We learnt from the first consumer feedbacks, that our initial range was too lightly roasted. The fruity acidity and the near absence of bitterness was too different for most commercial coffee drinkers. Therefore we agreed on a compromise and started to roast slightly darker with also a longer development. In addition we selected some “easier” to drink coffees, with a naturally milder acidity and more common flavours. Another challenge to overcome was the fact, that retail buyers were not familiar with the seasonality of coffee. Therefore we had to explain the harvest calendar in detail to those purchasing managers as well as to the end-consumers.
From that moment onward we offered two separate specialty coffee product lines: While the retail line was designed to attract commercial coffee drinkers into the specialty coffee world, the second line was focusing on existing specialty coffee enthusiasts. The retail range was darker roasted with a longer development for less acidity, heavier body and more sweetness. On the packaging we included less written details and showed more origin images. For the high-end range we kept roasting lighter to highlight the distinct flavours, the natural sweetness as well as a complex acidity.
For the success of our specialty coffee range it was crucial to understand the barriers for commercial coffee drinkers and how to overcome them. To democratise specialty coffee it is important to take commercial coffee drinkers by their hand and guide them step-by-step into the specialty coffee world. In addition a darker roast with more development was absolutely mandatory.
Social media was another key success driver for our newly launched specialty coffee range. In parallel, we kept pushing specialty coffee in our own academy for trainings, product presentations and also during external events. We quickly learnt that it was essential, that skilled baristas with excellent product know-how prepared these coffees. Although our salesforce received a basic barista and product training, they did not yet had enough knowledge about brewing specialty coffee nor the coffee value chain. To overcome this internal hurdle, a part of our sales team visited a coffee farm and we also intensified their product training in our own academy to make sure they feel confident enough to promote specialty coffee to commercial coffee drinkers. As a result, two additional customers asked us to develop specialty coffee products for them.
In our most recent specialty coffee project we focused on the next generation baristas. We trained 16 young coffee talents between 18 to 30 years old. They all had a great passion for coffee. Working with young talents was inspiring and what I personally enjoyed the most was their openness to new things. The next generation is definitely the key to build a more sustainable coffee business. One student told us that he was shocked when he tasted his first specialty coffee during his first day in our academy. In the meantime he took over the academy from myself and runs it now himself to promote specialty coffee.
Today we can definitely say that specialty coffee is getting more accessible to a wider audience. Nevertheless, to make specialty coffee happen in Switzerland, we had to put in a lot of passion, dedication and very hard work. There were many challenges to overcome: consumer research clearly showed, that commercial coffee drinkers often find specialty coffee sensory profiles very unusual as they are often used to dark roasts with sometimes a substantial robusta content. Therefore is is crucial to guide these unexperienced specialty coffee drinkers on their new sensory journey and to step-by-step make them feel comfortable with their new way of coffee drinking. In addition we have to pay great attention to customer service. Specialty coffee is not just about taste, it is about the entire experience. Therefore we have to deliver an outstanding customer service. To democratise specialty coffee it can also be helpful to target a younger audience, as the Youth Academy program showed. I am convinced, together we can make coffee more sustainable and better.
Andre’s coffee journey started as a coffee trader in Switzerland. He moved shortly after to Kenya and Tanzania and spent most of his time on coffee farms, in cupping rooms and in drymills. After his time at origin, Andre worked for several coffee roasters in marketing across Europe.
The last years have been especially exciting: once Andre entered the specialty coffee world, he founded a coffee academy, launched a specialty coffee range, competed and judged in barista competitions and also deepened his coffee science knowledge during a collaboration with the Zurich University of Applied Sciences.
Recently Andre published his book “INSPIRE and GET INSPIRED” to share his passion for specialty coffee. He is currently waiting to move to Melbourne to continue his coffee adventure as the new General Manager for Victoria Arduino in Australia.
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