Wholesale to Retail: Coffee Business Insights
Hi, I’m Brian, and welcome to my blog, where I share my passion for coffee and everything related to it. Today, I’m going to talk about wholesale to retail: coffee business insights. If you’re thinking of starting your own coffee brand, or you’re just curious about how coffee gets from the farm to your cup, this article is for you. I’ll cover the basics of the coffee supply chain, the challenges and opportunities of building a coffee brand, and some tips and tricks to make your coffee stand out from the crowd. Let’s get started!
From Crop to Cup: Coffee Business Supply Chain
Coffee is one of the most traded commodities in the world, and it involves a complex network of actors and processes that span across continents and cultures. The coffee supply chain can be divided into four main stages: production, processing, trading, and roasting.
Coffee production refers to the cultivation of coffee plants, which are usually grown in tropical and subtropical regions. There are two main types of coffee plants: Coffea arabica and Coffea canephora (also known as Robusta). Arabica beans are more delicate and have a more complex flavor, while Robusta beans are more resilient and have higher caffeine content. Depending on the variety, altitude, climate, and soil conditions, coffee plants can take anywhere from 3 to 5 years to produce their first harvest, and they can produce fruit for up to 25 years.
Coffee farmers are responsible for planting, pruning, fertilizing, watering, and harvesting the coffee plants. Harvesting can be done either by hand or by machine, depending on the size and terrain of the farm. The harvested fruit is called a coffee cherry, which contains two seeds (or beans) inside.
Coffee processing refers to the removal of the outer layers of the coffee cherry to obtain the green beans that are ready for export. There are two main methods of processing: dry and wet.
- Dry processing: This is the oldest and simplest method, where the coffee cherries are spread out on large surfaces (such as patios or raised beds) and dried by the sun for several weeks. The dried cherries are then hulled by a machine that separates the beans from the husks.
- Wet processing: This is a more modern and sophisticated method, where the coffee cherries are sorted by ripeness and quality, and then pulped by a machine that removes the skin and some of the pulp. The beans are then fermented in tanks or basins for up to 48 hours to remove the remaining pulp. The beans are then washed with water and dried either by the sun or by mechanical dryers.
After processing, the green beans are sorted by size, shape, color, density, and defects. They are then graded according to international standards and packed in bags or containers for export.
Coffee trading refers to the buying and selling of green beans between different actors in the supply chain. These actors include:
- Exporters: They are usually based in the producing countries, and they sell the green beans to importers or roasters in the consuming countries. They may also provide services such as financing, logistics, quality control, and certification.
- Importers: They are usually based in the consuming countries, and they buy the green beans from exporters or directly from producers. They may also provide services such as warehousing, transportation, blending, and roasting.
- Brokers: They act as intermediaries between exporters and importers, facilitating transactions and providing market information.
- Traders: They buy and sell green beans on behalf of themselves or other clients, speculating on price fluctuations and market trends.
The price of green beans is determined by various factors such as supply and demand, quality, origin, seasonality, exchange rates, transportation costs, tariffs, taxes, and market regulations. The most widely used reference price is the New York Coffee Exchange (NYCE) price for Arabica beans and the London International Financial Futures Exchange (LIFFE) price for Robusta beans.
Coffee roasting refers to the transformation of green beans into roasted beans that are ready for consumption. Roasting is a crucial step that affects the flavor, aroma, color, body, acidity, bitterness, and caffeine content of coffee. Roasting involves exposing the green beans to high temperatures (between 180°C and 240°C) for a period of time (between 10 minutes and 20 minutes), causing chemical reactions that develop hundreds of volatile compounds that give coffee its distinctive characteristics.
Roasting can be done either by large-scale industrial roasters or by small-scale artisanal roasters. Industrial roasters use automated machines that can roast large batches of beans (up to several tons) at a time with consistent results. Artisanal roasters use manual or semi-automatic machines that can roast small batches of beans (up to several kilograms) at a time with more flexibility and creativity.
Roasting can be classified into different levels according to the degree of darkness or color of the beans. The most common levels are:
- Light roast: The beans are roasted until they reach the first crack, which is a popping sound that indicates the expansion of the beans. The beans have a light brown color and a mild flavor, with more acidity and less bitterness. They also retain more of the original characteristics of the origin and variety of the beans.
