Interview with Wim Abbing, President and CEO of Probat and Current NCA Board Member — Part II

Mike Vilarino, Business Integration Manager with Baronet Coffee, continues his conversation with Wim Abbing, President and CEO of Probat. Probat is a multinational coffee equipment manufacturer headquartered in Emmerich, Germany. In case you missed Part I of Mike’s interview with Wim, be sure to check it out here!

Vilarino: Things must’ve really changed since you began in coffee. In what ways has the business changed since you started.

Abbing: There has been so much change since I entered the business two decades ago. What I sensed in the ‘90s was that coffee was just warm brown “stuff.” I always give Starbucks a lot of credit; they really expanded our perception of coffee beyond that of habit. With that, the industry evolved to how it is today, where consumers have so many options, something that I didn’t feel was present in the 90s.

I always hear, ‘Your company is 150 years old, and you build roasters that last 40 to 50+ years, why are you still selling roasters? There MUST be enough roasters in the world to roast all the coffee?’ What I always say to that is this: for Probat it is important that coffee habits change. As habits evolve, customers need new roasters, new controls, and new technology. All those things are crucial to our industry but especially to Probat. We are seeing those shifts now, continuing throughout the pandemic.

You mention the pandemic, what has that been like as the leader of Probat? How have you navigated these unprecedented times?

Abbing: I was in China in January 2020 and came home sick. My wife thinks that I had Covid-19 in Jan 2020!

My last business trip before the pandemic was the NCA Convention and at that time things were starting to feel different. When I got back to Germany, I had a meeting with my management team to discuss what our next steps would be. We sent everyone home, started shift work (something we had never done), and reduced the density of people that were working in person.

To be honest, throughout this time, we either had to try something new or go out of business. And at the end of the day, it ended up working out pretty well. Of course, the first few weeks and months were a bit shaky, but things ended up stabilizing. Only 150 out of the nearly 500 people in Emmerich were required to be in person. The rest were engineers who can work remotely. We are lucky that we had that type of flexibility.

Our biggest challenge during this time, however, was managing our service network. We are a company with customers all over the world, which proved difficult to manage during a time when travel was restricted. We decided to take a couple different approaches. First, we hired regionally-based service engineers. That gave us the ability to continue to service our customers while minimizing travel for the team. Second, we utilized technology to assist us with installations. Our in-person staff would wear a camera while speaking with a remote engineer who would be giving them live step-by-step instructions as the remote engineer was able to see exactly what our in-person technician was seeing. Essentially, we did things we never thought we would have needed to do.

While we seem to be finally moving on from the pandemic, there is another crisis at the forefront of European minds. How are you dealing with the gas crisis and the unrest in Eastern Europe?

Abbing: If you’re a CEO you must be optimistic. What is happening right now is, however, a bit frightening. On the business side, we wrote our processes to account for the scenario where we were out of gas and power. At Probat, everyone knows what the contingency plans are if they need to be executed.

Tensions are escalating in Europe, which makes you realize how fragile of a time it is.

We all hope that this is not coming but we are prepared if it does.

Switching gears, when did you become involved in the NCA? What is your current involvement?

Abbing: I’m fairly new to the NCA, at least to the NCA Board. I have been attending the NCA conventions for almost 2 decades now. This was one of the first objectives of my time as President at Probat.

I think organizations like the NCA are necessary for what I would consider a fragmented industry. We have so many small and medium-sized companies! And because of that, the research in coffee falls behind that of other industries. In order for the coffee industry to grow and develop, we need associations like the NCA to bring together all small, medium, and large-scale businesses. The NCA does a great job of doing just that.

Did you have any mentors starting out in the business?

Abbing: I would’ve loved to, but no, I didn’t! While I might not have had an active mentor, there are several people in coffee that made a sizable impression on me. Mr. Nabeiro of Delta Coffee in Portugal, for example, is 91 and still involved in the business! He is such an amazing person; he built an educational center about coffee in his village, and I admire him deeply.

Outside of him, we really have so many great people in coffee. I could keep going, but Mr. Nabiero is just one of several people that made a lasting impression on me.

What advice would you give yourself that maybe you didn’t get when starting out in the business?

Abbing: Listen more. Don’t be so quick in making decisions!

What advice would you give to the ‘next generation’?

Abbing: Meet as many people as you can! The more diverse the better. I would say, go to Mongolia and learn what they do there! Go to Tanzania and experience how they plant coffee trees!

Another piece of advice I would give to the next generation would be to learn from other players in the industry. And don’t forget, you can learn from people you might not see eye-to-eye with as well. There is a saying in Germany: ‘there is nobody that is so bad that would serve as a bad example.’ For me now, I believe the worst way to run a company is running it from a desk. I try and get out and see people as much as possible, and I implore the younger generation to do the same.

Final question, a little bit of a goofy one. You and 3 open seats at a dinner table, who are you sitting with?

