Words of Wisdom from NCA Board Members: Part I

As Next Gen-ers in coffee, we are fortunate to be surrounded by so many remarkable industry leaders, many of whom serve the coffee community via their roles on the NCA Board of Directors. Michelle Dunaway, Sales Executive at Mercon Specialty and NCA Next Gen Council member, rounded up some great words of wisdom from several of these leaders. From advice on career advancement to what they’re currently reading, check out these NCA Board Members’ words of wisdom below.

Bruce Goldsmith

President & CEO of Baronet Coffee, a 4th generation coffee roaster with 100 years of history defined by tradition, family & commitment to exceed expectations.

Bruce has served as Chair of the NCA Board of Directors and is currently an active NCA board member.

He has been in coffee since 1988 when he started doing research into “gourmet” coffee, what we now know as Specialty Coffee.

His advice to the younger generation in coffee: “Get involved, don’t be afraid to ask questions [and] voice your interest, so that when an opportunity arises you are prepared to seize it!

The NCA is a 110-year-old organization and is trying to evolve … so get involved and look for opportunities, meet people — you never know what will come out [of it].”

Favorite radio shows: “How I built this” by NPR

John Boyle

President & CEO / Managing Director at Massimo Zanetti Beverage USA

John has been involved with the NCA for 14 years, 10 years as a board member and has been with MZB for 15+ years.

His advice: love what you do and get involved! 

“I think it is very important to enjoy what you do. Certainly, being in the coffee business, it does help to love coffee and to understand the entire supply chain all the way back to origin; the history, where coffee comes from; there is a lot to learn [about] how the whole supply chain works.”

Be passionate, be driven and be aggressive, speak your mind, but always do it with a perspective – [understand] where you can really make an impact and drive change [to] affect the broader industry.”

Career advice: “Work hard and deliver on your commitments.”

Favorite NCA memories: “Seeing how the NCA has evolved and the true leadership position it has taken as the voice of the coffee industry. Prop 65 was a moment when the industry rallied together, focused on an issue, and the outcome benefitted the whole industry.  This is the picture of success.”

Matt Saurage

4th Generation family owner of Community Coffee Company

Matt started his career in coffee at a young age and realized coffee is an industry experiencing constant change.  Evolution is inevitable, so he advises to “learn continually, challenge yourself and be open to new ideas.  In the coffee industry, your reputation is your most valuable asset.”

Other tips:

  • Be a lifelong learner
  • Listen
  • Surround yourself with people with different ideas and perspectives
  • Take action!

Matt travels with his AeroPress and brews Community Coffee signature Dark Roast blend – his favorite.

“To the future of coffee, salut!”

Miguel Moreno

Head of Coffee business, Grupo Nutresa

Advice on finding advancing your career in coffee: “Find the right place and person to talk about your career plans — about what you believe you can do and what you can achieve.”

“Ask questions: what do you need to do better and what do you need to do to improve?”

“Go beyond your role, when you are in a meeting have an opinion, be present. Every topic matters, always have an [integrated] view of the information and everything that you have access to.”

Books he recommends:

  • Think Again – Adam Grant
  • What works, Gender equality by design – Iris Bohnet
  • Exponential Organizations – Salim Ismail

Paul Feldman

Managing Director at Brown Brothers Harriman (Commodity Finance)

“Be curious, there are no bad questions.”

“Make sure you always try as much as you can to be a good listener, but don’t hesitate to challenge — always being respectful.”

Paul never thought or planned he would become a banker. “Don’t plan your career path [based on] where you think it has to go… having a plan is great, [but] recognize the serendipity involved in life. Be ready, if necessary, to have your plan dramatically change or even dissolve over time.”

Michelle Burns

Executive Vice President-Global Coffee, Tea and Cocoa at Starbucks Coffee Company

Michelle has been in the coffee industry for 30 years. Getting to where she is now required many moves within the company that expanded her knowledge in business development, relationship management, negotiation and operations, store development, and more — all driven by the willingness to lean into opportunities.

She says the essential ingredient for developing relationships is having shared goals. There must be a benefit to everyone in a partnership; gaining mutual understanding and the support that coming together creates.

To grow your career, she advises to be “driven, intentional, purposeful … [and] open.”

“Knowledge of the issues is important, but it’s also critical to remember who we serve and why: the producers and every other link in the value chain. The nuance of understanding all the parts of the value chain is critically important and valuable, as it is our duty as an industry to truly understand the magnitude of the issues we are facing and in order to create a sustainable future for coffee.”

On diversity, she advises you to “be inclusive and hear alternate points of view; diversity must absolutely be part of the future.”

What Michelle is currently reading: Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard – Chip Heath & Dan Heath

A Blast from the Past: Looking Back at Past NCA Conventions

By: Nora Johnson, Next Gen Council Member and Commodities Manager at Massimo Zanetti Beverage USA

For many in the coffee industry, the month of March has become synonymous with the National Coffee Association Annual Convention. It’s the time of year when highly anticipated economic and trade outlooks are shared, former colleagues are reunited, keynote speakers inspire, and new industry participants get their first taste of the special and unique world that is the coffee industry.

As you know, throughout the entire year, the NCA works tirelessly on behalf of our beloved industry and the Association’s membership. From crucial advocacy to in-depth research and toolkit preparation, from Member Alerts to educational webinars, the benefits of NCA membership are endless; the Annual Convention is another one of those cherished benefits that has become a hallmark event for the coffee industry.

