In the past two weeks, I’ve been assigned to observe each visit from the perspective of the Design/Innovation phase of the supply chain. Looking back at the coffee and banana plantations (suppliers), the focus on Design was somewhat nonexistent. At the coffee plantations, their bread and butter was planting and harvesting coffee to be shipped to coffee roasters. Innovation in this step of supply chain would involve developing different strains of coffee/bananas to become resistant to fungi, bacteria, and disease. This job for coffee is normally handled by ICAFE, and the plantations just follow what ICAFE recommends. For bananas, they’ve developed another step in their farming operations by sanitizing their feet, but that is not necessarily a new type of product. Within exporters, there’s an argument that some innovation exists.
In the eyes of Doka, one of the largest exporters of coffee, one could consider how they view their operations to be innovative. They analyze past data and issues to see what should be changed, and try to develop different ways to fix those issues. While this is innovation, it does not necessarily follow the idea of creating new products for the market. Since Doka is mainly a plantation/exporter of coffee, innovation is not something that is a priority in their organization. However, as we went from plantations/exporters to coffee roasters, Innovation began to show in the operations of these companies
The greatest example of a coffee roaster using innovation was Cafe Britt. While I was not completely a fan of the way they operated a saw company (more focused on tourism than having a bigger picture), their emphasis on design and launch was impressive. They pride themselves on a solid innovation plan, where they constantly search for new ideas and products related to coffee, such as chocolates or french presses. Cafe Britt did have its downfalls, including a coffee liqueur product that failed because Britt sells in airports, and transporting liquids is extremely difficult in those locations. Innovation definitely depended on roaster, where at 1820, they mainly just focused on keeping a classic process with simple blends of coffee. Most of the innovations in these past three steps of coffee occurred in their operations, where they would implement renewable energy or use sustainable practices in areas such as water consumption. Multiple companies would use a limited amount of water from a local resource and recycle and clean it to the condition that the water was in originally. These efforts by these different companies seemed to have the largest impact on one of the last steps of the supply chain: the consumer.
As a slight coffee consumer myself, I admired the efforts of companies to help improve the world in some small way, whether it be limiting or reusing the waste created by coffee processes, or priding themselves on family/community involvement. It was touching to see how major companies are accommodating to the changing world around them in ways that are not just on the farm. Overall, I really enjoyed my time in Costa Rica. I learned more about a topic I had no experience in and a culture I had not even wondered about before. While I’m sad to leave, I’m thankful for the experiences I’ve had and for the friendships I’ve made, and I’m looking forward to coming back again sometime. Until then, ¡Pura Vida!