How Roasters Can Influence the Supply Chain

Most coffee roasters understand that their well-being depends on the end product and well-being of the farmers who grow and process their raw materials. As such, many coffee roasters want to do what they can to influence and invest in their supply chain. For marketing reasons, it is tempting to think that visiting the producer is the best and most efficient way to make an impact. But is investing thousands of dollars in travel expenses really an effective way to secure the supply chain and encourage more, better coffee? And isn’t marketing alone a threat to “greenwash” your company when people really start to ask questions?

   2 Minutes Read

By Badi Bradley
North America Sales Director
  • Most coffee roasters understand that their well-being depends on the end product and well-being of the farmers who grow and process their raw materials. As such, many coffee roasters want to do what they can to influence and invest in their supply chain. For marketing reasons, it is tempting to think that visiting the producer is the best and most efficient way to make an impact. But is investing thousands of dollars in travel expenses really an effective way to secure the supply chain and encourage more, better coffee? And isn't marketing alone a threat to "greenwash" your company when people really start to ask questions?

    At Caravela, our business is facilitating long-term relationships and creating incentives for producers to raise the quality bar. Here are some tips that coffee roasters can use to make sure that they are achieving true value out of money they invest in their supply chain, making sure that money gets to the producers while ensuring that the model creates a virtuous cycle.

  • 1. Traceability - the first way to influence the supply chain is to know where the coffee comes from. It doesn't need to be a single producer microlot. Even blending grade coffees can have traceability. The producers will know who is buying their coffee as well.

  • 2. Transparency - know how much the producer is paid. With Caravela, 85-90% of the FOB price goes to the producer. If there is a quality premium bonus, 85-90% of the difference in FOB is paid to the producer in a sobreprecio.

  • 3. Invest in the Relationship - don't just cherry pick the highest scoring lots. A coffee producer sells a lot more coffee than just AAA/ML. It is an inverted triangle and most of the coffee is at the bottom of the pyramid. So if the relationship with the group or producer is important to you, then find a way to use those coffees as well in the product mix.


  • 4. At the same time, Challenge the Producers - demand A grade coffee instead of RTB. You will pay a bit more, but the producer will also receive more and that influences the supply chain. In times when the market is in a valley or bear market, this is the time to buy coffee that is a little bit better in quality, and which we pay more to the producer.

  • 5. Follow your Principles - treat the producers like business partners and how you would like to be treated. Be honest in your scores, reward great coffee with a great price. If the situation arises, sign a fixed price contract that invests in a stable relationship.

  • It is romantic to think that visiting a coffee producer would be the best way to influence the supply chain. And while visits can prove beneficial to an established relationship, the most efficient way to influence the supply chain is price. A traceable and transparent price. But not just paying more for the same quality, rather paying more for a higher quality and providing a mechanism to raise the bar. Challenge the producer-partners to do better, then reward them when they do. Follow your principles, be honest with scores and prices and treat producers as business partners not charity aid recipients.

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