A whole new world

Volume 23, . Comments

Those of us who’ve spent decades in the coffee business are still here because we’ve had some ability to gauge our customers’ wants and satisfy them. It’s business 101 – find a market niche and fill it better than anyone else.

But few of us could have predicted the monumental changes we’ve witnessed over the past two decades.

Twenty years ago, who’d have imagined that Starbucks, a small Seattle-area coffee company, would take espresso mainstream with a roaster of coffee drinks that show how versatile a shot of this intense roast can be? People would buy more coffee on the run than they make at home? Coffee would become a trendy, hip drink with teens and young professionals? New energy drinks, like Coca Cola Blaktm, would create a whole new market for coffee? The industry, once high-yield driven, would move towards the “best practices” of quality, health and environmental protection? Nestle, the world name associated with instant coffee, would become the inventor of the high-quality gourmet coffee pod?

Twenty years ago the Berlin Wall and Communist-bloc countries were off limits to the world’s fine coffees. Today, they’re emerging markets. And what if the Chinese awaken to the flavor of coffee? On its own, the “sleeping giant” could consume 50 million bags – half the world’s production.

As co-organizer of this 20th anniversary of Sintercafe, Central America’s premier coffee industry trade show – I urged my colleagues to adopt a forward-looking theme – Sintercafe: 20 Years, 20/20 Vision.

The Nov. 11 to 15 event will fill Costa Rica with some of the industry’s top names. Together, we’ll hammer out a vision of the future and strategies to take advantage of the changes ahead.

“How much coffee could you sell, if you could predict the future?” Today, this question is the catch phrase of Sintercafe 2006. Tomorrow – a couple decades from now – we’ll know if we found the right answers.

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About Steve Aronson

New York coffee broker Steve Aronson founded Café Britt in 1985 to market roasted Costa Rican coffees to the world.

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