By Danielle Wood, Sustainability Manager, Dunkin’ Brands
Danielle Wood, Sustainability Manager at Dunkin’ Brands, recently sat down with Jasmine Murphy, Green Coffee Trader for The J.M. Smucker Company (JMS) to discuss her background, how she got involved in coffee, her current role with JMS, and her advice for budding coffee professionals. This interview has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.
How long have you been working in coffee?
I’ve been working in coffee for eight years – two years at JMS and prior to that I worked with Nestle at an R&D center in Marysville, OH.
How would you describe your role at JMS?
I am in the green coffee trading group, but my primary role is with sustainability. I am tasked with driving and managing the sustainability strategy forward, which includes projects linked to sustainability and green coffee.
What’s your favorite memory with NCA?
I really enjoy having the opportunity to meet and see people I work with regularly, face to face, and get to know them a little more. Especially when I was first starting out in coffee, I didn’t have a lot of exposure to the trade. With NCA, you get the opportunity to learn from coffee experts. In this industry, everyone wants to help each other learn.
Being an NCA Next Gen-er yourself, what advice do you have for other young professionals in coffee?
I would say, don’t be afraid to ask questions. People in coffee typically spend their entire career in coffee, or leave and come back. It seems like a big industry, but it’s actually very small and relationships are extremely important. Don’t be afraid to use the resources and people available to you. Make sure you’re fostering relationships with people and reach out to keep those relationships strong, as you never know when you’ll interact with those people in the future.
What’s something you’ve recently learned that you wished you’d learned sooner in your career?
I wish I pushed harder for myself in the beginning of my career. Especially as a woman, it is important to advocate for opportunities for training and travel. Over time I have learned to push for myself and bring opportunities up early, and often. For example, I wish I became a Q Grader earlier on in my career as it has helped me gain credibility in my quality approvals. Don’t be afraid to fight for yourself and your development.
What is something about coffee or the coffee industry in general that you wish more people knew about?
I wish people understood how many people are involved in growing and processing and the other steps throughout the coffee value chain. So many steps are involved to get to what ends up in your cup.
Speaking of your cup, how do you prepare your coffee?
I am not a coffee snob, I am a Q Grader and cup all the time, but right now I’m drinking coffee that was made in a normal drip coffee maker and has lots of liquid creamer. I also have all of the coffee making tools including a Chemex, French Press, Nespresso, etc., but I usually use a drip coffee maker.
What excites you most about the coffee industry now?
Moving forward, even the major players are seeing huge value in sustainability and understanding how sustainability risks can impact the coffee business and future of coffee. We are seeing a movement driven by the needs of the industry and consumers, and the industry is truly trying to push progress forward. Sustainability commitments are coming out almost monthly, and a lot of big players are jumping on board.
With all the momentum you just mentioned, what technology do you see having the biggest impact on coffee in the future?
Having more connectivity for farmers. It will be imperative for producers to have increased access to phone or internet connectivity to report on their crops. We are not there yet in every origin or region. Being able to receive texts would make a huge impact especially from a sustainability perspective.
I know this is almost impossible to imagine, but what would you recommend for someone who doesn’t like coffee or isn’t a regular coffee drinker?
We see young coffee drinkers starting with really sweet drinks, coffee with a lot of creamer, or specialty drinks – try that out. There are so many ways to prepare coffee, so if you don’t like drip coffee, it doesn’t mean you won’t like a well-prepared espresso. Just give it a try, there are so many options out there, you will probably find something that you like!
What are some of the biggest challenges facing the coffee industry?
Sustainability issues, climate change, aging farmer population, really any of the sustainability challenges that we’re hoping to address under the environmental, social, and economic risk spectrum. These risks need to be recognized in the near-term. Luckily, more companies are taking this seriously to meet the short-term goals for coffee sustainability.
As a young coffee professional, what are some challenges and opportunities that come with working for such an established, well-known brand?
In my career so far, I have been extremely lucky to work for such well-known and established coffee brands. There are so many resources available as they have well-established relationships, but also have opportunities for trainings, travel, [professional] development and more. I have been able to piggyback on the established relationships built by JMS and Nestle. Growth as a coffee professional would have been much more difficult in a smaller coffee company.