Many roasters are encouraging a shift in business practices in order to better promote the values of the specialty coffee industry.
For years, coffee certifications have added value by providing customers with a social commitment alongside a consumable product. Values such as transparency, sustainability, and fair trade are prized within the sector and resonate strongly with consumers.
Notably, a 2021 survey done across 25 countries found 70% of respondents bought from brands that reflected their own principles.
A roastery can claim to source ethical coffee, conduct fair trade, and provide their farmers with fair wages. However, if it is unable to prove this to consumers, it is likely to lose a large percentage of customers.
Rather than being swayed by bold advertising claims, more consumers are actively looking for reliable, trustworthy, and ethical brands to serve their needs. By ignoring consumer calls for authenticity and transparent values, roasters may find themselves falling behind their competitors.
To find out more about what kind of values a roaster should have to run a successful business, I spoke with the owner of Rouxbean Coffee Roastery, Adri Roux.
What values are prized in the specialty coffee sector?
Over time, the specialty coffee movement has built its image on claims of environmental and social sustainability, as well as fair and direct relationships between all parties along the supply chain.
Often, the movement is considered an elevation from the industrialised commodity sector to better ethics and quality. This is because the majority of specialty coffees are grown in ideal climates that help produce unique flavours and characteristics in the cup.
Additionally, it is because these green coffees are often sourced through strong and transparent relationships between farmers and roasters.
While the values of transparency, sustainability, and equality apply across the supply chain, roasters are often the bridge between the industry and consumers.
Therefore, it is essential that roasters embody and showcase these values in their products.
For instance, at Rouxbean Coffee Roastery, the team understands the importance of supporting fair trade suppliers to ensure the beans they source add value across the supply chain.
“For us, one of the core values has been not to compromise on the quality of the coffee we provide to our clients,” says Adri, who is also the head roaster at Rouxbean Roastery. “We have always believed every person should enjoy the best coffee at reasonable prices.”
However, he insists that buying high-quality coffee should not come at the expense of the farmers and workers who bring those beans to the market.
“There is also a balance between good business and good ethics. We only support fair trade suppliers to ensure our coffee beans add value to the growers and customers alike.
At the end of 2021, the price of green arabic coffee rose by 76% – the largest price rise of any major commodity. This sharp trajectory has highlighted a growing problem in the specialty coffee sector: diminished supply due to climate change.
Coffee producing regions across Brazil were hit with four rounds of the most severe frost to hit farms in the last 50 years. With over 200,000 hectares of land affected, this has led to an unprecedented deficit to the supply demand balance.
Climate change is set to have detrimental effects on coffee production, jeopardising over 20 million farmers and workers who depend on the industry for their livelihood.
It has become increasingly difficult for farmers to keep up with demand as the cost of production increases. This includes the increasing price of fertiliser, transport, and construction.
In order to continue producing high-quality coffees, producers must increase their prices, which ultimately trickles down to the consumer.
This is where the core pillars of the specialty coffee industry come into play, as well as the role of the roaster and barista.
It is up to them to bridge the gap and explain to consumers why the price of their daily coffee has increased. Transparency from seed to cup can help consumers understand how climate change is affecting the industry.
What values should a coffee roaster have?
If run on a firm foundation of core values, a business of any size can be successful.
The values of a business will tell consumers not only what the company believes in, but also what to expect. Additionally, the values should direct employees on the best ways to engage with customers.
This applies to specialty roasters, coffee shops, and baristas, as community is a highly prized value within the sector.
The specialty movement revolves around the idea that coffee is more than just a beverage – it is a medium for people to connect with each other.
“Coffee has become so much more than just a product people use,” Adri says. “It has become part of our social culture and our own self image.”
“The coffee you drink has become an aspect of who you are. Furthermore, the ritual of having a coffee together is how some of our most valued relationships are made.”
He adds that coffee roasters have a responsibility to produce a product that is worthy of those shared moments.
“As a roaster, you need to have a passion for coffee, a passion for people, and immense pride in your work,” Adri says. “It should not just be about pushing a product, or about the bottom line and profits.”
Behind the specialty coffee sector is a community of people united by a passion for good coffee and a dedication to excellence.
Similarly, consumers who choose to support local roasters and coffee shops over large international corporations are an essential part of that community.
These consumers have become invested in the story behind specialty coffee. By sharing this story, you can help consumers better understand the coffee production process.
Notably, consumers are willing to pay more for coffee that illustrates a strong, interesting and traceable backstory.
As a result, transparency on price, quality, and coffee processes has become standard practice among many specialty roasters.
How can a coffee roaster convey these values to customers?
One of the most effective ways for roasters to convey their values is through their relationships with customers.
Roasters and baristas should consistently engage with customers to ensure their offerings are in line with local preferences.
Additionally, roasters and coffee shops should publish information on their coffee sources and tell the stories of their producers. However, not all specialty coffee roasters have the finances to invest thousands in marketing and social media campaigns.
A solution to this would be packaging design. Clever packaging design that attracts attention and reveals information about the coffee’s origin can help draw in customers and make them feel more connected with the brand.
For consumers, it can help them understand the coffee they buy and encourage them to seek out even more information. They may feel more connected to the product, and, as such, take greater interest in other aspects of the coffee supply chain.
At MTPak Coffee, we understand the important role coffee packaging plays in today’s market. Our line of coffee packaging is completely recyclable, compostable, and biodegradable as it is made from sustainable materials such as kraft and rice paper, as well as LDPE and PLA-lined bags.
Furthermore, we are able to customise and digitally print coffee packaging with a 40-hour turnaround and 24-hour shipping time. This allows us to offer low minimum order quantities (MOQs) of packaging to micro-roasters, no matter what size or material.