- Medium roast: The beans are roasted until they reach the second crack, which is a cracking sound that indicates the release of oils from the beans. The beans have a medium brown color and a balanced flavor, with less acidity and more sweetness. They also have more body and aroma than light roast.
- Dark roast: The beans are roasted beyond the second crack until they reach the desired darkness. The beans have a dark brown or black color and a strong flavor, with more bitterness and less acidity. They also have less body and aroma than medium roast and more of roasting characteristics than the origin and variety of the beans.
After roasting, the beans are cooled down quickly to stop the roasting process and preserve their freshness. They are then packaged in bags or containers that have valves to allow the escape of carbon dioxide, which is a by-product of roasting that can affect the flavor and shelf life of coffee.
Building a Coffee Brand
Now that you know how coffee gets from the farm to your cup, you might be wondering how to start your own coffee brand. Building a coffee brand is not just about selling coffee, it’s about creating an identity, a story, and a connection with your customers. Here are some tips and tricks to help you build a successful coffee brand.
Find Your Niche
The coffee market is highly competitive and saturated, so you need to find your niche and differentiate yourself from other brands. You need to answer questions such as:
- What is your mission and vision as a coffee brand?
- What are your values and principles as a coffee brand?
- What are your goals and objectives as a coffee brand?
- Who is your target audience and what are their needs, preferences, and expectations?
- What are your unique selling points and competitive advantages as a coffee brand?
Finding your niche will help you define your brand identity, personality, voice, tone, style, and message. It will also help you choose your product portfolio, pricing strategy, distribution channels, marketing mix, and customer service.
Source Your Coffee
Sourcing your coffee is one of the most important decisions you will make as a coffee brand. You need to consider factors such as:
- Quality: You want to source high-quality green beans that meet your standards and specifications. You can use certifications such as Fairtrade, Organic, Rainforest Alliance, UTZ, or Direct Trade to ensure quality and sustainability.
- Origin: You want to source green beans from different origins that offer different flavors, aromas, profiles, and stories. You can use single-origin or blend options to create diversity and complexity in your product portfolio.
- Relationship: You want to source green beans from reliable and trustworthy suppliers that share your values and vision. You can use direct trade or relationship trade models to establish long-term partnerships with producers that benefit both parties.
Sourcing your coffee will help you create your product portfolio, pricing strategy, distribution channels, marketing mix, and customer service.
Roast Your Coffee
Roasting your coffee is one of the most creative and challenging aspects of building a coffee brand. You need to consider factors such as:
- Equipment: You want to choose roasting equipment that suits your budget, capacity, quality, consistency, and flexibility needs. You can use drum roasters or fluid bed roasters with different sizes and features to roast your green beans.
- Technique: You want to choose roasting techniques that match your skill level, experience, and creativity. You can use manual or automatic controls to adjust the temperature, time, airflow, drum speed, and other variables that affect the roasting process.
- Profile: You want to choose roasting profiles that enhance the flavor, aroma, color, body, acidity, bitterness, and caffeine content of your green beans. You can use light roast, medium roast, or dark roast levels to create different products for different preferences.
Roasting your coffee will help you create your product portfolio, pricing strategy, distribution channels, marketing mix, and customer service.
Package Your Coffee
Packaging your coffee is one of the most visible and influential elements of building a coffee brand. You need to consider factors such as:
- Design: You want to choose a packaging design that reflects your brand identity, personality, voice, tone, style, and message. You can use colors, shapes, fonts, images, logos, slogans, and other elements to create an attractive and memorable packaging design.
- Function: You want to choose a packaging function that protects your product's quality and freshness. You can use materials, sizes, shapes, closures, valves, labels, and other features to create a functional and convenient
- Sustainability: You want to choose packaging sustainability that reduces your environmental impact and supports your social responsibility. You can use biodegradable, recyclable, reusable, or compostable materials and processes to create sustainable and ethical packaging sustainability.
Packaging your coffee will help you create your product portfolio, pricing strategy, distribution channels, marketing mix, and customer service.
