All in for Coffee or All in for Profits?

Today we visited Doka Estates and Café Britt, two large Costa Rican coffee producers, and went on tours as well as listened to business presentations followed by Q&A sessions at each of the locations. Café Britt stood apart from Doka because of its corporation business model compared to Doka’s family owned model. They also differentiate themselves from each other through their positions in the supply chain because Doka owns the entire process starting at the plantation through the roasting and drying area while Britt only roasts coffee.

Focusing in on Britt’s position along the supply chain, it becomes apparent that Britt is a manufacturer and distributor primarily having also a couple places that act as customers for the products they make. Britt doesn’t grow any coffee itself, preferring to buy its coffee from over 2000 small coffee farms because they say they like to promote small business. However, this is the first example of many that Britt values quality of their coffee and brand name over everything else. Using many small farms ensures that the beans that Britt receives will be of high quality because the farms receive a set of instructions from Britt on how the entire process should be run and what the quality of the beans need to be. Britt then proceeds to make their own blends and roasts with the beans they receive from their upstream suppliers, the farms, and distribute this to their own retail stores, the first customers, as well as many restaurants, hotels, and cafeterias. The emphasis on quality is just as apparent in this step because to have Britt coffee served at a business, the business must use Britt coffee machines and receive Britt training for their specific brews. This is enforced to ensure that the quality of Britt coffee served at that establishment is up to Britt standards and doesn’t give Britt coffee a bad name because one of their customers doesn’t know how to properly make their coffee. Britt also deals directly with personal customer with their Britt Shops, which are international and individually tailored to each country to maximize the effectiveness of the retail space. These stores sell a variety of items including souvenirs, coffee, and chocolates.  The distribution of coffee as well as retail options has led to an extremely successful Britt company, having announced a goal of $250 million in revenue in 2018.

Britt measures their success through the quality of their product, innovation of retail, and customer appreciation. As mentioned earlier, Britt places great importance on the quality of their coffee. They pay utmost attention to each batch to ensure that it is up to their own standards and that they can protect their brands reputation. They also judge themselves based on how much they can innovate their marketing strategies, such as creating travel retail in Costa Rica. Travel retail is when they put their stores primarily in airports internationally so that many types of people will see their product and spread the Britt brand name across the globe. This innovation is what has really allowed Britt to be ahead of other coffee companies because they have begun to branch away from purely coffee, so much so that they change their marketing from Café Britt to Britt. Customer appreciation is highly valued in Britt’s company model with surveys showing that people highly like them and that there is national pride in their brand. Additionally, Britt aims to make loyal customer relationships to build up its brand and cement their gourmet style coffee and other products into people and establishment’s routines.

Britt has an extensive marketing strategy, multiple ways to get their products, and an international business plan that allows them to sell merchandise. Around half of Britt’s 1800 employees work on in their sales department. A lot of these work on creating social media ads, which have replaced Britt’s TV ads because they are more personalized as well as less expensive. Additionally, for each of Britt’s international locations, they create store designs that reflect that country’s culture as well as use coffee beans from that country to make it more inviting to the locals. Bags of coffee and chocolates are decorated with scenes from the country’s culture or landscape and are designed by Costa Rican artists who visit the country for a couple of weeks in order to learn the most about the country they are designing the picture for. The more personalized the advertisement of a product is, the more likely it is to be effective in selling the product, and Britt has become a master of advertisement with their packaging and personalized advertisement. They can sell their products through multiple channels. They have an easy to navigate online ordering system, they have their own stores, and they sell their coffee to other retailers to distribute at their own establishments, giving more people access to their gourmet coffee. These different types of access to coffee has given Britt a large customer base, increasing the number of people who know about their product and who would want to buy it.  This is very different than Doka’s selling scheme. Doka exports 95% of their products compared to Britt, who doesn’t export much preferring to make their products locally, and only has 3% of their business over the internet. Additionally, Doka is mainly focused on creating a large quantity of good quality coffee contrasting Britt’s ideal that their coffee must be great quality instead of more of it. This creates a different selling point for both businesses.

Britt’s international business plan is unique as well. They pride themselves in creating a multi-local instead of a multi-national approach where the international locations just appear as normal shops to those countries, inviting people in because they will recognize the culture. They place a large amount of focus on tourists and they price their coffee at gourmet prices in costa Rica, making it nearly impossible for the average Tico to be able to afford it. Tourists will be more likely to afford the more expensive coffee so Britt aims their selling practices towards them.

I don’t like Britt’s approach to selling their coffee. They are so focused on tourism and their international reach that they forget that Costa Ricans, the people they employ and live among, can’t afford their coffee. I understand that they classify themselves as a gourmet coffee, however I would create a lower tier Britt coffee that would be less expensive and more available to more people. This would get more people hooked onto the brand and lead to an increase in profits. Additionally, I found Doka’s approach to business, with a family oriented structure, to be much more approachable then Britt’s constant reminders that their coffee is gourmet and only for the select that can afford it. During the tour of Café Britt, they consistently mentioned being organic or fair trade, yet only two of their blends out of over 20 blends were fair trade or organic. It created a façade of an organization that highly cared about the environment, yet they created packaging that was hard to recycle, only being able to turn them into purses through lots of extra work. Overall, I found Britt to be a successful business system that contradicted Costa Rica’s national pride as well as their sustainable emphasis. These contradictions left a bitter aftertaste in my mind after our visit, much like that of an over roasted cup of coffee

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