Before we dive into the excitement for NCA 2022, let’s first look back a few years at past NCA Annual Conventions to see how we got here today!

Going “all the way” back to 2019, (author’s note: I think we can say “all the way” given how far we have come throughout the course of pandemic years!), we find ourselves in Atlanta, Georgia. The theme for NCA 2019 was “Crossroads,” and the conference featured three key-note sessions:

  • Shannon Huffman Polson, Author of, “The Grit Project,” and one of the first women to fly an Apache helicopter in the US Army
  • Joel Sartore, Nature Photographer and National Geographic Magazine Contributor
  • Steve Battista, Former Sr. Vice President, Brand, Under Armor, Inc.

For a comparison of the times, at the time of the NCA Annual Convention in 2019, the coffee market was trading around $0.9685.

Heading into March 5-7, 2020, in Austin, Texas, we now find ourselves at the 2020 Annual Convention. It is likely that you remember it well as it was quite possibly the last in-person event that you attended prior to the onset of the pandemic in the United States. Although we did not know at that time just how much our lives would change over the next year, the theme for the Convention was very fitting “The Challenge of Change.”

NCA 2020 featured sessions on a variety of topics, including two sessions that are highly anticipated each year:

  • 2020 Vision with Scott Clemons, Brown Brothers Harriman 
  • Preview to the National Coffee Data Trends 2020

At the time of the NCA Annual Convention in 2020, the coffee market was trading around $1.1135.

Enter: 2021. Given the impact of the pandemic, gathering in person for a large event was not an option, yet the “magic of March” for those of us looking forward to the NCA Annual Convention carried on through a new, virtual format. The theme for the 2021 Convention, “Together Toward Tomorrow,” was certainly one of hope, and this message resonated throughout different sessions, such as:

  • Ideation to Action: Sharing the Risks and Rewards of Sustainability in the Coffee Value Chain
  • Superhero Leadership During Uncertain Times, featuring Brett Culp, award-winning documentary filmmaker and founder of the non-profit, The Rising Heroes Project

At the time of the NCA Annual Convention in 2021, the coffee market was trading around $1.3280.

So what’s up next? That’s right – the NCA Virtual Annual Convention 2022, “A World of Possibilities,” is just around the corner on March 8-10, 2022. For more information, check out the details of the Virtual Convention here: https://www.ncausa.org/Industry-Resources/NCA-Annual-Convention

See you there!

Logistically Speaking, Part 3: Janet Colley of The Dupuy Group

Bent Dietrich, NCA Next Genner and Coffee Trader with the American Coffee Corporation, recently sat down with Janet Colley, Vice President of the Dupuy Group, for her take on the history of Dupuy Group, the current logistics landscape for coffee, Covid-19’s impact on the supply chain, and more.  

Before we get to the scary part (supply chain crises – *gulp*), tell us a little about yourself, and about the Dupuy Group.

My great grandfather, John Dupuy, started Dupuy Storage & Forwarding in New Orleans in July of 1936.  My dad still has one of his business cards that says, “Coffee Exclusively.”  Dupuy has been dedicated to the coffee industry for almost 90 years.  I proudly represent the 4th generation of ownership.  My Dad, Allan, is still the current President / CEO.  We are the last two remaining family members currently working for Dupuy.  It is a great source of pride for me to be able to continue representing such a longstanding and well-respected company.

The warehousing industry has been one of those silent pillars in the supply chain that never really shut down during the pandemic. How did Covid impact Dupuy at the outset of the pandemic? What was the initial response?

Thankfully, Dupuy has been blessed with extremely committed and loyal workers.  However, as the pandemic progresses, we are certainly starting to feel the labor issues that are plaguing the industry.  Wages are going up, available skilled labor is harder to find, and we have unfortunately started to feel the pain of these challenges.  We are working hard to make sure to create and maintain an inviting and stable culture for our team.

How has Dupuy been impacted by the supply chain bottlenecks, starting with the back-ups at the ports? How has that changed over the past several months?

Once again, these are challenges that we have started to see recently.  Unfortunately, it is generally our customers (importers, roasters) who are affected the most, so we are doing our best to mitigate those issues as best we can.  Trucking shortages, port equipment unavailability… these are just a few examples of problems that we are being asked to help solve on a daily basis.  As we all know, these are issues that are prevalent coast to coast, port to port.

So once the coffee has arrived at Dupuy’s warehouses, I know Dupuy is active in blending, sampling, and performing other services for your clients. Have these services been significantly delayed or affected by today’s logistical climate? 

As a matter of fact, the demand for our value-added services has increased significantly and has remained steady for several months.  It has been a very interesting trend to watch. 

Throughout the economy, we see costs going up. As a coffee trader, I see the coffee futures market up double compared to last year. Freight rates have tripled or more, and differentials are higher. Long story short, the cost of doing business has gone up significantly.  Has this been the case for Dupuy? If so, what has changed?

Absolutely.  In the service industry, we see price increases in almost every aspect of our business.  From insurance to stretch wrap to pallets, prices are rising consistently, and we are having to pass some of those costs along to our customers, unfortunately.  No one in customer service likes to raise prices, but we do take comfort knowing that we are certainly not alone.

What changes have you seen on the trucking and transportation side?

I’ll probably give the standard answer of anyone in any logistics-based business these days… fewer drivers, higher prices – “’nuff said”!

With bottlenecks and shipping delays making news headlines and thereby increasing consumer awareness, are there any other challenges that aren’t widely reported that the warehouses have had to overcome?

