The Coffee Pioneer’s Innovative “Relationship Coffee” Model Gains the Respect of Industry Peers
Portland, Oregon (April 11, 2006) - More than 8,000 specialty coffee producers, importers, roasters, manufacturers, brew masters, and coffee enthusiasts from more than 40 countries converged on the Charlotte Convention Center in North Carolina from April 7-10 to attend the Specialty Coffee Association of America’s (SCAA) 18th Annual Conference & Exhibition. While many of the companies represented at the trade show demonstrate social responsibility as a key part of their business mission, Sustainable Harvest Coffee Importers stood out from the crowd and was presented with the 2006 SCAA Sustainability Award at an awards reception on April 8.
The SCAA Sustainability Award recognizes specialty coffee companies that have created innovative projects to expand sustainability within the coffee world while inspiring others to initiate similar endeavors. “Sustainable Harvest’s Relationship Coffee model has helped set a new standard in our industry by promoting long-term partnerships and greater transparency between producer groups and roasters,” says Al Liu, the Director of Culture & Communications for Alterra Coffee Roasters. Liu is a member of the SCAA Sustainability Committee that selected Sustainable Harvest from the many applicants and nominees.
Pioneered by Sustainable Harvest Coffee Importers in the late 1990’s, Relationship Coffee is an economic and social impact-based system that depends on strong personal bonds between all entities in the product chain from source to consumer. Relationship Coffee is based on: quality control training; full transparency of all business, price, and quality information; traceability of the coffee from cooperative to cup; and pre-trade financing. It is a system where the “middleman” (the importer) provides both supplier and client with more value oriented services and products as part of the business proposition.
“Our Relationship Coffee approach redefines the role of importer,” says David Griswold, President and Founder of Sustainable Harvest. “Rather than allow coffee to be traded in anonymity, we strive to bring the growers and roasters on either end of the chain together and to cultivate their relationships and communication,” says Griswold. Sustainable Harvest is able to connect buyers and sellers with more transparency, but does so without fear of being cut out of the business as the company’s innovative business model adds value to both sides of the supply chain.
Based in Portland, Oregon, Sustainable Harvest is unique due to its commitment to reinvest profits into farmer educational training programs. “Grower assistance is at the core of our mission and therefore comprises nearly 50% of our annual budget,” says Griswold. “This includes services such as agricultural and business training, marketing, access to markets, pre-harvest crop financing and certification support,” he adds. Perhaps the best example of this value-added business facilitation is Sustainable Harvest’s annual private "Let’s Talk Coffee" program. Let’s Talk Coffee is the innovative hallmark event of the Relationship Coffee model. This four-day event held in October in Mexico is coordinated every year by Sustainable Harvest for the purpose of getting growers and roasters together to discuss key coffee business and to build relationships. The 2005 event featured 130 participants representing over 100,000 growers from over 80 coffee grower cooperatives from producing regions in Mexico, Central America, South America and East Africa.
Sustainable Harvest is the leading provider of organic and fair trade coffee to the North American specialty market. The company imports millions of pounds of organic, fair trade shade-grown coffee annually from small farmer cooperatives in 12 nations in Africa and Latin America and sells it to leading specialty coffee roasters and retailers such as Counter Culture Coffee, Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, Peet’s Coffee and Tea, Caribou Coffee, Gloria Jean’s, and Allegro/Whole Foods. Sustainable Harvest has three supply divisions (Oaxaca, Mexico; Lima, Peru and Rwanda/East Africa) that provide Relationship Coffee support services and training to the grower leaders of nearly 80 coffee co-ops and family farm organizations, reaching over 100,000 small-scale farmers. For more information, please visit www.sustainableharvest.com. For more information about the SCAA awards, contact: Mike Ferguson, Chief of Staff, Specialty Coffee Association of America, Long Beach, CA. Tel: 562-624-4100. Email: [email protected].