With shifts in buyer demands in recent years, many producers are facing difficulty with keeping up with such changes and an increasingly diverse market.
We spoke to the team from Mercon Specialty to learn more about the steps they’re taking to improve the coffee sector, and how they’re adapting to support producers and keep up with consumer demands.
WHAT ARE MERCON SPECIALTY’S MAIN OBJECTIVES FOR 2021?
Mercon Specialty has three key objectives for 2021:
- Be the green coffee supplier of choice for small, medium, and large roasters, and provide solutions that enable them to grow their business and exceed customer expectations.
- Highlight small producers in our origin operation network to create a market for their special coffees.
- Provide roasters with stability and reliability, leveraging our history of over 65 years at origin in coffee to do so.
HOW DOES MERCON SPECIALTY WORK TOWARDS IMPROVING THE COFFEE SECTOR?
Mercon has a long history of commitment to improving the coffee sector. These include our innovation in developing sustainability programs, support and involvement in industry research, and collaboration with non-profit organizations and agencies that have a mission grounded in driving the industry forward.
One such example is the LIFT program. LIFT is a sustainable production program developed by Mercon that provides valuable tools, training, and services to coffee farmers and coffee communities.
LIFT provides small groups (“clusters”) of producers with direct technical support and a three-year education program about social and environmental responsibility and their farming practices. The results show a substantial increase in productivity for the producer, who does not pay for this support.
We also have a seat on the board of directors of World Coffee Research, to which we provide strong financial support. In addition, we have a seat on the board of directors and are members of the National Coffee Association, where we support research about the benefits of coffee and efforts to protect the sector more widely.
Furthermore, we promote and participate in sustainability initiatives such as UTZ, RFA, Fairtrade, AAA, and the C.A.F.E Practices to ensure an ethical and sustainable supply of green coffee.
Finally, we founded the Seeds for Progress Foundation to improve access to education in Nicaragua decades ago. In the years since, this organization has become an independent registered non-profit organization.
The Seeds for Progress Foundation improves access to high-quality education, a basic human right that contributes to social development and sustainable economic growth. It creates opportunities for students, teachers, and their families in rural Nicaraguan coffee-growing communities to improve their quality of life.
Seeds for Progress currently works in five departments of Nicaragua, partnering with 18 schools to support more than 6,300 students and some 260 teachers. The foundation recently secured donations from our group companies, as well as support from dedicated roasters to provide infrastructure repairs, emergency hurricane relief in Honduras and Nicaragua, and a supply of PPE during the Covid-19 pandemic.
HAVE YOU EXPERIENCED A CHANGE IN BUYER DEMANDS IN RECENT YEARS? HOW HAS MERCON SPECIALTY ADAPTED TO MEET THESE DEMANDS?
We have seen an increase in demand for quality, sustainability, and social impact in the coffee we source, alongside assurance of access and delivery given some instability.
Our clients have asked for flexibility, which we have provided; we have been incredibly creative on our sourcing programs to support buyers to navigate tough conditions during the pandemic.
HOW DOES MERCON SPECIALTY SUPPORT ROASTERS AS A SOURCING PARTNER?
We have the skill, experience, and capabilities to offer spot coffee as well as medium and longer-term planning. We also have green coffee buying services and market risk teams for those who need it.
Alongside this, we provide direct access to producers for specialty coffees, limited small lots, exclusive processing methods, and year-on-year reliability where quality is concerned.
To support this, we also offer cupping, sample roasting, roast development, blending, and other solutions that assist buyers through periods of growth (such as scaling up packaging or roasting operations).
WHAT IS SPECIAL ABOUT THE MERCON SPECIALTY SOURCING MODEL?
We have deep connections at origin. We operate on the ground in six origin countries: Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala, Ethiopia, Vietnam, and Brazil. In each country, we have our own staff of technicians who support our producers, our mills, and our export services.
In addition, our team has traveled and purchased coffee for several decades in over 25 countries. This means that in any country where we don’t have our own operation, we have long-term, on-the-ground relationships with teams who have a producer network for sourcing transparent coffee of reliably high quality.
Credit: Mercon Specialty