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How To Support Your Local Roaster During Social Distancing

By 27th March 2020May 18th, 2022No Comments9 min read

The original article was published by by Janice Kanniah on Perfect Daily Grind

The COVID-19 pandemic has rapidly and dramatically impacted the world we live in, in a relatively short period of time. Due to its rapid spread, social distancing is being recommended or enforced in countries across the globe.

This has had major implications for coffee shops and roasters, with small to medium enterprises being the most impacted. Here’s how customers can help support their local roasters while still following recommended safety protocols.

Navigating The New Retail Landscape

Over the past few weeks, COVID-19 has dominated local and international news, with plenty of headlines dedicated to how it will impact the world as we know it going forward. It has had – and will have – a significant impact on the world’s economy, and is currently present in over 100 countries. With no cure or vaccine currently available, health officials are relying on social distancing to slow its spread and give governments and healthcare providers time to respond.

With many people staying at home and travel heavily restricted, businesses in the hospitality and retail industry have been heavily affected. The International Coffee Organization predicts that COVID-19 could impact out-of-home consumption and coffee supplies for the rest of the year. Europe’s roasters are most likely to be the most impacted, as Germany, Italy, Belgium, and Spain are the world’s largest green coffee importers in terms of volume, followed by the United States of America, Japan, and Canada.

Small to medium roasters are responsible for providing employment to many, and those that operate with coffee shops will be doubly affected by these shutdowns. In a video posted by James Hoffman on the coffee industry and COVID-19, he explains that if several coffee roasters lose business, this could also result in green bean importers and exporters losing out, which will result in coffee producers eventually not getting paid.

He acknowledges roasters are at a slight advantage (as most of them have an online presence and might see an uptick in online sales) but cautions that as wholesale sales have been impacted, these sales might not be enough. He says to consumers, “Your purchasing from roasters directly really is so valuable to them right now… Buy local if you can.”

How Some Coffee Roasters Are Coping 

Many roasters are recognising the need for significant closures to take place, despite the fact that it’s likely to cost them money. Sam MacCuaig is a Green Coffee Buyer for Clifton Coffee Roasters in Bristol, in the UK. In a comment made on the Coffee Roaster’s Forum Facebook group, he said, “Everyone should be at home as much as possible, this is bigger than our businesses and people will die. The UK government recently forced all cafés to close apart from [offering] takeaway[s] but in my local area… people are congregating and sitting around with ‘takeaway’ coffee and cake. Forced closure is the only way.”

As a result of having to halt face to face interactions, many roasters have now found themselves in uncharted territory and are trying to maintain a balance between adhering to recommended guidelines and earning an income. Nathaniel Soque is the Owner and Founder of Wave Coffee Roasters in Las Vegas in the USA. He says he’s “just trying to keep revenue rolling while abiding by the mandates (takeout and drive through only)… Some businesses are already closing for good. Some can’t find the right insurance to cover this scenario [and] some people are accepting donations on others’ behalf… It’s such a new situation we’re in… If anything, most of us are thinking about ways to protect the business in the future if this happens again”.

As consumers are forced to shift their shopping habits from traditional channels, this could also impact how roasters price their products in the long term. Karl Wienhold is a Green Coffee Exporter at Cedro Alto, a coffee farmer’s collective in Pereira, Colombia. He says, “I’m worried that the temporary shift away from prepared beverages might necessitate a shift among roasters to use more price-competitive green [beans] in order to compete in lower-margin channels… What could be done to increase the acceptable price point for whole bean [coffee] on the grocery shelf?… our group … [is] eager to support roasters’ commercial efforts and do whatever we can to avoid having to sell below production cost into the local commodity market.”

What Customers & Coffee Shops Are Doing

Many roasters have been tailoring their offerings to safely offer their customers access to coffee beans and drinks. For example, Leicester Coffee House Company in the UK is only offering takeaway coffee, with barriers put in place to keep customers the correct distance from each other, as well as payment platforms behind glass to facilitate hands-free payment. They will also deliver local orders of their single origin coffees to your doorstep via bike.

Others are taking steps to help those further up or down the supply chain. Right Side Coffee Roasters is a specialty coffee roastery in Barcelona, Spain, and two times Spanish Roaster Champion. They’ve launched the Ave. Phoenix Project to support local coffee shops by dedicating 25% of the value of each online purchase to them. Pergamino Café is a coffee roastery in Medellín, Colombia that ships its coffee to the USA. They’ll be supporting baristas and producers by donating 10% of their online sales until they reopen their operations.

In other situations, the coffee shops are taking steps to support their suppliers of roasted beans. Aro Coffee Co. is a specialty coffee shop in Orlando, Florida that sources its coffee from several local roasters. They will be dedicating 20% of their online sales to support the families of the roasters affected. Due South Coffee Roasters in Greenville, South Carolina will be transitioning to offering online orders and curbside pickups. They’ve also created a Virtual Tip Jar, allowing patrons and members of the public to tip their baristas.

While most of these campaigns concern the local market, some are targeting the coffee industry in general and from the perspectives of producers, consumers, and packagers. I’M NOT A BARISTA is an online campaign encouraging customers to brew their coffee at home. It’s encouraging roasters and baristas to maintain interest in their business and promote online sales by sharing tutorials and tips and promoting discounts using social media.

Guatemalan Coffees is part of Guatemala’s National Coffee Association (Anacafé), which is a non-profit organisation that supports 125,000 coffee producing families. They are currently running a social media campaign encouraging consumers to support their local roasters and consume more locally produced coffee. Coffee packaging provider MtPak has created the below infographic to guide and encourage customers to safely purchase coffee.

Coffee roasting software producers Cropster will help coffee supply chain members shift their focus to online sales. They’ve created a free online webshop called shipsbeans for specialty coffee businesses to sell their products. It allows for credit card and online payment options and while it’s currently only available for Cropster members, there are talks of expanding it to any coffee-related business in need.

What You Can Do 

Coffee shops and roasters around the world have been placed in a challenging position, but many are finding ways to keep their business afloat and support their staff during the COVID-19 crisis. However, they can only continue to do so with support from their customers. Here are a few ways you can support your local roasters.

  • If your local roaster offers online sales and local deliveries, consider making a one-off purchase from them, or subscribe to a monthly service if they offer one.
  • With social distancing likely to last a long time, birthday parties and other celebrations are unlikely to take place soon. Gifting someone with a bag of coffee beans or even accessories is a great gift that doesn’t require personal contact.
  • If your local roastery doesn’t have an online store, consider purchasing a gift voucher from them which can be redeemed at a later date.
  • If your local roastery offers takeaway coffee without face-to-face contact, consider creating a suspended coffee movement, where you pay for an extra coffee in addition to your own. These free coffees can then be gifted to those in need.

In times of uncertainty, it’s difficult for anyone to predict the future. What is known is that roasters, cafés, baristas, producers, and farmworkers will be impacted by COVID-19 in different ways – and that customers can make a difference in how deep this impact is.

If you’re a coffee drinking customer and have the means to do so, maintaining your consumption of high-quality, traceable coffee using the above measures will help you enjoy your favourite beverage safely – and ensure that those responsible for getting it to you will be able to do so into the future.

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