I honestly think that everyone these days is familiar with the issues that we encounter in our industry.  From the exporter to the importer to the consumer, no one is immune from the truth.  We are not experiencing anything that any other service provider is not.

What is one thing about the Dupuy (or about coffee warehouses in general) that you wish more people knew?

I love telling the story of Dupuy.  I love that we are family owned and operated.  And I love for people to know our history.  In addition to our history, I want people to see our vision and our future.  We are not just a warehouse.  We are not just four walls with people unloading, storing, and loading.  We are a partner in this industry.  We are a vital part of the supply chain and we can offer services that defy the traditional perception of a “warehouse.”

How to get the most out of your eCommerce digital content

This is a guest post from HINGE Global, which recently held a webinar on how digital content can help you achieve your coffee eCommerce goals. NCA Members can view a recording of the webinar here, and learn more about Hinge’s Amazon Coffee Data Dashboard here.


In the US, eCommerce has grown by 32.4% since the start of the pandemic, and the US Department of Commerce shows that by the end of 2021, eCommerce will make up 13% of total retail sales (up from just 4% 10 years ago). 

The “endless aisles” of eCommerce means that consumers have easy access to millions of products that meet their specific needs. In 2021, there were 36,263 coffee products across 1,769 different brands, over 100X more than a typical grocery store!

All this means that winning in eCommerce requires a different approach than traditional retail stores.  E-Commerce managers need to make sure that the products can be discovered by consumers (via search), that consumers understand the product benefits (via the product detail page), and that consumers are persuaded to buy (i.e., conversion). Plus, consumer expectations continue to rise. Consumers shop multiple channels and are constantly comparing product offerings across sites.  This means that best-in-class digital content is critical to helping brands win in eCommerce.

1. Great copywriting (and keywords) helps your product be found in search.  The goal of copywriting to improve your brand’s organic search rank within the category.  Improving organic search results will also improve the return on advertising spending, because your marketing dollars will not have to work as hard. The secret to great copywriting is the artful blend of channel-specific keyword research, coupled with persuasive and clear writing, all while staying true to your brand’s voice. 

2. Product photography and lifestyle images drive conversioneCommerce shoppers spend less than four seconds before they click on a specific product listing. This is why it is critical to have eye-catching and appealing digital images. Product images need to grab shoppers’ attention, communicate the key benefits, and persuade consumers to buy the product.  Given the importance of product images, we strongly recommend that eCommerce sellers have at least 5 images per product listing.  To maximize eCommerce sales, all images should be created with a mobile-first approach.

3. Enhanced Brand Content (also known as Rich Media or A+ Content) boosts conversions by 12%-36%, according to Walmart.com. In fact, some retailers are starting to mandate the use of Enhanced Brand Content because of the improved customer experience.  Enhanced Brand Content typically sits below-the-fold, just before product reviews.  Because of this position, many consumers will scroll to this section while they do additional product research before making an online purchase.


HINGE GLOBAL is a leading full-service eCommerce agency, with particularly strong experience in Coffee and Foodservice.  Their team of eCommerce experts can help you optimize your online product detail pages, copywriting, and enhanced content.  Additionally, through their partnership with Salsify, HINGE GLOBAL can publish all your digital content to all your eCommerce sites, including Amazon.com, Walmart.com, Target.com, Shopify, and more. Reach out to HINGE GLOBAL for more information at contact@hingeglobal.com.

NCA Member Spotlight: Rodmac Coffee Company

rodmac-coffee.com | rodmac web

Company: Rodmac Coffee Company
Location: Miami, FL – United States
NCA Member Since: 2005
Website: www.rodmac-coffee.com

What does Rodmac Coffee Company do?

We trade green and roasted coffee.

What drives your passion for this industry?  

Having been born into a family dedicated to the cultivation and commercialization of coffee.

The best part of working in coffee is:

Drinking your own coffee.

What’s your perfect cup of coffee?

I keep looking for the perfect cup.

Why did you join the NCA?  

I received good advice from a good friend.

Best advice you’ve ever received:

Join the NCA.

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

Climate change.

NCA Next Gen Interview with The Partnership for Gender Equity

Kimberly Easson

Danielle Wood, NCA Next Genner and Social Impact Manager at Inspire Brands, recently sat down with Kimberly Easson, founder and CEO of The Partnership for Gender Equity, for a discussion on her organization’s mission and the issues facing women in coffee. This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.


Unfortunately, gender gaps and inequities are prevalent in coffee-growing regions around the world. While men traditionally transport and sell the coffee, women are frequently responsible for the work affecting coffee quality and yields. Despite their crucial role in the coffee growing process, women are often excluded from decision-making and denied access to critical resources necessary for their success.  

That’s where the Partnership for Gender Equity (PGE) comes in.

Danielle Wood: What is the Partnership for Gender Equity, and what does it stand for?

Kimberly Easson: PGE believes that gender equity is the foundation for healthy families, communities and a sustainable supply chain. PGE’s mission is to shine the spotlight on the importance of gender equity and work across coffee and cocoa sectors to embed approaches to drive transformative change. Recognizing that farming women and their families are overburdened and underappreciated, PGE wants to make a difference in their lives. Gender Equity is about everyone, not just women and PGE’s unique approach focuses on the entire family structu

DW: How did you come up with the idea for PGE?