Abbing: I try to understand why people act like they act. Therefore, I would love to sit together with President Trump, Borris Johnson, and Angela Merkel. More political than business right now! Of course, I would love to understand more about Elon Musk and everything he has going on as well.

A different, fun table would include Ru Paul and President Obama. I think that table would be great!

Thank you again to Wim Abbing, President and CEO of Probat, for graciously sharing his thoughts on the industry and advice to the next generation!

Next Gen Spotlight: Keely Thomas, Grand Strand Coffee

It’s not every day you come across an 18-year-old who has been brewing and cupping coffee since the age of three, but that’s exactly who we have with us today. Keely Thomas is a University of South Carolina student and the co-founder of Grand Strand Coffee. Like many others, Keely’s family is deeply rooted in coffee, but her active involvement from such a young age makes her Next Gen story one that you cannot miss! Bent Dietrich, Next Gen Council Member, and Trader at American Coffee Corp. sat down with Keely to learn more.

Let’s start at the beginning of what is a truly “Next Gen” story! Tell us a little bit about who you are.

My name is Keely Thomas, and I recently turned 18. I was born in Gastonia, NC, but I have lived in Salt Spring Island, BC, Vancouver, BC, Seattle, WA, and Fairfax, VA. I am a co-founder/barista of Grand Strand Coffee in Myrtle Beach, SC, and a full-time student at the University of South Carolina, majoring in International Business and Operations and Supply Chain. I am also heavily involved in the University of South Carolina’s School of Music where I play music in the Bassoon Studio and University band.

Some of us may be familiar with your story due to the Barista Magazine highlight, but for those who are not, how did you get started in coffee? And what are you up to these days?

Due to my parent’s long coffee history, it is practically in my blood. I’ve grown up in coffee shops, coffee roasting plants, and QC labs. I started cupping around age 3, but mostly just tasting the coffee. By age 6, I had learned how to make great coffees on V-60 pour-overs and made my parents coffee in bed for years (that stopped when I became a full-time barista). When I was around 10, my father started teaching me to roast samples on Probat sample roasters, and at that point, I began to learn how to cup for defects and descriptions. This came in handy during the pandemic.

When I was 13, I wanted a job, but I was too young to begin working as a barista, so I decided to open a small cold brew stand at the farmers market with the help of my mother. We ran the cold brew booth for two years before we got the opportunity to have an actual brick-and-mortar store. We opened our first store in March 2020 (right at the beginning of the pandemic). It was a challenge opening in that environment, but we had a significant following already. Plus, we were so specialty-focused that we didn’t have much competition. There were other coffee shops in the area, but no one was focused on specialty coffee like we were. Customers quickly understood that we were a coffee family, and we were focused on high-end specialty and telling the story of the coffee all the way back to the farmers that grew it.

How is the transition going from being in high school and working at Grand Strand Coffee to being a full-time college student? Have you scoped out your favorite coffee spots at the University of South Carolina yet?

Transitioning from high school to college is very different from what I expected. In high school, Covid allowed me to go virtual and work full-time at Grand Strand Coffee. After going back in person for my senior year, I had enough credits to go to school for only half the day, which also allowed me to work at the store. Now that I’m in school three hours away from home, I cannot go in and pick up barista shifts, but I still help with social media and special projects for GSC. During our holidays, I am lucky enough to drive home to work at Grand Strand Coffee! Thankfully, I have found a great coffee shop in Columbia. They are a small, quality-focused, family-owned coffee roastery in Cottontown, Columbia, called Indah Coffee Co., and I enjoy a cortado from them every weekend.

You’ve helped your father out with samples and seen his work at home. As an importer for Intercontinental Coffee Trading, he helps connect roasters to coffee producers all over the world. Despite your young age, you’ve actually had a lot of exposure to various parts of the business. Between the roasting side and importing side, what are your favorite aspects of the industry?

Currently, I enjoy being a barista. I enjoy creating classic and new drink combinations to serve my customers, such as the sweet and spicy latte, a blend of brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, cayenne pepper, and allspice. I also enjoy educating people about specialty coffee. These traits are some of which make working at Grand Strand Coffee a lot of fun. Since moving to Columbia for school, I have been attending barista competitions and would eventually like to compete in the US Barista Championship.

As you mentioned, I have spent much time helping my father since he works from home. We have a Probat sample roaster here, so during the pandemic, when the ICT office in San Diego was closed, my father and I had to help with QC. Most of the samples from Origin would come to us to cup and we would then let the team know the results. I would roast the samples, set up the tables, and cup five days a week with my father. As much as I love cupping and roasting, I would still prefer to go into trading at some point.

Are you planning on staying in the coffee industry after you graduate from college?

I definitely plan on staying in the coffee industry after I graduate. I want to become a Specialty Coffee Trader and eventually start my own importing company.

For the industry as a whole, how do you view the future of the industry?

