What Does Leadership Mean For the Coffee Industry?

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Coffee – a beverage with a history of hundreds of years – is in the midst of a period of unprecedented change.

That change has unlocked deeper value and choice for business and consumers,even as it presents unprecedented challenges that continually shape the headlines: Climate change. La roya. Sustainability. GMO legislation. Gender inequality. Volatile prices.

All businesses struggle to identify and train leaders. But for the coffee sector, leaders deal with a complex array of variables, threats and opportunities – making leadership essential for the industry’s future.

At the NCA Convention, we talk a lot about professional leaders and industry leadership.

But what exactly does leadership mean today?

Here, 5 members of the NCA Board of Directors share why leadership matters to the coffee industry: 

Phyllis Johnson, President, BD Imports:

“Leadership in the coffee industry matters because the trade is built on layers of inequalities. Leadership provides us with the opportunity to look beyond existing systems, failed policies, and even cultural norms and consider the best way forward.”

John “JD” DeMuria, Managing Partner at Volcafe USA and Owner, Volcafe USA (and incoming NCA Board of Directors Chair):

“The coffee industry has many challenges ahead. As we prepare for a generational change, we see a growing divide between the consolidating larger commercial side of our industry and the smaller, artesian café side. Leadership will be tested to find the balance between the two and to be sure that the needs of everyone along the supply chain, from farmer to consumer, are considered.

“We also face the ongoing struggle with climate change. Today’s leaders will have to make difficult choices to protect the future of our planet – and the future of coffee production. Imagine the world without coffee, and the economic and social impact that would have.

“Fortunately, the coffee industry leadership is resilient, dynamic, passionate and engaged. Our seasoned leaders and upcoming professionals can both learn from each other.”

Ron Contaxis, VP Sales, Wilbur Curtis Company (and the NCA 2015 Volunteer of the Year):

“The NCA has been a quiet voice educating and protecting the coffee industry. We ‘walk the walk’ by our actions and our commitment to evolve. We will continue to learn about our business, and in turn, educate our partners.”

Ernesto Alvarez, Managing Director, COEX Coffee International, Inc.:

“The coffee industry is changing dramatically in the way coffee flows and it is consumed. It is important for the new generation to take a leadership position in developing sustainable ways to support consumption growth through education and fair pricing practices.”

Mark Wood, Chief Business Development and Partners Officer at Keurig Green Mountain, Inc.:

“Leadership drives future industry growth, which in turn, drives security for employees, partners and the broad coffee supply chain community.”

Bruce H. Goldsmith, President, Baronet Coffee (and current Chair of the NCA Board of Directors):

“Although we are in a very mature industry and our Association is over 100 years old, it is imperative that the National Coffee Association develop the next generation of coffee leaders to guide us for the next century. The NCA has become the place for young professionals to meet and share ideas.

The annual convention in San Diego will continue our quest in developing the next generation of leaders and provide a great forum to enhance your skills while networking with your peers.”


Join the conversation – share your definition of leadership below: 



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