February 14

The Voice

The Voice Monthly Column

Thank you Kerri for the invitation to dream about our industry and hopefully provide some food for thought for other CoffeeTalk readers.

I have elected to focus on my vision on increasing the appreciation and consumption of coffee in North America.  For the 25 plus years that I have been in the industry, the topic of the consumer manages to find its way to the table on a regular basis.

Who would benefit from such an initiative?  The answer is very simple, all of the stakeholders in the coffee chain, from producers to retailers. You may ask yourself, if a consumer-focused program would benefit the entire coffee chain, why isn’t there such a program?

Some of the barriers to a consumer-focused program are: program ownership, management, scope, fear that one company would benefit more than another, cost, and how to pay for the program.

In order to create a North American consumer-focused coffee marketing program, it is helpful to evaluate other successful industry marketing programs.

One of the most internationally successful models of a consumer marketing comes from within our industry. The Colombian Coffee Federation’s Juan Valdez program was able to impact the coffee buying habit of millions, if not billions, of consumers.  This was a focused initiative to create recognition of the entire country’s coffee production. The impact of their advertising has lived long after they discontinued the television and sports venue advertising.

The California wine industry has faced complications with wine buyers who thought that good quality wine came only from France.  The California Wine Association was formed, and they addressed the challenge of creating awareness of the fine quality wines produced in the state of California.  The success of their program can be seen on menus throughout the United States and around the world.

The success of Fair Trade/Trans Fair and its grass roots initative to get the consumer to purchase coffees far above market price is amazing.  Unlike the previous two examples, Fair Trade’s primary goal was to increase the money being returned to the coffee producer during an extremely low market.  An unexpected benefit was the increased awareness of coffee production and potentially increased consumption.  The consumer demanded Fair Trade coffee after the program was launched.

These examples of consumer marketing by industry groups are a few of the many models we have to help guide this important effort.  I would be remiss if two other consumer marketing models were not mentioned.  The efforts of The Roaster Association in Norway and ABIC of Sao Paulo, Brazil, both industry groups, developed focused programs to increase consumption in their countries. The results were amazing.  You can read more about both on the Internet.

A common thread of successful industry consumer marketing is that the campaigns have a single focused message about a product or service.  They are clear and uncomplicated, and all of the stakeholders benefit from the marketing.  The program makes for more potential buyers.  Individual companies are still responsible for marketing their company, products, and services.

My vision is to form a working group of leaders dedicated to developing a plan for a consumer marketing program for North America.  Every coffee association in North America should be invited to the table.  An increased awareness and consumption of coffee will benefit the largest and the smallest of our importers/brokers, roasters, and retailers.  The producer will have more opportunity for sales at all levels of quality.

I believe a simple campaign, such as Got Milk, could be executed using the Internet and print media.   My vision is to create a program that would add a total of no more than $0.015 per pound of coffee imported to North America.

I believe creating an I Love Coffee, Drink Coffee, Got Coffee campaign is long overdue and doable!

Linda Smithers has been in the coffee industry for 25 years.  She began her coffee career as a roaster retailer in Akron, Ohio.  She has served on the Board of Directors for SCAA, chaired several committees, and was the Association President in 1997-98, IWCA, Ground for Health.  Linda has presented at more than 90 industry meetings and conventions about the world, works with Rainforest Alliance’s Cupping for Quality, and is an avid and skilled cupper. Currently, Linda is working Daterra Coffee, BR and responsible for marketing in North America.

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