As a whole, I feel that the coffee industry will continue to see a shift toward specialty. We’ve been seeing this trend in the US for a while, and after talking to my father about some of the next-generation coffee producers, I feel origin is moving in that direction. In Myrtle Beach, real specialty coffee is a bit new; most coffee shops are still trying to copy Starbucks by selling sweet and milky drinks. We’ve noticed that at our store, people will drive across town and pass dozens of coffee shops to come to GSC to get classic-style espresso drinks and nice specialty coffee from us. Knowing how far people drive to get a cup of coffee from us is the best compliment we could receive. I genuinely believe this is the future of coffee.

What kind of change or progress do you see the Next Generation of coffee bringing to the industry?

I think technology and social media will play a significant role in the next generation. Social media is already a great way to teach people about coffee and the whole process from seed to cup. You’ve got amazing baristas like Morgan Ekroth (Morgan Drinks Coffee) and next-generation coffee growers like Sara Corrales (Finca Los Pinos) putting out great content. This content shows younger people that coffee is more than just a way to get “cheap energy” to help them study all night; coffee has history and lots of passion behind it.

What advice would you share with your fellow Next Gen-ers or people looking to get involved in the coffee industry?

I want to share some advice with people trying to get into the coffee industry: just go for it! If you enjoy a favorite coffee shop/roastery, submit an application. There are so many opportunities in the coffee industry and so many amazing people and cultures; there is something for everyone to enjoy.

The future is certainly looking bright with passionate coffee lovers like Keely coming up in the industry! On behalf of the Next Gen Council, thank you to Keely for her time and involvement. 

NCA Member Spotlight: ePac Flexibles

Company: ePac Flexibles
Location: Austin, Texas
NCA Member Since: December 2022
Website: epacflexibles.com
Facebook: facebook.com/ePacFlexiblePackaging
Instagram: instagram.com/epacflexiblepackaging

What does ePac Flexibles do?

We provide coffee bag packaging for specialty coffee roasters. This includes stand-up pouches and quad packs. In 2023, we will launch our new flat-bottom product following an increase in demand from our customers.

What drives your passion for this industry?

We love coffee at ePac and we will continue to invest in the category and bring new and innovative sustainable packaging options to our customers.

What’s your perfect cup of coffee?

I prefer a semi-automatic machine with a separate grinder. My favorite piece of coffee equipment is the Marzocco.

What sets your organization apart?

We have the largest and fastest digital print network in North America. We offer low SKU runs, and 10 to 15-day deliveries. This is very useful for brand owners that need greater flexibility and agility for their single or blended products and also provides a platform for our customers to generate additional revenue streams through private labels. To summarize, we improve our customers’ cash flows and help reduce waste through our capability to offer low minimum order quantities with unlimited SKU’s.

What does sustainability mean to your organization?

It means a lot to us. We recently joined Project Waterfall which supports global coffee growers with access to clean water. We use digital print technology which means we use less energy. Also, our production processes are automated which means less paper and we recycle our ink canisters to support the circular economy.

Next Gen at Sintercafe 2022: What You Missed & More

By NCA Next Gen

With much built-up excitement and anticipation, Sintercafe made its triumphant return from November 9th through November 12th, 2022 at the Los Sueños Marriott in Costa Rica. The first event of its kind since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, it was welcomed with open arms and boasted record attendance with over 600 attendees! The attendee list included many National Coffee Association members and representatives, including our very own Bill Murray, President and CEO of the National Coffee Association (NCA), who delivered a keynote entitled “Consumers, Coffee, and Change: The Evolving U.S. Market.” He also served on a panel of coffee association executives to discuss global challenges facing coffee and how association are uniquely positioned to help.

Janet Colley Morse and Kyle Bawot

In addition to providing a platform for many great lectures and customer/client interaction, the event saw the inaugural launch of a collaboration between NCA Next Gen, SCTA Next Gen, and Sintercafe Next Gen with a beach cleanup and paddle boarding experience. The NCA Next Gen Council is looking forward to building upon this initiative and collaborating more with our Next Gen coffee counterparts around the world!

Hear from some of our NCA Next Gen Council members below regarding their experiences at Sintercafe 2022:

“What a great feeling to be back amongst colleagues and friends at Sintercafe 2022! The dynamic of finally being able to attend an in-person event was truly wonderful.  Our very own NCA Next Gen Council members were lucky enough to be invited to participate in a “beach cleanup and paddleboarding” event on Thursday afternoon!  This creative and inclusive activity gave us the opportunity to begin to explore the synergies between our Council and other established and blossoming Next Gen groups developing across the globe.  Attendance was high, moods were even higher, and we are very much looking forward to seeing even more familiar faces in Tampa!

Further, it seemed that there were more and more new Next-Gen-aged participants. This is great to see, and we look forward to bringing more and more young coffee professionals into the fold of the NCA Next Gen!”

-Janet Colley Morse (NCA Next Gen Chair) & Kyle Bawot (NCA Next Gen Vice Chair)

“The event was very well attended by an extremely diverse group of industry members. Producers, exporters, cooperatives, importers, and roasters all flocked to Sintercafe in droves. To me, this is what makes Sintercafe unique in our industry. Nowhere else can you have almost every member of the coffee supply chain, sitting down together, in a meeting, talking about our lives and experiences, negotiating additional business, or making new friends.

