Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Crop to Cup: Revolutionizing Importer/Retailer Relations

Crop to Cup Revolutionizing Importer Retailer Relations by Jonah Engler

In August 2014, Crop to Cup moved its coffee business to the Gowanus neighborhood in Brooklyn. They were in the midst of pivoting their established roasting business to focus on selling green coffee beans that have been dried but not roasted. Their target market is the end consumer.

This 900 square foot retail space is not their main warehouse. Instead, it serves as their showroom for introducing hipster coffee aficionados of NYC to green coffee. To be clear, they do not simply mean that the coffee is not roasted. It is also green coffee in that it is sourced from artisanal growers with sound environmental practices.

From the custom raw steel counter to the lightly finished woods of the space, this small showroom has big character and presence. It is intended to both educate consumers and glamorize the process of roasting coffee yourself at home. The showroom is a space where customers can explore their tastes by trying out various beans and various degrees of roasting.

The business decision was made to get out of the overcrowded roasting business and get into the business of making the entire process of the coffee industry more transparent and accessible to the end consumer, thus the name Crop to Cup. The founders dreamed up the business while living and working in Africa, where farmers face challenges in understanding the end market in part because they are not consumers of the crop and they are not immediately surrounded by consumers of coffee.

From there, the business expanded to Asia and Latin America. A cornerstone of this import business is building strong relationships with the farmers who grow their artisanal beans. Another cornerstone is building relationships with consumers who want to indulge their love of coffee but also have a clear conscience about what they consume and how they consume it. Thus, a very big part of the business is educating people at both ends of the supply chain.

In service of this goal, unlike other importers, they sell consumers as little as two pounds of green coffee. They also roast sample amounts of coffee for other businesses that lack sample roasters, and they showcase different roasters every month to increase exposure. They recognize that they are fighting an uphill battle, and that they need to be in it for the long haul. Industry change of the sort they desire will not happen overnight.

Jonah Engler is a successful entrepreneur, investor, franchise owner and coffee lover who hails from New York City.

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