KE: I’ve been working in coffee for 30 years. I started by coincidence when I lived in Costa Rica, working with Café Britt and then never wanted to leave. My focus has always been on building stronger relationships along the supply chain – in particular through my work with FairTrade and the Coffee Quality Institute (CQI). At CQI, I helped to expand the partnership base and financial resources of the organization. I realized they lacked a strategic approach to gender in their funding proposals – a growing requirement of donors – and this became the foundation for setting up PGE. I wanted CQI’s development work be inclusive of gender equity and recognized the opportunity to foster a greater partnership in the industry to drive change. I spearheaded the initial research in 2015 for the industry to use as a helpful resource to better understand why gender equity was important. Pretty quickly, we realized that the opportunity for PGE was starting to grow beyond the scope of CQI and so we agreed to “spin off” PGE as a separate non-profit organization, which happened officially in April 2019.

DW: Can you speak to some of the challenges associated with gender equity in coffee?

KE: Gender Equity is a complex topic, but thankfully now there is more awareness. It is a significant human rights, social justice and sustainability issue. Companies see the importance but do not know what to do, which makes it difficult for them to take action. There is a lack of data and no real clarity about what women do in the supply chain. Very few countries are collecting sex-disaggregated data about the roles of women in coffee. The embedded culture of coffee farming was set up to be male-dominated and driven, yet we know women do a significant portion of the labor. To support the success of farming families and communities, and the sector as whole to be more resilient, we need to shine light on farming as a family business and value the work of men and women equally.

DW: What is something about women in coffee that you want more people to know?

KE: The coffee supply chain is gender biased. PGE is focusing on producing countries in origin but up and down the supply chain, bias exists. Increased gender equity means families work more as a team. Better communication and working in this different way can improve income and the overall wellbeing of a family. There are also many benefits for men in achieving greater gender equity. For example, there is a lot of pressure on men to bear all financial responsibility for the household. This burden can be reduced when both men and women have the opportunity to earn income, and share decision-making about how to best spend that money to meet family needs.

DW: Can you speak to some of the projects you’ve been working on like the Virtual Learning Journey and the Gender Equity Index?

KE: The Virtual Learning Journey is a way for companies to directly engage with what’s happening in their supply chain. It is a 10-week online series that brings together men and women from different farmer organizations to explore perspectives and better understand gender equity. Their organizations take a diagnostic and receive a report from PGE that serves as a snapshot of their current performance on gender equity. As a result, producer organizations are able to understand the general need for gender equity and create a roadmap of where they’d like to go.

This road map highlights opportunities where industry can invest directly to support their efforts – such as investing in a masculinities training, or improving a gender policy. The resulting conversations about gender equity improve understanding of the issue and strengthen the relationships with buyers. This gives companies a chance to invest in opportunities to advance gender equity. The voice of the roaster is key in driving change,  since farmer organizations will take action on an issue if they know it is important to roasters.

The Gender Equity Index (GEI) is the evolution of the first diagnostic tool created for farmer organizations. The work with farmer organizations is critical, yet we realized that if we want to really have a transformative impact in the global sector, we need to work with different levels of the supply chain. This tool is used to advise extension and advisory service providers – including trading companies, development organizations, and producing country extension agencies – about their performance on gender equity. We provide recommendations and work with these companies to create a gender equity development plan to ensure their services are not gender biased – with the goal that every dollar invested in coffee is invested in a way that is gender equitable, and ultimately reaches, benefits and empowers women.

Industry members recognize that extension services broadly have room for improvement. The GEI supports service providers to improve their services by enabling them to better understand the needs and opportunities of their target beneficiaries / clients – both women and men. With greater clarity about the needs and issues that impact their clients, they can better target services to respond to those needs. As a result the overall benefit and impact of those services improves. This also corresponds to higher return on investment of those services.


To learn more about PGE’s work, visit https://www.genderincoffee.org/.

Logistically Speaking Part 2: Port of Virginia, Not Just Any Port in the Storm

By: Nora Johnson, Commodities Manager at Massimo Zanetti Beverage USA and NCA Next Gen Communications Committee Chair


News from ports around the world has taken the globe by storm over the past 18 months – from record-breaking cargo volumes to record-breaking counts of ships at berth, everywhere you turn you hear shipping-related news. Despite these headlines, how familiar are you with port operations and the many roles and responsibilities that come with it?

Nora Johnson, Next Gen Council Member and Commodities Manager at Massimo Zanetti Beverage USA, had the opportunity to speak with Joe Harris, Vice President and Spokesman for The Port of Virginia®. Read on to learn about how the Port of Virginia, along with so many other ports around the world, has adapted and leaned into this new phase of logistics and shipping.  

The interview below has been condensed and edited for clarity with approval from the interviewee.

Shipping containers at the Port of Virginia

Nora Johnson, NCA Next Gen: Can you share some history on the Port of Virginia? How did the Port get to where it is today?

Joe: Back in the ‘60s, all of the individual terminals in our harbor at that time – Portsmouth Marine Terminal, Newport News Marine Terminal, and Norfolk International Terminals – were owned and operated by their respective cities; they were competitors to each other. In addition to competing for business, they would go up to Richmond (Virginia) and compete for money.

In the mid-to-late ‘70s, the Governor of Virginia suggested that we look to unify the ports under a common flag in order to leverage them as a whole as opposed to utilizing them as individual pieces. He was successful in getting that done – the state bought the respective terminals from the different cities and unified them under the Virginia Port Authority flag with Virginia International Terminals (VIT) acting as the operator for all the terminals. Then, in 2010, we leased the Richmond Marine Terminal, and 2 years later we leased the Virginia International Gateway (VIG).