It connects roasters to producers, exporters to warehouse keepers, and CEOs to first-year attendees. This was my first Sintercafe and most certainly will not be my last, particularly for that reason.”

-Bent Dietrich (NCA Next Gen Council Member)

Interview with Wim Abbing, President and CEO of Probat and Current NCA Board Member — Part I

Wim Abbing, President and CEO of Probat

Mike Vilarino, Business Integration Manager with Baronet Coffee, sat down with Wim Abbing, President and CEO of Probat and current NCA Board Member. Probat is an industry-leading coffee plant and machinery equipment manufacturer headquartered in Emmerich, Germany. Because of the length of the conversation with Mike, this will be a two-part interview. Part one will largely focus on Wim’s early years and his initial time at Probat. Part two will focus on his experience in the coffee industry and his advice to the next generation.

Vilarino: To jump right into it, let’s rewind to before you began your career. Tell me a little bit about your education, — did you attend university? If so, what did you major in?

Abbing: For the full story, I went to high school with the youngest daughter of Hans Von Gimborn (then CEO of Probat). We met briefly in kindergarten and were from the same town, Emmerich, Germany. We ended up getting married and having children together!

To answer your question, though, I was drafted into the German military following my high school graduation. I spent about 18 months serving as a soldier prior to enrolling in university.

I attended a university in the northern part of Germany. Unlike the US, German students begin with classes in their major instead of initially focusing on general liberal arts studies. My major was in economics, which had me studying financial markets and learning concepts in monetary policy. Naturally, I set my sights on a career in banking and eventually landed at a German commercial bank, where I worked for the first six years of my career. Near the end of my time at the bank, I found myself unhappy with what I was doing. I felt that I was unfulfilled, and I remember thinking to myself ‘I really don’t want to die in this job.’

Coincidentally, around the same time, I was talking to my father-in-law, Mr. Von Gimborn. He knew that I was unhappy at the bank and said to me ‘Well, Wim, we don’t have any family members at the company’ (Probat). It was now 1999 and Mr. Von Gimborn had retired from his position as CEO of Probat but remained chairman of the board. I remember him going on to say, ‘it would be nice to have a family member at the company again.’

I decided to take my father-in-law up on the not-so-subtle offer and joined Probat in the treasury department in 1999. Because of my background majoring in economics and working at a bank, it was natural for me to start out in an area that focused on the finances of the company. I quickly moved up the ranks in the finance department at Probat, moving from analyst to controller and ultimately rising to CFO within two years.

So, what was your day-to-day like at this point?

Abbing: To be honest, Mike, it was a nice, quiet office job. The year was 2000 and my fourth child was just born. At work, my day-to-day was consistent with any other CFO of a midsized German company. We had just acquired a Brazilian business, which took me on the road quite a bit, but not nearly as much as I would be in the future. What was clear, however, was that I did not want to have any face-to-face time with our customers. I was happy being in the background and enjoying a more back-office role. I had my spreadsheets and numbers and was content giving those numbers and my opinions to someone else to make decisions.

I was now 35 years old and two or so years had gone by. Out of the blue, my then-boss, the CEO of Probat, left the company.

I remember my father-in-law, still chairman of the board, saying to me, ‘This is your chance. Do you want to step up and run the company together with Stephan Lange (then CSO)?’ Before he and the board looked for a replacement as CEO, they decided to offer a Co-CEO position to both me and Stephan, a position which we both accepted.

I started as CEO in 2002 and was 35 years old, which at that time seemed very young. I remember various partners, customers, and vendors commenting about my age – and to be frank, I was very young for a CEO. But, as I said earlier, the business was structured differently than it is today, so leadership was split between myself as CEO in Germany, and Stephan, who ran the United States operations. It was clear from the beginning that I was the introvert, happy to be in the background. And Stephan was the opposite, a man who enjoyed attending shows, visiting customers, and traveling around the world. That type of outward-facing role was a role that I had not even begun to think about as a position that would make me happy.

Stepping into the CEO position, I would have assumed that you would be forced to be much more customer-facing. Is that not a fair assumption?

I still tried to hide a bit in the background. I was happy to concede the client-facing responsibilities to my colleague in the US.

While he continued to drive the sales side, I had quite a bit to do internally back in Germany. Unfortunately, at this time there were some HR issues primarily driven by the generational change taking place within our company. One of the challenges that ultimately arise from family businesses is that people tend to stay forever. Especially where I was from, most people who entered the business never left. And because of that, Probat was unable to offer the next generation the ability to grow, sometimes waiting until lifelong employees either retired or died! When I joined the company, my task was fixing this and figuring out a path forward. We changed a lot of these types of situations, and as a result, many people left.

