Peter Wolff speaks about the importance of alliances between roasters and traders, and how to use them to build trust and gain a competitive market edge.
In the dynamic and competitive coffee industry, fostering strong relationships between coffee roasters and their green bean importers/ traders is crucial. These partnerships serve as a vital bridge for identifying customer preferences, exploring new offerings, and navigating challenges such as seasonality and availability.
To get the most value out of any partnership, there are three key pillars to explore between any roaster and importer/trader:
Communication: Effective communication forms the foundation of any successful partnership. Establishing open lines of communication between coffee roasters and green bean importers/traders is essential to understand each other’s goals, expectations, and challenges. Regular meetings, clear channels of communication, and active collaboration facilitate a shared understanding, ensuring both parties are aligned in their objectives.
Shared vision and values: It is important that roasters and importers/traders align on a commitment to quality, sustainability, and ethical sourcing. This commonality ensures that both parties are working towards a common goal. By fostering shared values, the partnership becomes stronger, leading to better business outcomes.
Trust and transparency: Building trust is paramount. Green bean importers/ traders should provide detailed information on coffee origins, farming practices, and quality assessments. Transparency allows coffee roasters to make informed decisions about which beans to source, based on factors such as flavour profiles, certifications, and sustainability practices.
With this foundation set and a level of trust established, you can then look at identifying consumer preferences.
Market research and consumer insights: Importers/traders can share market research, trends, and emerging consumer demands, enabling roasters to tailor their offerings accordingly. By staying ahead of the curve, roasters can meet evolving consumer expectations and differentiate themselves in a crowded marketplace.
Cupping and sample analysis: Regular cupping sessions and sample analysis facilitated by importers/traders allows roasters to evaluate the quality and flavour profiles of different coffee beans. This first- hand experience can empower roasters to select beans that align with their brand and appeal to their target audience. Additionally, importers/traders can provide roasters with guidance on potential new offerings that may capture consumer interest.
Good partnerships can navigate seasonality and availability. What can be considered a challenge for some, can be turned into an opportunity with the following communication:
Understanding seasonal variations: Coffee beans have specific growing seasons, and their availability fluctuates throughout the year. Importers/traders play a vital role in educating roasters about the seasonal variations and the impact on flavour profiles. By understanding the seasonality, roasters can plan their offerings in advance, manage inventory, and communicate effectively with customers.
Diversifying sourcing strategies: A strong partnership allows roasters to diversify their sourcing strategies, ensuring a consistent supply of high-quality beans. By working closely with importers/traders, roasters can explore coffee origins from different regions, taking advantage of varying harvest cycles to maintain a stable inventory and cater to customer demands.
When things don’t go to plan, it’s important to have the support of your green bean trader so that obstacles can be navigated together.
Flexibility and adaptability: Despite careful planning, unforeseen challenges may arise, such as shipping delays, crop failures, or geopolitical factors. A strong partnership will enable flexibility and adaptability in responding to such situations. By maintaining open lines of communication and collaborative problem-solving, both parties can explore alternative sourcing options or adjust production schedules to mitigate disruptions.
With the recent years of pricing volatility, at Wolff Coffee Roasters, we worked hard with our supply partners on forward contracts to enable us to secure future supplies of coffee. This can be particularly useful when it comes to coffees from growing countries where uncertainties related to shipping and harvest timing may exist. Roasters can enter into forward contracts based on pre- ship or arrival samples, or opt for price- fixed contracts to lock in favourable market rates. These contracting and hedging tools provide roasters with the opportunity to manage their purchasing strategies and mitigate potential price fluctuations.
Risk management: Effective risk management is crucial when faced with unforeseen circumstances. Partnerships should include contingency plans, such as backup suppliers or diversified sourcing networks, to minimise the impact of any disruptions. By proactively assessing risks and identifying mitigation strategies, roasters and importers/traders can navigate uncertainties together.
The power of successful partnerships in the coffee industry cannot be overstated. By fostering strong relationships between coffee roasters and green bean importers/ traders, businesses can thrive together and enjoy a mutually beneficial collaboration that leads to customer satisfaction, growth, and a sustainable future.
For more information, visit wolffcoffeeroasters.com.au
This article appears in the August 2023 edition of BeanScene. Subscribe HERE.