We, Virginia International Terminals, now own and operate Norfolk International Terminals, Newport News Marine Terminal, Portsmouth Marine Terminal, Virginia Inland Port, and Hampton Roads Chassis Pool, and we lease Virginia International Gateway and Richmond Marine Terminal.

This really creates a collaborative atmosphere. By owning and operating all the terminals, we can share information and solve problems quickly and with ease, as we do not have any other competing economic interests that we have to satisfy. We call it the “Virginia Model,” and right now, it is yielding significant positive results for us.

Port of Virginia’s terminals.

Nora: I had never really considered the competing ownership interests and how that could impact port operations.

Joe: The twin ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach are the biggest ports in our nation. In that harbor, there are 13 or 14 terminals that are each owned and operated by different entities. While they are neighbors, they are competitors too. Contractually, there are obligations with different shippers, motor carriers, and railroads. At LA/Long Beach, to bring cargo that was contracted by and intended for one terminal into a neighboring terminal and to sort out all those pieces quickly and economically could be nearly impossible.

The LA/Long Beach situation is no single entity’s fault; LA/Long Beach handles around 10 million units in one year. All of the East Coast ports combined can only handle about 8.5 million units. That’s how big and significant LA/Long Beach is.

Nora: The Port of Virginia has been an active and dedicated supporter of Virginia’s efforts to become the “Caffeine Capital.” Can you elaborate on the Port’s role in this endeavor and its overall involvement within the coffee industry?

Joe: Coffee had been coming into Virginia for years, when suddenly, we saw this cluster growing. We got behind it as best that we could bringing in the warehouses, getting the ICE (Intercontinental Exchange) designation, and really nurturing the growth of the coffee industry.

What happened was rather organic and outside of our control. One roaster saw another roaster doing well and saw available land and labor and said, “Oh, wow! You all are only 20 miles from a port? This must be a good place.” This reaction started the “it must be good over there effect” and it has by and large stuck, even with movement within the industry. It has been a good piece of business for us, and it had led to good relationships that we are always happy to support however we can.

From a larger perspective, much of the cargo that comes into New York stays in the New York area to serve that population. Aside from the coffee business here in Suffolk, Virginia, so much of our cargo goes outside of Virginia so it is a different dynamic in terms of the market. We say that we serve the nation’s heartland: Chicago, Detroit, Cleveland, Dayton, Louisville, Cincinnati, Kansas City, and St. Louis, among other cities.

Nora: How has COVID impacted the Port of Virginia? Would you walk us through the different “phases” of COVID since March 2020 through today and how each phase impacted the Port differently? 

Joe: When COVID was at its peak, we saw cargo volumes fall off like we could never have forecasted; manufacturing and shipping dried up. It’s important to note that the Port of Virginia never shut down, never laid off a person, and never cut any benefits. We kept working, but we just weren’t moving as much cargo.

Then, vaccines began to roll out and some confidence returned. Last September, we saw volumes go from a little bit of upwards growth to shooting steeply up and they have not since come back down. The record volumes continue. Some of this volume is “catch-up cargo” that was ordered during the COVID slump and never made it ashore originally, and another portion of the volume is related to cargo that was ordered by many of the companies and retailers who did not want to get caught short again. In turn, they bought high volumes and stuck it in their warehouses. As we speak today, we are in the thick of moving retail cargo for the holiday season. You have a lot of different needs piling on top of each other which is creating a lot of cargo that is moving towards the United States.

Nora: What did the Port of Virginia do to accommodate these record volumes? Staffing and operations all had to change, right?

It did not – and it’s really a matter of timing! The first summer after COVID hit, we had just finished up an $800 million expansion, renovation, and modernization of our two primary container terminals – Virginia International Gateway and Norfolk International Terminals. The initial slow down at the start of COVID allowed us to get our hands on this new “animal” that we had; then, when the volume spiked up, all of that infrastructure, investment, and training really paid off. The modernization, bringing in 21st century technology, and having a truly talented and seasoned operations team made a meaningful difference. The terminal is only as good as the people running it. In addition to that, we have great labor relations with our union. The union never took a day off, and to this day they are out there hustling. The men and women show up night and day, rain or shine, hot or cold, and they go to work and make it happen. That is critical! All of these factors are really working in our favor right now. Every day we are looking at our operation, trying to tweak it and figure out where we can be a little more efficient, a little more productive, and always be safe. We look at what we can do tomorrow, next week, and even next month. Since we own our terminals, we can really look at things holistically – we can say, “We are doing really well over there, so how can we translate that effort and make it happen over here?”

Regional map showing the strategic location of the Port of Virginia

Nora: Would you say that being agile is critical for the Port right now?

Joe: Yes – and “agile” is a word that we are using often right now. We can see a challenge or a problem, gather around the table, and truly have an answer within a couple of hours and then begin implementing the solution that afternoon or the next morning. Not all ports can do that.

Nora: Do you talk and communicate with other ports regularly?

Joe: Everyone is willing to put in a collaborative effort, but it is less about what a different port is doing to solve a specific problem, but more so about understanding volumes and planning. For For instance, if we know that a ship is going to be arriving in Georgia and that it is already off schedule, we will call Georgia and see how long it’s going to be in port there so that we can get all of that data into our system and be better prepared.

Nora: Wow. It’s hard to imagine how this will all come to an end!

Joe: It’s going to take patience and a lot of hard work, but it will end. It takes time for any amount of capital to translate into productivity. That’s nobody’s fault – that’s just how it is – building, marketing, integration; it is a conundrum, but there is an end.

Nora: How do these record volume levels and the experiences of the past year impact future plans for the Port of Virginia?

The plans that we have are not in response to what we are seeing today, but the timing is good, and it will benefit us if we ever go through another period like this. Right now, we are investing $350 million in deepening the channels that support the Port of Virginia. Once that is completed in 2024, our channels in the harbor will be 55 feet deep, the ocean approaches will be 56 and 59 feet deep, and the channels will be wider. These wider, deeper channels will allow the big ships to pass – we will have two-way traffic of the biggest ships that are currently afloat. We will be able to hang the flag of the deepest port on the US East Coast!

Our future plans don’t stop there… This winter, we will begin to redevelop the railroad operation at Norfolk International Terminals; we are going to double the rail capacity there. We will also be renovating the North Side of Norfolk International Terminals. We intend to make improvements to expand our capacity up at Virginia Inland Port while also looking to add in more barge service at Richmond Marine Terminal. We are marketing Portsmouth Marine Terminal as a multi-use facility, bringing in tenants that are going to serve the offshore wind industry – we are going to help to grow an entirely new industry.

We are continually spending and renovating – it is a never-ending cycle of investment and reinvestment, and you must do that to stay competitive and relevant.

Nora: With bottlenecks and shipping delays now making news headlines and increasing consumer awareness, are there any other challenges that aren’t being seen by the “common eye” or that aren’t being widely discussed that the Port has had to overcome?

Joe: What many don’t understand is that there are so many pieces involved within the shipping and logistics supply chain that all must work well together in order to prevent any backup.

One of the issues that the Port of Virginia is keeping a close eye on is the availability of chassis. A chassis is the wheel set that a truck driver uses that the container gets put on top of. We own and operate about 16,000 chassis. Typically, a truck driver comes in and rents a chassis, normally for 2-3 days, and does all the business that they can over that time and then they return it. Currently, we are seeing chassis on the road for 12 days at a time! Warehouses are packed, and with labor shortages at warehouses, the containers don’t get unloaded as quickly and the chassis don’t get returned as quickly. That means that we don’t have as many of those units coming back to the pool so that the next driver can get one. We are trying to add chassis to our fleet, but a lot of the steel for chassis is cut in China and must be shipped to the US, and then they must be assembled, so at times, we are challenged by the supply chain too.

I do always go back to the “Virginia Model” that I mentioned before. Imagine that we say, “We need more chassis, what can we do?” Well, we might open the chassis yard for returns all day on a Saturday. We don’t have to figure out how to do that – we own the chassis yard and the chassis. It is as easy as putting the message out to the trade saying, “Open on Saturday, please bring back available chassis.”

Nora: Earlier in the year, all eyes were on the Suez Canal and the obstruction caused by the Ever Given. Did this have any impact – direct or indirect – on the Port of Virginia?

Joe: We saw a couple of delayed vessels, so yes, it had an impact, but it didn’t really disrupt our way of doing business. We had 6 or 8 ships that were delayed, but they were delayed to the point that at least we knew where they were and that they would be here on this date so we could arrange our schedules to accommodate them.

Nora: It seems like that is a major point that you just made there; you knew what and where the issue was with the Suez Canal, whereas today, all of the delays are interconnected and span across different ports that are having unknown interruptions making schedules unpredictable. Would that be a fair distinction, anticipated versus unanticipated delays and disruptions?

Joe: Yes – I read recently that only 18% of the world’s container fleet is on time. The remaining 82% is off schedule. To every port, that presents a real issue. In the larger sense, trade likes predictability and right now it is very unpredictable. You are constantly tracking vessels and trying to predict ETAs. It is a real challenge for planning. We are very fortunate that we have been able to plan and accommodate both ships that are on and off schedule without having to put ships out to anchor to wait.

Nora: Has the Port of Virginia had any situations like that throughout this time, with ships at anchor waiting for availability to unload?

Joe: No, we have not. We have had instances where we contact ships and ask them to slow their speed a bit. If we have vessels on berth and know that there isn’t going to be a slot for a ship that is steaming down to us, we may ask them to pull their throttle back some so that they do not have to anchor and wait. The captains and ship owners would much rather slow down than anchor and wait as well.

Nora: The ultimate question… and one to which there may not be answer! What do you see in the future for 2022 in terms of the Port of Virginia and global shipping and logistics?

Joe: Cargo owners are realizing that they must be more diverse in their supply chains. So that might mean moving 1/3 of cargo to the West Coast, 1/3 to the Gulf Coast, and 1/3 to the East Coast. Our goal is to keep any new cargo with us – we call it “sticky” cargo. Regardless of any disruption or natural disaster on any one of those coasts, you would then still have cargo coming in. This kind of supply chain diversification would allow the cargo owner to keep that cargo moving.

2022 will probably be as busy as 2021, at least for the first half of the year. As an industry, we are trying to catch up while running full speed ahead. We are not forecasting a slowdown for next year. In the bigger picture, the public will need to be patient and understand that what the supply chain is faced with today is not anyone’s fault nor is it any one industry’s fault. It is not political, there is not one node along the supply chain that is holding something up. It is truly the perfect storm, and there is a whole lot of effort being put into resolving it. It will correct, but it will just take some time.

Nora: What is one thing about the Port of Virginia (or about Ports in general) that you wish more people knew?