Market Your Coffee
Marketing your coffee is one of the most strategic and dynamic aspects of building a coffee brand. You need to consider factors such as:
- Research: You want to conduct market research that analyzes your industry, competitors, customers, and trends. You can use primary or secondary sources to collect and interpret data that will help you make informed decisions.
- Strategy: You want to develop a marketing strategy that defines your target market, positioning, segmentation, differentiation, and goals. You can use the 4Ps model (product, price, place, promotion) or the 7Ps model (product, price, place, promotion, people, process, physical evidence) to create a comprehensive and coherent marketing strategy.
- Mix: You want to implement a marketing mix that delivers your value proposition to your target audience. You can use online or offline channels to communicate and interact with your customers. Some examples of online channels are websites, blogs, social media, email, podcasts, videos, webinars, and online ads. Some examples of offline channels are print media, radio, TV, events, trade shows, word-of-mouth, and referrals.
Marketing your coffee will help you create awareness, interest, desire, and action among your potential and existing customers.
Serve Your Coffee
Serving your coffee is one of the most satisfying and rewarding aspects of building a coffee brand. You need to consider factors such as:
- Equipment: You want to choose serving equipment that suits your budget, quality, consistency, and flexibility needs. You can use espresso machines or drip machines with different features and functions to brew your coffee. You can also use grinders, scales, thermometers, filters, kettles, and other accessories to enhance your serving equipment.
- Technique: You want to choose serving techniques that match your skill level, experience, and creativity. You can use manual or automatic methods to prepare your coffee. You can also use different recipes and ratios to create different drinks such as espresso, americano, latte, cappuccino, mocha, and more.
- Presentation: You want to choose a serving presentation that reflects your brand identity, personality, voice, tone, style, and message. You can use cups, mugs, glasses, saucers, spoons, napkins, coasters, and other elements to create an appealing and memorable serving presentation. You can also use latte art or other decorations to add some flair and fun to your serving presentation.
Serving your coffee will help you create satisfaction, loyalty, advocacy, and retention among your customers.
Building a coffee brand is not an easy task, but it is a rewarding one. It requires passion, knowledge, creativity, and hard work. It also requires a lot of planning, researching, testing, and adjusting. But if you follow these tips and tricks, you will be able to build a coffee brand that stands out from the crowd and makes a positive impact on the world.
If you’re looking for some inspiration and examples of a successful coffee brand, look no further than Aerial Resupply Coffee. This is a veteran-owned coffee company that supports those who support others with premium and gourmet coffee. Their single-origin and fair-trade coffee beans are carefully sourced from around the world, and their coffee is roasted in small batches to ensure the highest quality and flavor. They offer a wide range of coffee and products ranging from premium coffee in whole bean or ground form, Keurig style k cups, tumblers, drinkware, and veteran apparel.
Some of their best-selling roasts are:
- Fire Watch Medium Roast: This is a smooth and balanced coffee with notes of citrus as a slight finisher. It’s perfect for any time of the day or night. Buy it here.
- Spectre Dark Espresso Roast: This is a bold and intense coffee with notes of dark chocolate, molasses, and spice. It’s ideal for espresso lovers who want a strong kick. Buy it here.
- MOAB Medium Roast: This is a single-origin double-caffeinated roast that will give you a real caffeine boost for your day. It’s great for those who love the energy that caffeine provides. Buy it here.
You can also check out their blog, The Flightline Cafe, where they share more insights and stories about coffee, veterans, and their mission. Some of their latest articles are:
- Aerial Resupply Coffee: Brewed with Distinction, Served with Honor: This article introduces the history and vision of Aerial Resupply Coffee, and how they aim to create connections, foster community, and serve those who serve others. Read it here.
- Why Aerial Resupply Coffee is Better Than Starbucks: This article compares Aerial Resupply Coffee with Starbucks, and explains why the former is superior in terms of quality, flavor, variety, price, service, and social impact. Read it here.
- How to Make Cold Brew Coffee in a Mason Jar: This article provides some tips and tricks on how to brew your own cold-brew coffee at home using a mason jar. It also recommends some of the best roasts from Aerial Resupply Coffee for each method. Read it here.
I hope you enjoyed this article and learned something new about wholesale to retail: coffee business insights. Thank you for reading and stay tuned for more articles from me. Cheers! ☕️