Several years went by until the financial crisis in 2008-2009 hit. Stephan ended up leaving Probat and the board ultimately gave me full responsibility to not only take over his role but to run the entire global business as the sole CEO, a change from how we had structured the company over the past 7 years. My first thing to do now? Go out and see customers.

After Stephan Lange left the company in 2009, Wim Abbing became the sole CEO of Probat

So that was a big change for you?

Abbing: Oh yes! The bright lights were now on me. And to tell you the truth, Mike, it was amazingly interesting! Probat’s customers are extremely diverse. Our equipment can be found anywhere from shops with small shop roasters all the way up to big corporations like Nestle. What really makes it fun, however, is the mid-sized companies. I was now traveling the world to see customers big and small and to tell you the truth, it was an eye-opening experience. My travels took me from Japan and South Korea all the way to the US and Africa. Maybe even surprising myself, I was having fun meeting customers, talking to people, and ultimately learning what it took to be CEO and run a company.

So, you started running the company in 2009, and I assume you learned a lot at that point. It was basically a new role for you. What did you learn about yourself? To bring the conversation towards coffee, what did you learn about the coffee industry as the now sole CEO?

Abbing: What I learned about myself was that it is important to try new things. I learned not to be afraid of making mistakes; I’ve made mistakes just like everybody does. As far as I saw it, customers accept mistakes. And adding onto that, the industry itself is one big family. I learned how important it is to talk to people across the industry, from customers to competitors. While talking to competitors, I never talk about prices, customers, etc., I talk to learn, and I talk to understand!

Another thing I learned was that Germans tend to have an issue with their language skills. You always hear a German! Our accents are strong, and Germans sometimes shy away from speaking English or other languages. Traveling across the world and speaking with customers, I learned to not be afraid of that. There’s no need to hide your heritage, language, or nationality.  You should be proud and embrace everything that comes along with those parts of you. To summarize, I learned that our market is so amazingly international, diverse, and understanding.

There are many markets that Probat is involved in that are so much narrower than coffee as well. As an example of how expansive the coffee market is, about a month ago we held a symposium in Emmerich, where one of our customers spoke about his coffee business in Mongolia! It was eye-opening! Coffee only began being sold in Mongolia in 1992. Securing green coffee in a landlocked country was just one of many challenges our customers faced. These and other obstacles are overcome daily by members across our industry. It makes our industry so unique.

Thank you again to Wim on behalf of the NCA Next Gen Communications Committee. Please stay tuned for part two with the CEO of Probat, Wim Abbing, to learn more about his experience in the coffee industry and advice to the next generation!

NCA Member Spotlight: TODDY, LLC

Company: Toddy, LLC
Location: Loveland, CO
NCA Member Since: 2016
Website: toddycafe.com
Twitter: @toddycafe
Facebook: @toddycafe
Instagram: @toddycafe

What does TODDY, LLC do?

Founded in 1964, Toddy, LLC supplies home users and cafes around the world with solutions for brewing exceptional cold brewed coffee and tea. Today the Colorado-based company provides everything from the industry’s first cold brew sensory analysis tools to popular commercial brewing systems and models for home use.

What drives your passion for this industry?

Education – and the opportunity to share what we know about cold brew with other coffee enthusiasts around the world. We’re also highly motivated by the chance to make exceptional coffee available to everyone who wants to try it.

The best part of working in coffee is:

Amazing coffee. And the people who appreciate it.

What’s your perfect cup of coffee?

At Toddy, we like to mix things up and try all kinds of coffee, but we also lean toward being cold brew purists. There’s nothing quite like a fresh cold brew over ice.

What sets your organization apart?

An intentional lack of pretense and a passion for customer service. Team Toddy is a diverse but inclusive group of talented and fun individuals with a single goal: to help cold brew enthusiasts brew delicious coffee and tea. We love helping people discover how to cold brew, experiment with brewing variables, and assist with recipe development until they reach their desired results – whether that’s at home or in a busy cafe.

What’s the most important issue facing the coffee industry?

Sustainability in general as well as a strategy and the tools to support industry growth amid climate change. Another critical issue is that we need to find ways to ensure that coffee producers earn a livable wage. So more than one issue, but all are important.

NCA Member Spotlight: iO Coffee


Company: iO Coffee
Location: Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
NCA Member Since: 2022
Website: www.iocoffee.vn

What does iOCoffee do?

Roasting & Green bean (Fine Robusta from Vietnam only)

What drives your passion for this industry?  

The rise of fine Robusta

The best part of working in coffee is:

Passion

What’s your perfect cup of coffee?

Quality driven, traceability, sustainability

Why did you join the NCA?  

USA market development

What’s the next big thing in coffee?

The rise of specialty coffee, technology helps a lot and everybody is a barista at home

What’s the most important issue facing the coffee industry?

Traceability, disconnection from the farmer to the consumer

What does sustainability mean to your organization?

