Blog 4: La Cadena de Suministro de Cafe Britt

Café Britt was founded in 1985 by Steve Aronson and it was the first company to roast coffee in the same country in which it was grown. This revolutionized the coffee industry and brought gourmet coffee to the people of Latin America, who ironically did not have much access to it before. Coffee began to be treated coffee less like a commodity and more as a gourmet product. That being said, most Ticos still do not drink Café Britt’s coffee, as there are much cheaper options available. For day to day drinking, there is not as much emphasis placed on gourmet coffee. For this reason, most Britt coffee is sold to tourists and hotel chains in the Americas.

Since Café Britt does not own any coffee plantations and they focus mainly on roasting coffee, they play the role of a ‘maker’ in the coffee’s supply chain. In Costa Rica, Britt purchases green coffee, coffee before it undergoes the roasting process, from over 2,000 different coffee plantations across the country. It then takes this green coffee and roasts it, creating different blends and single origin roasts. It sells this coffee directly to consumers in its own shops, as well as to other companies such as hotel chains. During a presentation by Café Britt’s Retail Manager, the presenter put a lot of emphasis on measuring success through the area of land the company sells and delivers its products to. This was persistent across the company’s chocolate and souvenir markets. The coffee tour at Britt was designed specifically to inform tourists of the existence of coffee as a gourmet item, not just a commodity. This in turn influences tourists from other countries to buy their coffee on site. Through their website, coffee can be ordered across the world. In addition, Britt owns stores in several international airports to lure in more people and expand the size of their company. It seems that Britt cares more about reaching and expanding across the world, than producing a quality cup of coffee.

My supply chain topic is sourcing, and a lot of Britt’s success can be attributed to their sourcing techniques. First off, one of Britt’s biggest selling points is that they sell coffee that is local to the region and their products are deeply connected to the location they are being sold in. For example, all of Britt’s coffee that is sold in Costa Rica is sourced from Costa Rican coffee plantations. This holds true for all of the other coffee producing countries that Britt sells in. Also, a lot of the souvenirs are sourced from local designers and artists. This makes tourists more likely to buy it when visiting a specific country because it is unique to that region. Another example of how Britt’s sourcing techniques contribute to its success is the use of organic and fair trade materials. In every coffee producing country that Britt roasts coffee in, they source coffee from certified organic plantations in the country and sell a unique organic roast. They do the same thing with certified fair trade plantations, that pay their workers better than average, and create a unique roast with that coffee. These roasts are popular to consumers because they are said to be better for the environment, since no chemicals are used, and better for workers, since they are being paid more. This also enables Britt to sell these roasts at a higher price, often times increasing profit margins.

Overall, I agree with Britt’s approach from a business standpoint. They have grown a lot over the past 32 years and their techniques clearly work for them. In my opinion, sourcing coffee from local plantations is a good idea, and it makes the raw materials cheaper and unique to each Britt store. Organic coffee is not necessarily higher quality coffee, even though Britt tries to push that concept. It is good for the environment, however. I felt like the tour pushed their products a little bit too much, though it did make me want to almost buy something. It felt very cheesy and ‘touristy’, though it was engaging and it sells a lot of their products. Personally, I would push for Britt to be more formal in their tours and marketing, as I think this would help them sell their expensive coffee as more of a luxury item. I would also push them to become a Rain Forest Alliance Partner, as this seal means more than Britt’s own ‘Go Green Promise.’ While I know it would be an expensive undertaking, I think it would do a lot to sell more of their coffee as truly environmentally friendly.

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