Joe: People don’t always recognize the role that ports play in the American economy. 20 years ago, I sat with our then port-director at lunch and he explained that all you really need to know about shipping is that if your house was built after the 1980s, seven eighths of what is in it and seven eights of what it is made of came in on a container ship. The port industry is truly critical to the economy with the amount of goods that come in on container ships.


Addendum: One positive takeaway from the shipping and logistics challenges and opportunities of the past 18 months are the lessons learned. After speaking with Joe Harris and hearing about these times from the eyes of the Port of Virginia, I can personally attest to the value that exists in learning from the experiences of those in different areas of the supply chain.

In sharing these stories and experiences through the Logistically Speaking series, and on behalf of the National Coffee Association Next Gen Council, we hope that you too may benefit from hearing about the different lessons learned and experiences had across the supply chain.

Many thanks to Joe Harris and the Port of Virginia for their participation in Logistically Speaking: Part 2!

Origin Spotlight – Our Coffees (Brazil)

By Alma Likic, Marketing Manager, PLITEK and NCA Next Gen member

Alma Likic, Marketing Manager at PLITEK and NCA Next Gen member, interviewed Nathalia Martins Azzi, a second-generation coffee grower and exporter at Our Coffees, for a discussion about the history of the company and the current coffee growing situation Brazil. 

First, a little history about Brazilian coffee:

Brazil has been the world’s largest coffee grower and producer for more than 150 years. The first coffee bush in Brazil was planted by Lieutenant Francisco de Melo Palheta in 1727. According to the legend, the Portuguese were looking for a cut of the coffee market but could not obtain seeds from bordering French Guiana, due to the governor’s unwillingness to export the seeds. Lieutenant Palheta was sent to French Guiana on a diplomatic mission to resolve a border dispute when he seduced the Guianese’s governor’s wife who secretly gave him a bouquet spiked with seeds which he was able to smuggle across the border. Coffee was then spread from northern Brazil to the mountainous southeastern states where it thrived because of the temperature, heavy rainfall, and a distinctive dry season which provided optimum conditions for its growth.

Brazil’s 7,844,000,000 pounds of coffee grown each year (80% of which is arabica) make up 30% of the world’s supply, but an astounding third stays in the country. This does not come as a surprise as 98% of Brazilian households drink coffee.

A coffee powerhouse with incredibly diverse coffee options from basic commodity coffee to the world-stunning specialty coffee offers different varieties, some natural, some hybrid, some cultivated in a lab—designed for specific climate conditions including Mundo Novo, Yellow Bourbon, Caturra and Catuai.

Brazilian coffee is processed by the wet (washed), dry (natural), semi-washed (pulped natural), and recently emerged re-passed (raisins) methods. Most coffee beans are still processed with dry method since Brazil is one of the few countries in the world that has the appropriate weather to do so successfully.

Our Coffees “Coffee Lab”

Wet (washed): This process is used to remove the four layers surrounding the coffee bean. It is done in small portions. The coffee beans using this method are cleaner, vibrant, and fruitier.

Dry (natural): The coffee cherries are placed in the water, and those floating are removed. The remaining coffee cherries are dried in concrete slabs. The coffee beans in this process are heavy-bodied, sweet, smooth, and complex.

Semi-washed (Pulped natural): This method involves pulping the coffee but skipping the fermentation phase to remove the skin. Thus, the coffee beans in this method gain the characteristics of coffee beans, which had undergone the dry and wet processes.

Re-passed (raisins). In this process, the coffee cherry floaters –(typically coffee beans that have dried on the tree)- float to the surface and are then discarded from the rest. The coffee beans in this method are much sweeter than the traditional pulped coffee.

  • Flavor: Complex, earth, spice, sweet, gentle acidity, lime, wine, floral
  • Processing: Natural, Pulp Natural, Honey, Washed
  • Main Growing Regions: Minas Gerais, Espirito Santo, São Paulo, Bahia
  • Harvest: April to September

Tell us about family history / farm?

José Maria comes from a deep-rooted history of coffee tradition. As a boy, his grandfather had a small coffee farm where his father and uncles used to work. José has many great memories of picking cherries with his family and playing around the coffee trees with his grandfather. In pursuit of a better life, at the age of seventeen, José Maria moved to the city of Belo Horizonte. However, after a few years, Jose decided to carry on family tradition of growing coffee, moved back to Campos Altos, and bought a farm in 2008. The company started exporting coffee in 2013. In order to offer good quality coffee and allow traceability, the business focused on implementing vertically integrated business model. Today, aside from growing coffee, the company offers wet milling process, dry milling process, warehousing, exporting, importing in other countries and wholesalers around the world.  

Our Coffees Farm

– Can you take us through the journey from cup to seed? What makes Brazilian coffee unique/special?

Brazilian Coffee is unique because of its quality. It is a result of continuous technological advances that help producers grow good quality coffee. Post-harvest process plays an essential role. We invest in technology and new methods including experimental fermentations, taking care of the beans in the drying process and then resting it. This ensures good quality and makes all the difference in the process. Having great varieties is important, but a complex post-harvest process takes it to the next level of quality.

Our Coffees Farm

– What is the socio-economic situation in Brazil? How is the coffee growing and exporting affected?

The Brazil socio-economic situation is complex. The country has a big source of economic production such as agriculture, mining, food production, meat production, manufacturing, and industrial goods exporting. Coffee growing has been affected by the higher prices of fuel, cost of farming machinery and supplies, and due to worker equity rules, which we take very seriously. For the past 5 years, Brazil has experienced a trade surplus making it hard to get space and availability on vessels to export.

