What Is a Buyer Looking For? How Can You Add Value to Both Yourself and the Buyer? | PRF El Salvador
What is a green coffee buyer looking for? How Can You Add Value to Both Yourself and the Buyer? This was the topic for the panel discussion that Dario was on. The Producer Roaster Forum is a unique event in the coffee industry: it aims to connect producers to roasters. In countries such as El Salvador (where PRF happened in 2023), coffee farmers are far removed from the roasters who are roasting and selling their coffees. Unless a farmer has a sizeable travel budget or space to accommodate traveling coffee buyers, relationships are cyber.
Dario’s panel was centered around the perspective of the roaster and final retailer. How can a producer make their producer attractive to work with? How can producers build sustainable relationships with roasters?
Essentially, the panel was about sharing what a roaster looks for in a producer partner and how producers can grow their businesses.
Gabriela Flores is the head of the quality control program at BELCO and Jordan Montgomery is a new friend of Bluebird and has been in the coffee industry for 16 years, working for roasteries such as Ona, Fjord, Project Origin and PDG Media. These two sat down with Dario to talk about what green coffee buyers are looking for. This article will be a summary of the points discussed.
What does value mean to us in the green coffee supply chain?
Coffee is a very price-sensitive market, particularly in South Africa, so it’s hard to ignore the value that a good price can bring to the table. For us, it comes down to the kind of business we are trying to build. We want to build something that is around for a long time and this means that happiness and joyful relationships are important to us.
We want to work with people that we love to work with. We bring this to every facet of Bluebird and are pretty specific about who we buy from and who we supply to. The relationships we have with our producer partners are extremely important to us as a team. For example, when it comes to barista competition, we find so much value in being able to communicate with and have trust in our producer partners beyond an email chain or buying off a spot list.
Then, of course we are looking for consistency. We want to know that every year we can buy from you and that we can expect consistent quality. Our longest relationships with producer partners are ones that we have had since we first fired up the roaster in 2019. Our relationship with Alejo Castro in Costa Rica is one that we hold very close to our hearts.
Our relationship with Alejo began because of credibility. It’s not easy for us to travel to Central America and pick and choose from a selection of producers, we had to go off reputation and value.
What do Buyers Want?
Communication is the key to a valuable relationship. In this case, communication means telling the story. How can a producer tell their story well in order for it to be passed on to the final consumer? As specialty coffee roasteries, we find immense value in being able to tell the story of our coffees to our consumers. In order to give value to our customers and do justice to the coffees we’re selling, it’s important to have the ability to tell the story of the coffee from the producer.
For us at Bluebird, it is very specific to the type of coffee we are looking to buy. If we are looking to buy a larger lot to blend, we need to have that price value and the consistency of year-on-year quality. But if we are buying smaller nanolots or microlots, we need to be able to present a point of difference to our customers in order to sell that coffee. This means being able to do justice to the story, being able to communicate with the producer and of course, knowing that the quality in the cup with stand up. We also need to have loyalty on both sides of the relationship.
If we know that we can come back next season and have access to lots with a degree of exclusivity and trust, and the producer knows that they can count on Bluebird to take some of their crop every single year, we can then build a very sustainable model for both the roaster and producer. In specialty coffee, the revenue that a producer receives is divided into three main categories: labour costs, reinvestment into the farm and upliftment of society. The disconnect between what’s happening at origin and the roastery is very difficult to bridge and it’s a complicated story to tell. The economic value of specialty coffee is difficult to communicate to the new specialty coffee consumer. We have found that the best way to do this is by showing the difference in the cup. Flavour captivates people and prompts them to want to know more, from this point we can start to tell the story.
Watch the full panel on PRF’s YouTube: