2015: Ten Challenges and Collaborative Solutions

murray2For the world of coffee, it’s been a year of challenges – reputational, regulatory, legal, agricultural, scientific, financial, and more. Among 2015’s challenges:

• Four years into a two-year process, the FDA is rolling out regulations detailing the nation’s new food safety system.

• Five years in, litigation continues in California against coffee companies under Proposition 65.

• Climate change is pushing Arabica crops to higher elevations, threatening adequate supply.

• Consumer media continue to tie much broader issues to coffee for the sheer headline value that America’s favorite beverage can generate.

These are the types of challenges that can only be successfully met with the combined energy of all stakeholders, collaborating together for the collective benefit of all participants in the supply chain. Here’s 2015’s top six:

1. Advocacy with Regulators – There’s been an unprecedented focus by U.S. Government regulators on coffee and health – a real, practical example where an industry speaking with one voice can shape outcomes. The NCA has met with the FDA, as it examines caffeine in the American diet, making the case that consumers are long familiar, and comfortable, with the amounts of caffeine that occur naturally in coffee. Separately, a U.S. Government Committee has for the first time ever recommended that the Department of Agriculture formally recognize coffee as part of a healthy diet in the U.S. Dietary Guidelines, a position championed by NCA.

2. Telling Coffee’s Side of the Story – With the lion’s share of consumers drinking coffee, reporters, publishers and social media personalities alike all know that a sensationalistic story about coffee drives viewers. A story earlier this year implied that single serve machines posed a health hazard, while another story, based upon implication and supposition, raised questions about worker safety. These types of stories are likely to continue as long as coffee remains popular – but is it crucial that these types of stories be met with facts and a balanced perspective.

murray13. Working Towards Sustainability – With climate change impacting viable production of Arabica plants and feeding the spread of the roya fungus, or coffee leaf rust, sustainability has never been more critical to preserving the green coffee supply and bolstering the “good citizenship” reputation of the industry. There are a wide variety of activities and organizations working towards solutions, and many NCA members who gathered in Austin Texas to explore ideas and action at the 2015 NCA Coffee Summit.

4. Addressing the Talent Squeeze – As the economy continues to improve, it will be more crucial than ever before that the industry develop and find talent – not just for the visible behind-the-counter positions, but for the less well-known roles. For this reason, the NCA and the SCAA have entered into a partnership to create the first joint industry-supported job board specifically for coffee professionals, launching in early 2016.

5. Measuring Economic Impact – Coffee has often been cited as the largest traded commodity in the world next to oil. But what does that translate to in terms of the U.S. economy – and why is it important that we know the magnitude of coffee’s impact? Regulators and policymakers, politicians and market makers – all have a stake in understanding the true scope and size of the U.S. Coffee Economy, whether in terms of jobs, taxes, or the dollar volume of the overall business. The NCA, with support from the SCAA, has engaged a professional consulting firm to identify the true size of the industry, a task with wide-ranging complexities and implications.

William Murray, Public Relations Society of America, Sept. 1, 2011.6. Communicating Constantly – In today’s fast paced, 24/7 communications environment, it is more important than ever before that the industry stay informed, and leverage current tools to communicate. To serve that need, the NCA has completely rebuilt its website to reflect current best practices in design, content, user functionality, and member service. The site is built on a new Association Management System, which will modernize and refine member records and operational capabilities to enhance communications, product and service presentation, and knowledge delivery.

These are but a few of the challenges facing the industry – and examples of how, working together, we can attend not only to our respective businesses, but find opportunities to work together for our common good.

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