– What is the impact of Covid on coffee growers and exporters?

Covid 19 greatly impacted the coffee industry and our customers felt completely lost with no expectation of the future. Coffee shops closed, news about lockdowns changed daily, restriction implemented, and economic reopening was unclear. As a result, our customers stopped buying green coffee, causing many coffee growers and exporters cashflow problems.

-Tell us about your experience with NCA.

NCA meetings are always great, we can meet everyone from the industry, and it is very helpful to talk about the market. NCA is a reliable source of information that helps us make better decisions about our business.

-What would be your advice to new Next Gen members?

Participate in the events, participate in seminars, webinars and courses. Knowledge and networking make a great difference in the coffee business. The coffee industry is all about relationship building.

Cause for Celebration: A Review of Coffee Day 2021

By Nora Johnson, NCA Next Gen Communications Committee Chair and Commodities Manager at Massimo Zanetti Beverages USA.

Although every day is “Coffee Day” for those of us working within the coffee supply chain, on September 29th and October 1st, the rest of the population joins in to celebrate National Coffee Day (for the United States) and International Coffee Day, respectively.

If you are like me and wondering who actually declared a given day “International Coffee Day,” wonder no longer! With the inaugural celebration having been held on October 1, 2015, International Coffee Day was officially declared by the International Coffee Organization (ICO) as a day of “celebration of the coffee sector’s diversity, quality, and passion… an opportunity for coffee lovers to share their love of the beverage and support the millions of farmers whose livelihoods depend on the aromatic crop.” Many individual nations had been celebrating their own National Coffee Day for several years prior. Japan even began celebrating as early as 1983! What an exemplary reminder of just how much passion exists within our industry; from the passion of those who produce it, to those who trade, roast, and package it, to those who consume it, coffee is enveloped by a special sense of enthusiasm.

To our fellow coffee colleagues, the NCA Next Gen Council hopes that your cup was full on this year’s National Coffee Day!

Coffee, Frost and Prices. What’s really going on right now?

By William “Bill” Murray, NCA President & CEO


Over the past several months, there has been a flood of media coverage taking what seem to me to be increasingly panicked approaches to covering changing coffee prices and what it may mean for coffee consumers. 

As many of us have experienced first-hand, the COVID-19 pandemic has devastated communities around the globe and put extraordinary strain on the supply chains coffee relies on every day but that rarely see the spotlight. Suppliers of everything from toilet paper to furniture to shipping containers and computer chips have struggled to keep up with dramatic shifts in consumer demand, shortages of certain ingredients and inputs, and skyrocketing prices for transportation — not to mention the pandemic’s impacts on workers, their health, and their workplaces. 

Of course, since coffee is a beloved staple in grocery shopping carts, media reports about potential shortages or price increases generate a lot of questions – and clicks. 

NCA has taken a steady approach throughout, turning first to the data. As NCA reported in our September 2020 report on coffee consumption during the pandemic, COVID-19 has greatly impacted where Americans drink coffee (driving more at-home consumption, unsurprisingly) but had relatively little impact on how much coffee we drink or how often. 

Coffee farm in Minas Gerais, Brazil

In fact, overall coffee demand has been remarkably stable for decades. About 60% of Americans drink coffee every day, more than any other beverage, and that has been the case for at least ten years.  Coffee is a pleasure a part of life – and a habit, and our latest consumer research, which we’ll be releasing in the coming weeks, shows that consumers are gradually returning to the pre-pandemic coffee drinking customs.

Coffee planting, harvesting, and purchasing also tend toward stability. Coffee trees are slow growers, taking several years to reach maturity. Planting and purchasing plans are typically made several years in advance, and coffee can be transported and stored for relatively long periods of time, helping to smooth out peaks and valleys in supply and demand.

Another factor that has cushioned the impact of current stressors on consumers’ coffee experience is that we’ve actually had a surplus of coffee on the global market for many years. That is, until recently farmers grew more coffee than the world drank. That surplus supply kept prices below levels seen in the past. In 2019 the surplus helped lead to global coffee prices decreasing by 15 percent. 

Now, between COVID-19 impacts and the effects of both drought and frost in Brazil – one of the world’s most significant coffee producers – USDA predicts that for the first time since 2015 the world will drink more coffee in the year ahead than farmers will grow in that year. The frost in Brazil, linked to a supply deficit forecast by some, is what has set off new rounds of speculation about prices.

But speculation is just that. Many people are working hard to fully measure and understand the full impact of the extreme weather in Brazil and how to help impacted farmers recover. Estimates so far have ranged widely, with the most recent reports suggesting crop damage is less extensive than had been feared.

From extreme weather to new requirements for health and safety in coffee shops, I’m proud and grateful to say the coffee industry has been remarkably resilient – and remains committed to the future of coffee. Whether through commitments made under Conservation International’s Sustainable Coffee Challenge, individual programs, or the ongoing work of the International Coffee Organization, the industry’s commitment to sustainability — and the farmers who grow coffee — has persevered throughout the pandemic.

Coffee prices are determined by many factors, and the NCA plays no role in their trajectory. Whatever the future holds, we will continue to closely monitor consumption and market data, work to support farmers’ crops and livelihoods, and be a champion for coffee by providing accurate, informed information and insight to help guide us into the future. 

NCA: We Serve Coffee.

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