Selling has a large impact on all five steps of coffee production, and on this trip, I have been able to evaluate and visualize the importance of each step as well as how selling affects and is affected by each process. These effects also help show why coffee is priced the way it is and how each bag can be marketed differently.
1. Coffee farms
Coffee farms are only in charge of growing and harvesting the beans. Many farms are too small to have the money to grow, harvest, mill, roast, and sell the beans, so these farms would sell their grown and harvested beans to other places or companies to have them milled and roasted. This sale between the miller/roaster with the farmers is imperative to properly obtain the correct coffee beans. There are also cases where farmers and these miller/roasters will construct a contract to have the coffee beans grown under certain specifications so after the harvest season, there is an ensured buyer of the beans so the farmers will get a salary for their beans and hard work. Sales and marketing is more than just focusing on the final consumer, there is also median sales throughout the process to create the final product.
This interaction impacted my concept of coffee because I always thought the farmers were also a part of the roasters and millers. I did not realize there are small family farms who produce coffee specifically for other companies. In addition, I did not realize the growth of coffee and construction of the farms can impact what companies buy the beans since there is an altered flavor to the beans. Sales are all about quality and there are many factors that go into the quality of the beans, especially on the farms. I think this is now one of the most important sales in the supply chain because it is where the quality is chosen, how the beans should be grown, and is the most unpredicted part since the beans cannot be tasted until later on, after roasting.
2. Coffee mills
Coffee mills are not always necessarily a specific place where selling will occur, however, it is an important part of being able to price the coffee properly to be sold in the future. Coffee mills are what separate and categorize coffee based on size and weight so that high quality beans are separated from the low quality beans. Although in the end, all of these beans are sold, the differentiation allows beans to be priced differently and make different products that can be marketed differently. Mills can vary, but most of the time, using the water method is one of the cheapest, most efficient way of separating and transporting the beans through weight and separating by size.
I never thought different quality beans could be a part of the same batch of beans as shown by the milling process. I also did not know that different beans are separated based on size and weight for quality control rather than what type of plant. It was interesting to see the how the milling process affects the production of coffee and impacts sales. Milling is one of the first steps of quality control for coffee beans. I did not even know this was a step in production before coming to the plantations and I also never realized that this step that is overlooked is one of the most important in producing the best cup of coffee.
3. Coffee roasters
Different companies are in charge of different aspects of the coffee process. There are some companies who are solely in charge of roasting the coffee beans. These companies are like Starbucks who will contract with local and smaller farms to buy beans after they have been milled to later be processed and roasted to the company’s discretion. Roasters need to buy coffee from different farms and roast the beans to an optimal temperature to bring out the proper essential oils, flavors, and aroma to sell. If done right, the beans can maintain their high quality and the roasters can make a high profit off this product when selling to retailers, baristas, or even directly to the consumers.
This step in the process and exchange has a lot to do with companies like Starbucks. After meeting with Starbucks, I realized that although they are a large company and have ties in different departments around the world, they are not the best roaster in the world. Before coming to Costa Rica, I thought Starbucks had a very high quality coffee and they were experts in how to make coffee, however, after visiting other places, I learned Starbucks is not the best coffee, they are only good at marketing their products to increase their sales and use their brand name to continue to make money. This showed me how powerful good marketing and branding is, the quality does not have to be spectacular, but if the company is well known, people will still go back to buy more of their product.
4. Retail stores/baristas
The primary reason for having retail stores and baristas is to open a new market for the coffee industry so companies have a larger reach in who they can sell to. Retails and baristas reach a different consumer based who can market the products differently than the companies can. Baristas use coffee beans from different plantations and distributers depending on the company. In addition, coffee baristas can prepare the coffee in different ways to bring out all the flavors of the beans. This is a good way of marketing the different coffee products because customers can have an opportunity to try the coffee beans to see if they would like it. In some cases, if the flavors and aroma are right, the customers of baristas will go to retail stores and be a direct consumer of the coffee beans to make at home, increasing the sales of products.
This step has changed my opinion on coffee because I did not realize the role baristas can have in influencing the sales of coffee. First, people will buy the beans from baristas to try the coffee when properly prepared. Well prepared coffee will bring customers back to get more coffee. In addition, some people may want to buy the beans themselves so that they can make similar products at home. All of these factors increase the sales for companies from consumers and can be a good marketing tactic, such as the baristas for other products.
Selling between different coffee companies and their customers is typically one of the places where the company can find the largest revenue. The customers help dictate to the companies the types of products that would be successful and can be marketed for better prices. A company’s job is to try and appease as many customers as possible with a variety of products. In the coffee industry, this can come from the different bean types that create most of the blends, different ways coffee could be prepared and sold to customers, and how effectively they are able to stay ahead of their other competitors while continuing to modernize.
This part of the supply chain is very important because it is the direct interaction between companies and the consumer. This part of the chain, I did not know existed in some capacity. I did not know companies like Café Brit existed and had their own stores. I always believed those coffee brands would only be found in retail stores and there were no stores specifically for coffee. In addition, I did not know there could be a direct relationship between companies and customers beside online. For example, I did not know Café Britt had their own retail store in travel retail or on their plantations. I always thought they would be sold to other retailers like supermarkets, Walmart, etc.