To respect nature, the people in the coffee supply chain

More Young Americans Drinking Coffee Than Ever Before

The NCA’s National Coffee Data Trends (NCDT) report is an essential compendium of coffee statistics, offering the most in-depth coffee industry market research currently available — and it just received its biannual update. The Fall 2022 edition of the NCDT revealed a wealth of exciting trends in the coffee world today, but one of the more promising revelations is that more young Americans are drinking coffee than ever before. 

For older Americans, coffee is a no-brainer. In each surveyed age group of Americans over 25 years old (25-39, 40-59, and 60+) roughly 69% of respondents had had coffee in the past day. However, for younger Americans (18-24), 51% of those surveyed had a coffee within the past day. 

This graphic was generated using the NCDT Interactive Data Visualization Platform, available to NCA Members.

Despite this 18 point gap in coffee consumption between young people and older age groups, the divide is narrowing. In fact, coffee consumption among 18-to-24-year-olds is up 21% from January 2021 and a larger share of the age group is drinking coffee than ever before, surpassing the previous record of 50% set in September 2020. This indicates an intermediate-term upward trend of young people drinking coffee.

Younger coffee drinkers — especially 25-to-39-year-olds — continue to drive consumption of espresso-based and non-espresso-based specialty coffee drinks, which includes preparations such as cappuccino, espresso, lattes, frozen blended coffee, cold brew, and nitro coffee (for more definitions, check out page 16 of the free preview of the Fall 2022 NCDT.)

Specialty Coffee Beverages (NET) includes Espresso-based beverages, non-espresso-based beverages, and traditional hot and iced specialty coffee. This graphic was generated using the NCDT Interactive Data Visualization Platform, available to NCA Members.

As more drinks catering to the tastes of young adults are developed, it is not unlikely that we will see young Americans drinking more and more coffee. However this trend develops, you can be sure that we will be updating these numbers in our Spring 2023 National Coffee Data Trends report. In the meantime, we invite you to explore our exclusive collection of in-depth data on this topic and many other coffee trends in the full Fall 2022 NCDT report available here.

An Interview With Matthew Daks, General Manager of Volcafe Specialty

Michael Rosa, Commodities Buyer at Mother Parkers Tea & Coffee and NCA Next Gen Communications Committee member, sat down with Matthew Daks, General Manager of Volcafe Specialty, for a deeper look into his journey throughout the coffee industry. Matt’s unique experiences in many industry roles give him a valuable and noteworthy perspective on the industry that you won’t want to miss! 

Matthew Daks (photo courtesy of Pacific Coast Coffee Association)

Tell us about yourself! How did you find your way into coffee? 

My coffee career started while I was in school, and I was working as a barista at a small independent shop in northern California, deep within the redwoods. While working in the coffee shop, I would regularly stop into our roastery which was just across the alley to geek out with the roaster; asking as many questions as I could before he began to grow tired of my inquisition. I couldn’t help it; I was so intrigued by the process of turning green coffee brown. There was a sense of magic and alchemy to it, and I needed to understand it more… 

Years later, I found myself in the Bay Area and took a job as a barista and shift lead at Peets Coffee & Tea. Peet’s is really where my job as a barista began to transform into a career as a coffee professional. My fervent passion for coffee, and desire to learn more about it put me in a position to grow and take new opportunities to share my passion with others. By the time I left Peet’s in 2008, I was one of two Training Partners, responsible for coffee, tea, and barista training for the company. 

From Peet’s, I managed to take a volunteer consulting position with TechnoServe in its burgeoning East African Coffee Initiative. In this role, I worked with a team across Rwanda, Tanzania, Kenya, and Ethiopia to improve quality across the region by training cuppers and providing in-season feedback to cooperatives and their member producers. The team was also out in the field leading cuppings at the wet mills, training producer members how to taste their product and better understand the quality of the coffee they were producing and tie it back to harvesting practices as well as wet milling. 

Green coffee sorting tables in Tanzania

The next step in my coffee journey brought me into the coffee trade, where I spent 2 years as a junior trader with Volcafe’s operation in Kenya, called Taylor Winch. At the time, I was considering a couple of different career moves, some more financially rewarding than others, but ultimately, I chose to begin learning the trade because I felt it really helped to deepen the breadth of my experience and understanding of coffee. The decision still stemmed back to those conversations in the alley, trying to better understand the magical process of turning this hard, green seed into a brew that could instantly bring a smile to people’s faces and brighten their day. 

I spent the next 5 years working with Volcafe both in Kenya, and then back in the US at Volcafe Specialty where I am today. This broadened my understanding of the trade by having a working knowledge of the processes it takes to procure and export coffee as well as the factors that impact the cost to the roaster from an importing perspective. As things go, the more I understood about the production and trade of coffee, the more I realized there were so many factors of the industry I still knew fairly little about. 

