama­raderie or –worst case– cash up-front, it obvi­ously doesn’t serve the inter­ests of the indus­try as a whole and tar­nishes the process, and the mean­ing of the award.

This past year, thanks to the efforts of the SCAA’s imme­di­ate past chair, Paul Thornton, a cod­i­fied pro­ce­dure was put into place for col­lect­ing nom­i­na­tions for the SCAA’s Annual Recognition Awards, vet­ting them, and pre­sent­ing them to the board for approval. In the past that process has lacked coher­ence, much less com­mon­sense, in some cases.

The SCAA’s board and mem­ber­ship have adopted a num­ber of award cat­e­gories over the years to acknowl­edge and moti­vate excel­lent achieve­ment in a num­ber of cat­e­gories. Some of these awards are more nat­u­rally pre­sented to some­one in mid-career (or ear­lier) and some oth­ers, the Life Achievement Award in par­tic­u­lar, at the con­clu­sion of one’s work-life.

An exam­ple of an award designed to moti­vate and inspire both the awardee and other mem­bers of the indus­try is the SCAA’s newest award, the Distinguished Newcomer Award. This award, being pre­sented for the first time in 2015, is designed to acknowl­edge “a cof­fee pro­fes­sional of 5 or less years whose sig­nif­i­cant con­tri­bu­tions have made an impact, change of course, sig­nif­i­cant insight or added value within the cof­fee indus­try.” Such an award, it is hoped, will not only inspire oth­ers to excel in their con­tri­bu­tions to the indus­try at the ear­li­est stage of their career but also encour­age the recip­i­ent to con­tinue with his or her con­tri­bu­tions well into the future.

Speaking of “his or her,” it should be noted that every effort is always made to solicit as many nom­i­na­tions as pos­si­ble and that the awardees, as a group, invari­ably rep­re­sent a cross-section of those nom­i­nated. Those that claim to have an inter­est in greater diver­sity after the awardees are announced per­haps should con­sider par­tic­i­pat­ing ear­lier in the process next year when the call for nom­i­na­tions is made, rather than after the fact. Ironically, the call for nom­i­na­tions was reopened twice this year, and yet the com­plaints with regard to the over­all diver­sity of the awardees were the shrillest.

Healthy democ­ra­cies with diverse, rep­re­sen­ta­tive leg­isla­tive bod­ies depend upon active, engaged par­tic­i­pa­tion, bar­ring any imped­i­ments to that par­tic­i­pa­tion. The awards process of our indus­try also depends upon its mem­bers bring­ing forth as many deserv­ing nom­i­nees as pos­si­ble in time for them to be con­sid­ered. While per­haps address­ing an area of con­cern and start­ing a dis­cus­sion, com­plain­ing after the fact does lit­tle to directly cor­rect the situation.

Perhaps, it is time for us, as an indus­try, to encour­age more diverse par­tic­i­pa­tion from out­side our trade than presently exists. Despite the vibrant par­tic­i­pa­tion of a rel­a­tively few very dynamic women, our trade is still male dom­i­nated, espe­cially at its high­est ech­e­lons of cor­po­rate lead­er­ship. One look around the room at any indus­try gath­er­ing will quickly show that our group has more work to do with regard to eth­nic diver­sity. The per­son or group that spear­heads that ini­tia­tive might even be deserv­ing of an award, per­haps The Special Recognition Award*, and surely a toast.

* “…is an indi­vid­ual award in recog­ni­tion of a person’s spe­cial con­tri­bu­tion of self to the SCAA. These con­tri­bu­tions may include but are not lim­ited to ded­i­ca­tion of time, vol­un­teerism, con­tri­bu­tions of pro­fes­sional skill, exem­plary work on a spe­cific SCAA project, or other notable con­tri­bu­tion of self. Importantly, the con­tri­bu­tions should be above and beyond the every­day and have had a long last­ing impact on the Association.”

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.


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.

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?

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

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