Caffeinated in Costa Rica: A look at the Coffee Industry

Today we had the honor of being given a tour of Doka and Cafe Britt’s coffee farms.  In particular, Cafe Britt was very impressive to me, both as a coffee exporter and as a successful company providing various other services.  Cafe Britt is has over 130 stores in more than 15 countries encompassing everything from chocolate sales and to coffee tours. It does not surprise me that Cafe Britt is common among foreigners but unpopular among Ticos, as the company as a whole is heavily invested in the tourism industry. Britt has revolutionized coffee tours by hiring professional actors, allowing them to captivate the audience better through skits and jokes while informing the visitors of the qualities which make Britt’s coffee unique.  In this respect, Britt mainly advertises their coffee beans to tourists, who are foreigners. In addition, Britt controls several aspects of the coffee supply chain, from owning the land which the beans are picked to packaging and shipping the product to its ultimate customer.

In contrast, Doka is specifically invested in becoming a premier Costa Rican coffee producer, as they have been for generations.  While Doka ships their product to multiple locations, they solely produce the coffee beans and have shops in Costa Rica, with no real desire to expand to other countries.  They are built as a family company dedicated to upholding the quality of coffee which they have served Costa Rica for three generations. Furthermore, Doka is only involved with the manufacturing part of the supply-chain. They own the land and employ those who pick and roast the coffee bean but pay a third party to  export the beans to the customer.

Having examined the business model of both Cafe Britt and Doka in detail, it seems quite obvious why Britt is thriving while Doka is in decline.  Cafe Britt has a diversified catalog of products in a variety of locations internationally. Also, prior to opening any store, Britt sends people to scout the location in order to design a store that will be most receptive by the locals. Britt seems to be a more innovative company, taking every opportunity to become more efficient and effective at what they do. Unlike Doka, they employ local populations internationally in each new store which they open and have several storage facilities to allow for easy shipping of their product. Cafe Britt has expanded past a simple coffee manufacturing company to one which excels at exporting several products and getting it to their customers abroad.  I agree with Cafe Britt’s move to diversify their product and tap into new markets as the opportunity arises. If it were me in charge of Doka, I would try to follow Britt’s example and look for more other products which they could export. However, as a multi-generational family business, I would imagine that it is difficult to propose major changes in the business’s overall model.

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