That led to my next move, where I left Volcafe and took a job with the National DCP (Dunkin’s purchasing cooperative), where I was responsible for buying all of the coffee and tea for Dunkin’s 9600+ stores. I remember growing up as a kid in New Jersey, and my dad drank Dunkin’ every day. Other memories as I grew older, working as a lifeguard at the community pool, every morning heading to Dunkin’ before opening the pool, and ordering a large iced French vanilla latte. Don’t judge me 😃 And now, I was going to be responsible for sourcing all of that coffee. Little did I know how much more I would be doing. My first months were spent learning and understanding the various contracts we had with several of the nation’s greatest toll roasting operators. Not only was I learning about the contracts, and developing relationships with our roasting partners, but simultaneously I had to begin negotiating new versions of the contracts. Talk about jumping into the deep end with both feet… 

I was part of the Dunkin’ strategic supply chain for three and a half years. My understanding of the process of turning that green bean brown expanded in ways I never would have imagined. Together with the Dunkin’ team, we became one of the largest supporters of coffee genetic research in the world overnight, through our commitment to supporting World Coffee Research. We deepened our connections in the supply chain through annual meetings with all participants, from producers to exporters, importers, roasters, and Dunkin’ Brands in Costa Rica, with the support of Sintercafe. We launched a brewed in-store Cold Brew program that was more successful than we could have imagined. 

cupping coffee at RWACOF

Then in 2019, Volcafe Specialty reached out to me, asking me if I would be interested in coming back to the green side of the business and helping in developing the team along with the relationships with roasters. Today, I am the General Manager of our business in the US and work with my team to continue to grow and develop the strategic partnerships we have with roasters of all sizes across North America. It’s been a wild ride the last few years, stepping back into the trade months before a global pandemic changed our world forever. Today, as we all know, we continue to deal with the lingering effects of Covid; the global logistics quagmire, imbalanced supply and demand, market inversions, runaway inflation, and the rapidly increasing interest rates imparted as a means to try and slow it down while trying to not trigger a recession. Back into the deep end! 

What does a typical day in the life look like for you these days? Or is “typical” itself a misnomer? 

Typical may be a stretch, but my days are typically spent supporting my team and our partners. That could mean Teams or Zoom calls with clients looking at implementing responsible sourcing strategies. These could be calls about how to find alternatives to coffees that seem to be stuck in various transshipment ports around the world. Often, I am speaking with our traffic and logistics team, proactively finding solutions to prevent the previously mentioned conversations. I spend more and more time with our Finance team. Not sure many folks outside of the green side of things realize just how much of a financial facilitation role the trade plays, but that tends to be a big part of the day. I try to start my day, every day, with a cup of coffee before I get things going though. Some days it could be me making a pour-over with my Kalita wave, a v-60, or a Chemex. Other days, after dropping my son off at school, I’ll stop by one of the many local coffee shops in my area. Either way, this helps center me back in the passion for coffee… 

Being on both sides of the fence – trader and buyer, I feel you have a unique insight into the tools that help to succeed in either capacity. To start, which skillsets helped you as you launched your career in the trade? 

By far, I think the skillset which helped me throughout my career has been the unyielding desire to learn. This can come in so many different forms, but I try to remain humble in the fact that there are so many people out there who know more than me about so many different topics. I am always looking to gain others’ perspectives and insight. I am always looking for mentors to learn from. These days I find myself listening to a lot of audiobooks. I never used to like audiobooks, because there is something special about the tactile sensation of reading a paperbound book. I have found though, between life and work commitments my time is limited and audiobooks are just a more convenient way to feed that bug inside me that needs to be learning something. Right now I am listening to Howard Schultz’s book, Onward, and reading Conscious Leadership by John Mackay. 

The other skill set that I think is critical to success is empathy. The ability to see things through others’ perspectives is so important. It will help you uncover new solutions, often it will help you prevent issues from arising, and also, having empathy can help clear the path to do new and better business. 

Learning from those experiences, which strengths helped you make the transition over to the buy side? Which challenges came along with that move which you weren’t anticipating? 

Again, empathy, I think, was a big one. Having been on the trade side, I knew the costs and the pressures that were associated with what I was trying to accomplish in my buying role. Obviously, the understanding of supply and demand constraints or levers, having spent years as both an exporter and an importer helped me develop better strategies as a buyer. 

What vision do you have for the longer-term direction you hope to steer Volcafe Specialty towards? 

At Volcafe Specialty, we are fortunate to have an extensive network of operations that provide us with amazing access to great coffees, but also to a wealth of coffee knowledge and expertise. Over the last 20-plus years, we have done a great job of connecting that origin network to our strategic partners at destination. I don’t see that aspect of our business changing.  

One of the factors we are seeing across the industry is the developing outlook and ideas around sustainable supply chains and responsibly sourced coffee. Our extensive network of exporting operations with agronomists implanting the Volcafe Way program, along with our dedicated teams in destination countries, allows us to be agile and adapt to consumer and client needs. Whether that be understanding, reducing, and mitigating carbon output or regenerative agriculture farmer profitability, I think in the years ahead, Volcafe Specialty will continue to be a leader in this work for the North American market. 

Personally, are there industry challenges that you feel a connection towards that you want to address moving forward in your career? 

