Big Fish in a Little Pond

Café Britt entered the scene when coffee in Costa Rica was simply a commodity, but yet they were able to become the successful international corporation that they are today. How? Innovative thinking! Café Britt was the first brand in Costa Rica to transition coffee from a commodity to a luxury; from something generic to something that varies in taste and quality. They also allowed Costa Rica to make a major milestone by roasting beans that are homegrown. The combination of these two feats kickstarted Café Britt and gave them the room to expand and evolve as a business.

In the coffee supply chain, Café Britt plays the role of roaster and retailer. With only 3% of sales going to local consumers, the majority of the company’s profits come from international commerce. Especially in recent years, Café Britt focuses most of their efforts on targeting global travelers. They were able to succeed in this market by extending their retail into international airports. In addition to coffee, Britt recently launched themselves into a whole other industry that has vastly changed their company. Not only do they roast and sell coffee, they also sell a volume of other country-specific souvenirs. This has allowed them to grow significantly and become a large global player in the tourism trade. With this new aspect of their business model, Café Britt’s success is measured on how well they are competing across international borders, and how much they are able to expand into other markets.

A trendy marketing strategy in the consumable products trade is maintaining an “organic” and “fair trade” status. Café Britt has joined the bandwagon. They make it very well known to their consumers that their coffee beans are sourced from small local farms. It has become an important part of the marketing strategy. Conserving a somewhat ‘quaint’ image allows them to stand out in the eyes of the customers, even when they are selling products in large tourist shops in the middle of international airports. People find Café Britt’s coffee to be more authentic than other global coffee brands because they support small-scale native growers. This exemplifies how the usage of certain raw materials can place a company into a strong position in a given market.

Despite the large success of Café Britt, I notice a dichotomy in their branding strategy. They market themselves as an authentic business with sustainable and community-orientated ideals, but yet they still have a hand in selling ultra-touristy and unoriginal merchandise. Although they push their souvenirs as unique and realistic to the country of origin, I think that they still distract the customer from the primary values of the company. I believe that it could be in Café Britt’s best interest to move away or tone down their “key chain-esque” retail and return to a focus on authenticity, originality, and sustainability.

[Featured image: Jake Damico and I on Café Britt coffee tour]

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