In conversation with Isabella Pacheco Business Development Manager – Lead for Coffee & Tea – Fairtrade America
Q.Could you tell us about your role as coffee specialist and the kind of work NFOs do on the market front? Are they in a position to influence brands to source coffee from specific origins?
A. As an NFO, Fairtrade America works on growing demand and awareness for the Fairtrade Movement. Unlike in Europe, Fairtrade does not enjoy a high level of awareness in the United States. This poses a real challenge that we have enthusiastically taken on. We are constantly working on growing our presence in important tradeshows and conferences related with our activities of prospecting and scouting new business opportunities. We also work on our direct reach to consumers by optimizing our website, advertising, articles for media and social media outlets
My role as a lead for coffee is to show brands, roaster, traders and retailers, (especially during this time of coffee price crisis), not only the importance of sustainable and ethical sourcing but also highlight the true value of the coffee instead of just the cost. It is also to ensure that the brands understand that Fairtrade is an investment in their supply chain to guarantee a reliable source of ethically grown beans. Sadly, we don’t foresee coffee prices increasing any time this year, so I realize that making sure that the true value of the product is understood is more important than ever
Q.Is the market for Fairtrade coffee growing especially with other sustainability labels like Utz and RA increasing their market share?
A. Fairtrade coffee sales grew 21% in the United States years 2017-2018. Also, according to a 2018 Nielsen Sustainability Study, Fair trade coffeesales have outperformed conventional coffee sales by 22%. In addition, Fair trade coffee sold five times faster than conventional coffee. I must add that it does not mean that the prices of a cup of coffee has increased, on the contrary the price has decreased in the past year.
Q.Does Asian coffee interest consumer markets? Is the market demand for Arabica from Asia and Pacific growing?
A. Still Vietnam is the first origin that comes to mind when talking of Asian coffee as their volumes are always very high. But as I mention, the single origin and gourmet coffee demand is increasing, and this does not exclude the gourmet coffees from Asia. In my opinion, currently the most popular Asian origins here are Indonesian: Sumatra, Indian: Monsoon
Malabar, and there is a growing interest for coffee being brought from Myanmar (Burma).
Q.What efforts can producers from Asia take to improve their visibility in the American market?
A. My recommendation is for the producers to develop direct relationship with their exporters and traders, and making sure that they know who is, moving their coffee along the supply chain and having a participation in trade is the key. Simultaneously, knowing their coffee well and how it is unique in comparison to others is a great tool for them to connect to their exporters and traders.
For example, I received a NAPP Specialty Coffee Profile booklet from our dear colleague Mr. Kuldeep Chauhan, which showcases coffees profiles that are ready for being exported to American traders who are interested to import. This type of readily available material is important when the opportunities arise. I recommend keeping this updated and for producers to facilitate information to be included regularly.
Q.Is there potential for National Marketing Organizations like Fairtrade America to facilitate producer organizations meet market requirements?
A. I would like producers and participants in the Fairtrade system to see Fairtrade America as their ally, so producer networks like NAPP are always welcome to reach out to us. If there is anything we can do to help, we will gladly do so. We are constantly trying to make sure that our prospects and current licensees know that they have countless Fairtrade coffee and tea options that can come from Asia as well as Africa and Latin America. Also, I want to assure you that we are tirelessly working on increasing the demand and awareness for Fairtrade.
Q.What advice would you have to a small holder coffee farmer organization trying to go independent with their brand? Would you rather recommend they focus on connecting with the big brands?
A. Regardless of your approach it is important to differentiate yourself. Find what makes your coffee different and work on developing your story and your process to get to your bean. It could be from the taste profiles you offer, to your washing techniques, to the story of how your cooperative came about. What makes you unique? Bigger companies who source ethically will appreciate this and if you are building your own brand this will be essential.
It gives your coffee VALUE and separates it from the .90cents per the coffee market, I would currently not venture into a new brand but try to focus energy on what is currently at hand and how to make that more robust. I would recommend that producers work on building relationships with their current buyers, and see if there is opportunity of growth with them and offer ways on how they can help brands feature them. They also need to perhaps think on how to make their source of income more diverse and include that part of their story.
Q.Our producers are keen to know what exactly do buyers expect from their coffee supply and how do buyers perceive coffee from Asia?
A. I believe the 4 key things expected are:
1. Professionalism – This include response time and ease of communication as well as reliability on the relationship and availability of coffee.
2. Quality – Consistent quality and perhaps Gourmet/ Specialty as this market is growing.
3. Price – Staying Competitive.
4. Uniqueness – in product and story
Q.What would you term as ‘good, quality coffee’?/span>
A. A cup of a good drip brew relatively high in acidity with fruity and floral notes is how I would describe my perfect cup of coffee. But of course, the definition of “good, quality” varies immensely depending on who you ask. What I truly consider essential is that all players transforming those beans into a cup of brewed coffee are making their best work. Therefore, for me as for many coffee consumers it is very important to know the story behind the coffee we are consuming, from the Barista to the Producer, because that is what truly makes a good cup of coffee possible.