I think as an industry we have a lot of work to do in several areas. Two areas that strike me as of particular importance are helping to improve the viability of the smallholder farmer and increasing access and equity in the industry. Selfishly, I hope that smallholder farmers will not only survive but thrive in the years ahead, so we can ensure that we continue to see the uniqueness of their terroir and keep drinking the amazing coffees the specialty world has grown to love. Coffee farmers are not getting any younger, and we need to find a way to incentivize and inspire the next generation of coffee farmers. 

From a less selfish place, I think we also need to find ways to increase access, equity, and participation in the coffee industry. I love seeing the growing communities of underrepresented folks filling space, making their voices heard, and driving influence and innovation in the industry. As a whole, we are better served when there is a greater diversity of thought and perspective in all aspects of our business. I am grateful that there are people out there like the Coffee Coalition for Racial Equity and the IWCA etc. that are moving these issues forward. 

Which trends in the coffee space do you have your eye on that maybe aren’t getting the mainstream attention they should be commanding? Looking at consumption trends, market movements, sustainability, etc? 

As mentioned before, I think the industry is continuing to develop the way it looks at, talks about, and promotes sustainability. I think this will continue, but I think this is something that we are already seeing and are aware of. 

This is a tough one to put into a couple of sentences. One of the areas that I think will see the most movement in the years ahead is how we talk about quality. We are coming from a period of time that has seen exponential growth in the quality of the coffee we are drinking, both from a production side (varietals, fermentation, etc.) and the consumption side (third wave, single serve, e-commerce, etc.). I think the way we talk about coffee quality is ripe for another quantum leap. 

For someone trying to break into coffee, or looking to work on some personal development to succeed in the industry – what advice would you have? 

I would tell people looking to find a way into the industry to lead with their heart and follow their passion. Be humble, and be ready to take opportunities that present themselves, even if they may be a step backward or sideways in some regards; if it provides a new opportunity to learn something you haven’t had before, go for it. Don’t get caught up in titles or just look for the biggest pay bump. The world of coffee is vast and deep and the path is not always straightforward. Zig. Zag. Try something different. Speak to someone you’ve never spoken to. Take opportunities to volunteer your time. The NCA Day of Service is an amazing way to meet people from different segments of the coffee world. It can be an incredibly bonding experience. 

A special thanks to Matt Daks for his generosity and willingness to share his story with the NCA Next Gen community!

Coffee consumption reaches high in 2022

By Dig Insights, NCA Market Research Partner

NCA Members have access to the Fall 2022 NCDT Report Highlights webinar in which Cheryl Hung of Dig Insights gives a detailed explanation of the report’s findings. That webinar can be found here.


Coffee remains America’s favorite beverage, more popular than both tap and bottled water.

Coffee consumption among Americans continues its two-decade high, according to exclusive consumer polling released by the National Coffee Association (NCA). Two-thirds (66%) of Americans drank at least one coffee beverage in the past day, holding steady with increased levels seen earlier in the year. Once again, July 2022 sees more Americans drinking coffee in the past day than any other beverage, including bottled water (60%) and tap water (46%).

The Fall 2022 National Coffee Data Trends (NCDT) report prepared by Dig Insights on behalf of the NCA found that Americans continue to have a taste for specialty coffee despite tough economic times and rising inflation. 42% of Americans drank a specialty coffee beverage in the past day in July 2022, on par with past-day consumption of traditional coffee (43%).

Cold brew coffee, included in the specialty beverage category, experiences new growth. Past-week consumption of cold brew rises to 20% of Americans in July 2022, growing from 16% past-week levels in January 2022.

For the place of coffee preparation, in-home coffee preparation continues to be most prevalent for Americans, with 82% of past-day coffee drinkers having a coffee prepared at home.

Out-of-home coffee consumption is recovering strongly

Out-of-home preparation remains softer than pre-COVID levels with 28% of past-day coffee drinkers having had a coffee outside the home. However, signs of recovery can be seen in certain out-of-home coffee venues. Consumption of coffee prepared at cafés and coffee shops grows to 14% among past-day drinkers, an increase of 20% from January 2022 levels.

Other key Fall 2022 NCDT findings include:

  • Past-day drinkers are most commonly adding milk or milk alternatives (29%) and liquid creamer (25%) to their cups and sweetening with white sugar (19%) and artificial sweetener (10%).
  • 40% of past-day coffee drinkers use a drip coffee maker for brewing, making this the most common preparation method followed by single-cup systems (24%), cold brewing (14%), and espresso machines (11%). 
  • For past-day drinkers brewing at home, 35% purchase coffee at the grocery store, followed by mass merchandiser (26%), club store (13%), and online (13%).
  • Certain coffee claims show the potential to motivate purchase. Over one-half of Americans (56%) say they are more likely to buy a coffee with the claim “fair price paid to the farmer”.

NCA Members have access to the Fall 2022 NCDT Report Highlights webinar in which Cheryl Hung of Dig Insights gives a detailed explanation of the report’s findings. That webinar can be found here.