The future of the world’s greatest commodity: coffee

The future of the world’s greatest commodity: coffee

December 2010 - Pablo Vargas

The future of the world’s greatest commodity: coffee

As I’m writing these words I’m on a flight returning from my last business trip of the year. This time, it was my pleasure to visit our Britt coworkers in Perú and Chile. While there, I shared with them a few thoughts about how our company has grown over its 25 years in existence. This year, more than any other, I’ve been asked to share my experiences in various forums, including a seminar in Costa Rica focused on national competitiveness and social progress. At that seminar, I described how we, through the performance of our daily operations, contribute to social progress in each of the countries we do business.

When you talk about the coffee industry in Costa Rica, you’re talking about the industry that has been, since the 19th century, the country’s biggest contributor to social progress. The National Theater, Costa Rica’s most important architectural work, was built during that century with the contributions of coffee growers. Talking about Café Britt in Costa Rica in the 21st century means talking about “Coffee Industry, version 2.0.” Britt has always been about a new way of thinking and working with coffee. This was true from the moment we became the world’s first coffee roaster based in a coffee-growing country to sell a finished product to international markets. And it’s true today as we operate gift stores in a variety of countries, each with an authentic “sense of place.”

Upon turning 25 this year as a company, we’ve come to more deeply understand the meaning of what we do. People today perceive us as the bearers of a legacy that has meant a lot for this small Central American country. Building on our coffee heritage, we’ve developed innovative concepts in chocolates and gift shops for travelers. People today expect a lot of Britt. As bearers of the legacy, we know that “coffee industry, version 2.0” can impact our society, just as our predecessors’ legacy did. It’s a knowledge that brings with it a lot of work and responsibility.

I’ll conclude with a reflection on 2010, a year that was somewhat atypical. Early on, we thought that, when the economic crisis subsided, economies would regain significant levels of growth. That’s what happened in our countries to the south, but in the Caribbean and Central and North America, the crisis has lasted longer than we would have wanted. We’re ending the year with a strong revaluation of Latin American currencies. The price of many commodities, including coffee, has increased by 50 percent over the year. This presents new challenges.

This past year, we launched operations in Mexico City’s international airport and we negotiated a contract with The Dominican Republic. We ended 2010 with the good news of having won a bid to operate two new stores in Costa Rica’s Juan Santamaría International Airport. We also are working on several new projects that will deepen our ties to the markets where we already do business. This includes more airport stores that we’ll soon be announcing. 

I want to thank all our customers for staying true to Britt, even though the winds of the economy have not been favorable for many of you. I wish you and your families an excellent and prosperous 2011. As for me, when I get back to Costa Rica, I’ll take a few days off to “recharge batteries,” because 2011 promises to be a year of plenty of work for everyone!

All the best,


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