Sustainably Sourced: Uncovering the New Coffee Buzzword

Whether you have been in the coffee industry for years or you are just starting out your new business, you have probably heard the new coffee buzzword ‘sustainably sourced’. If you have been around a while you may think you should just wait out this new trend and continue your farming and roasting practices. However, this generation of coffee consumers and shoppers seem to be looking at this phrase, and other phrases related, and picking products consistently that align with their moral codes. Even if some consumers are just as in the dark about what sustainably sourced really even covers, they are more likely to want their coffee to be able to qualify for the certification. In this article, we will discover what exactly is sustainably sourced, how it affects you and your business, and why millennial shoppers might pass on your product if it doesn’t have this certification under its belt.

So what exactly does it mean to have a roast that is sustainably sourced and why are your young customers searching for it on the packaging? This term encompasses quite a large concept of having responsibly grown and harvested coffee. Coined by large entities such as the Rainforest Alliance and Conservation International, certified sustainable coffee means that not only is the biodiversity of the region and environmental sustainability taken into consideration when farming, but also the rights of the workers and the agricultural practices are up to a certain ethical code. The process of the bean, from start to finish, is considered sustainable to both the agriculture it is grown on but also the human lives affected. Those lives extend from just the farm worker and their pay but also to the water sources used and potentially tainted by chemical processing. Throughout Latin America, Asia, and Africa coffee is grown and traded as a fast growing commodity, and yet many of these areas are facing challenges related to both poverty and the devastating effects of climate change. What the Sustainably Sourced coffee labeling is attempting to do is create a popular certification that shows that you and your company are working partnership with local growers to create livable wages and practice agroecology in a way that preserves the lush land that coffee is often grown on. And it is, in large, working in the coffee industry. Young adults, in turn, utilize their purchasing power to buy coffee with this certification and attempt to have a smaller environmental and ethical footprint with their grinds. This probably isn’t the first time you have heard of this concept, sustainably sourced is often paired with Fair Trade, which was an attempt to give farmers and their lands equal share in the profits reaped from the farming of coffee. These certifications are going a step further and attempting to look at the whole picture of coffee practices.

Nowadays the concept has grown so popular that there are many different types of certification a company can apply for that consumers will notice and potentially choose that product over one that is not certified. Local coffee shops will also advertise the ethical origins of the coffee as a way to generate business with young millennials. If you are a company without these certifications, it might be an identifying factor as to why young adults are not purchasing your otherwise equally competitive coffee. Brands as large as Starbucks and McDonalds have even turned leaf and gotten ethically sourced and responsibly grown coffee that is fully certified.  The cynic in you might be inclined to mention that with so many certifications and such a broad definition of sustainability, this term may not be worth all that it cracked up to be. And while for some certifications that may be true, you as a savvy business owner may be willing to look past that initial thought. Your 18-34-year-old customers are basing decisions around the language used on coffee packaging and advertisement.

It’s not just about the first hit of caffeine in the morning for young coffee consumers, it’s about the narrative and the journey of the cup of coffee. Single origin coffee and tracking the bean back to its farming and processing has become wildly popular, and not just in specialty stores. When major consumer markets start to shift to one way of advertising, then it is perhaps time to look at your narrative and see what it has to offer. But if your customers are on a journey to an origin wrought with unethical treatment of coffee laborers and environmental degradation, then they might not pick up your bag. These certifications and thoughtful harvest of beans will create a backstory to your company that shows your commitment to people and the environment. For a savvy coffee company, this term is not only just a way to show your company’s alignment with a better planet, it is also the perfect opportunity to utilize consumer trends in your favor.

Rather than turn your nose at a new trend, sustainably sourced coffee and it’s rather broad definition, is the type of marketing language that will help boost your business. Your target audience is no longer just looking for a good tasting cup of coffee. The narrative behind your bean now matters just as much, if not more than the taste of the coffee. Consumers are more likely to pick coffee that has some form of certification from a reputable source that ensures them that there are fair farming practices, no pesticides, and that Fairtrade was incorporated in some way. Obtaining a certification may change the way you grow and collect your coffee but it will open your business to selling to new coffee shops and consumers that were otherwise inaccessible to your business. Whether you are revamping your marketing strategy in the new year, or just starting out in a roasting business, consider obtaining a certification that allows you to deem your particular roasts as sustainably sourced. It will not only attract costumers, but it will also keep you competitive in the ever growing coffee market.

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