Coffee, Chocolate… and More Coffee

Today I was able to visit Cafe Britt: a diversified company bringing in hundreds of millions of dollars annually in one sector alone. The business model of Cafe Britt is extremely unique, unlike other estates we have visited and learned about. Cafe Britt falls at or near the end of the supply chain, depending on the industry. Britt is both a retailer, and a supplier of coffee and equipment to large hotels, restaurants, cafeterias, and soon to become a franchise. They source unroasted coffee beans from over 2,000 small plantations, and then roast the beans in house. They then sell the coffee either in Britt stores, or to the downstream retailers stated above; if they provide to the retailers above, they include incentive packages containing the necessary equipment, as well as training for employees.

According to the Cafe Britt retail manager, Cafe Britt consistantly makes the list of the top ten brands that Ticos are the most proud of; yet the majority of Ticos do not drink the brand’s coffee. So how does Cafe Britt manage to be one of the most beloved brands at home, while targeting audiences abroad instead? The answer is in their fantastic branding.

With sales people going through intensive training, and accounting for over 50% of Cafe Britt’s staff, it is easy to see what is emphasized within the company. The brand is loved internationally, as well last at home. Through extensive market research, Britt stores abroad are personalized to align with the local culture of each country that the store is placed in. This attention to detail, and “sense of place”, as the retail manager said, is how Britt differentiates itself from competitors in the coffee retail industry.

Cafe Britt has also strengthened its brand through utilization of social media. Using the relatively new ecommerce platform to their advantage, they use their website and social media accounts to market directly to consumers in a personalized manner, and build customer loyalty. Britt has taken advantage of the new Facebook live feature to lifestream from one of the 2,000 micro estates that they source from. Through this, consumers are able to ask questions directly to farmers, see sustainability in action, and get answers in live time.

As a company that is exceeding their financial goals, Britt is obviously doing something right. They are adjusting to changing tastes and cultures to stay up to date, and to reach a greater market. They alter their product lines to coincide with major current events. For example, after the last World Cup, in which Costa Rica did unusually well in, Cafe Britt created soccer souvenir lines for fans, and greatly profited from this. Again, during the Brazil olympics, Britt offered olympic based merchandise in their Brazil retail store, and were wildly successful.

Britt’s greatest success comes from tapping into the untouched market of travel retail. This is only one of Britt’s divisions, but annually is set to bring in $250,000,000 by 2018. The company created a competitive advantage in this industry by being a first mover. Cafe Britt employees were proud of this status, and emphasized the need to always be innovating and finding untapped markets. Britt has grown this industry, and expanded their product mix, even creating different brands within the industry to increase their presence.

Some might say that Cafe Britt comes off as insincere, and profit driven. I would agree with that statement. The Cafe Britt plantation is a tourist attraction. Some love it, and others do not. But Cafe Britt is undeniably on track with their goals and values, and positively regarded at home and internationally. They have identified their market audience in Costa Rica, tourists, and have done an outstanding job accommodating to that. Abroad, they have strengthened the Britt name through their remarkable use of online marketing tools, and alignment to local cultures. Cafe Britt is here to stay.

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