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.
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!
Imagine having the chance to take a course dedicated to studying the coffee supply chain while in college. What an opportunity that would be!
Well, RGC Coffee’s very own Stephanie Alcala created that opportunity for students at Whittier College in California. In addition to her role at RGC, Stephanie, a “Next Genner” herself, also works as an adjunct professor. Alongside her former advisor, Dr. Cinzia Fissore, Stephanie worked to create a course dedicated to the study of sustainability across the coffee supply chain.
NCA Next Gen’s Nora Johnson recently had the opportunity to sit with Stephanie and discuss her experience in creating and presenting this course, and the key takeaways from students who we hope to see join us in the industry down the road!
Nora Johnson: Tell us about yourself. Who do you currently work with? what does your role look like on a day-to-day basis?
Stephanie Alcala: I was born in Whittier, California. I have five older siblings and two incredibly kind and supportive parents. I work for RGC Coffee, a family-owned importing company as the Sustainable Sales Director. I work across the sales, trading, communication, and sustainability departments, which means no two days are alike! But ultimately, my main priority is to ensure our clients and customers are receiving the coffee and information they need to best operate their business. And since my role and specialty are in sustainability, my daily efforts are driven by my desire to grow and develop our in-house sustainable sourcing program, RGC 3E. Outside of work, I am also an adjunct professor and industry liaison at Whittier College for the department of Environmental Science, and in my free time, I love to eat, spend time with the people I love, and ride bikes.
NJ: We understand that you are the co-creator of a coffee-centric college course titled, “Sustainable Agricultural Supply Chains: Coffee.” From where did the idea to pursue such a program come? How did you get involved?
SA: The story of how this class came to be really begins and ends with Dr. Cinzia Fissore, Associate Professor of Biology and Environmental Science, Coordinator for the Environmental Science Program, and my former undergraduate advisor at Whittier College.
I first met Dr. Fissore during my freshman year, I had enrolled in her “Intro to Environmental Science,” as my chosen elective course. From day one, I knew I had discovered my passion and soon thereafter Dr. Fissore became my academic advisor. My love for coffee followed a couple of years later when I signed up for a sustainable business class (also co-taught by Dr. Fissore) that included a study-abroad component. As a class, we traveled to the Netherlands and visited various businesses (one of which was Heikkinen!) to learn about their sustainability initiatives and corporate social responsibility practices. It was my first international trip and it was the in-between moments where I first discovered my love for coffee, the cappuccinos, the European café culture, and the free wifi – I was consumed by all of it. After returning home, I immediately got a job as a barista.
Once I graduated from college, I was set on studying sustainable food systems. While I was trying to figure out how I could apply my studies towards a fulfilling career, I found myself back behind the bar, this time at Groundwork Coffee in downtown Los Angeles. It was there, with the support of my colleagues and management team, that I made the realization that coffee is a plant, it is a multibillion-dollar global commodity, and has a world of interdisciplinary social, environmental, and economic challenges and opportunities. I was sold. In 2016, I decided I was going to pursue a career in coffee.
I was then granted an incredible opportunity, to pursue a master’s degree in ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Michigan with my research to focus on studying the genetic diversity of the Gesha coffee plant variety grown in Panama. Although I had no business trying to become a geneticist, I saw this as a great way to build my vocabulary and knowledge of agricultural sustainability and climate change resiliency. I spent the next two years reading, learning, teaching, and developing a true passion for sustainable coffee production. I graduated from Michigan with an even clearer pathway, to seek a career in agricultural development in coffee supply chains.
Then after a few outstanding career opportunities 1) receiving the Leadership Equity and Diversity Scholarship through the Specialty Coffee Association and 2) working for Tartine Bakery’s Coffee Manufactory as a Sustainability Specialist, I found myself back at Whittier College, sitting in the office of my former advisor, Dr. Cinzia Fissore.
You see, she too had spent the past few years discovering an interest in coffee. Dr. Fissore, a soil scientist whose research specializes in carbon sequestration, had begun to work with a group of farmers in California who were growing coffee plants in their existing avocado orchards. Dr. Fissore wanted to understand how these efforts impacted the health of the soil and its ability to sequester carbon. With positive feedback from preliminary data, Dr. Fissore applied for and received a three-year grant from the Arthur Vining (A.V.) Davis Foundations. With this grant, Dr. Fissore, not only received funding to support her research but also received resources to design and develop an array of academic and professional opportunities for students and the community, all to be centered around coffee studies. It was at this point that Dr. Fissore and I formed a collaborative partnership to advance a coffee studies program at Whittier College.
Since I had prior teaching experience as a graduate student, Dr. Fissore offered me an opportunity to develop and pilot a short 4-week course centered around coffee sustainability. Because I was still green to the industry, I thought, “what am I most interested in and how could I use this opportunity to deepen my knowledge in the subject?” This is ultimately what led me to develop and pilot the course, Sustainable Agricultural Supply Chains: Coffee. After a successful year of piloting and receiving positive feedback from the students, I was invited back to further develop the course and support Fissore in expanding opportunities for students and the broader community.
When it came time to reimagine the course for the second year, I had just joined RGC Coffee as a junior trader and this is what really propelled the course development and material forward. Working for a coffee importer with an impressive sustainable sourcing program granted me the ability to create a more thoughtful and informative experience and ultimately resulted in the course becoming what it is today, a fully developed, semester-long core curriculum course, offering students a unique educational experience to learn how coffee trading has the ability to facilitate sustainable development.
NJ: Can you walk us through the structure of the course? What were the learning goals/outcomes for the students taking the course? What kind of activities were involved?
SA: The most important factor I had to consider when developing this class as a semester course was, how could I best deliver a clear and concise narrative regarding the importance of sustainability in coffee supply chains to a diverse group of students with no prior experience in coffee. With this, I knew I had to create an inclusive and engaging experience so that all students would be able to confidently navigate the semester. This resulted in two noteworthy decisions 1) to organize and deliver the course in 3 modules – The Fundamentals, The Coffee Supply Chain, and Creating Shared Value Chains and 2) to host a Coffee Speaker Series and invite industry and academic leaders to give guest lectures. Thanks to the support of Cinzia and funding from the A.V. Davis Foundation, we were able to host nine speakers last semester. Each of the lectures not only helped reinforce the material being learned but also served as a way to highlight the variety of pathways and careers of those working in the coffee sector. To give a greater glimpse into the class, I have provided a brief overview of each module below.
The first module, The Fundamentals offered students an introduction to the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals, (SDGs), had them explore various definitions and interpretations of sustainability, we learned about agriculture and trade, and finally, we explored the coffee industry – its size, impact, and importance.
During the second module, The Coffee Supply Chain students learned the numerous steps and people involved in coffee’s journey from farm to cup, emphasizing that not only does coffee physically move from point A to point B, but during its journey, it undergoes a complete biochemical transformation. We concluded this section by emphasizing quality and consumer preferences are the two most important factors that guide and influence the industry.
The final module, Creating Shared Value Chains had students connect the lessons learned from modules 1 and 2 to examine the importance of and the ways in which the coffee sector can contribute to sustainable development. We began the section by first learning about the main challenges and priorities facing the industry, the goal was for students to realize that everything in this world is interconnected and for that reason, real sustainability solutions require a design thinking approach that works in partnership with the communities they aim to support. The module concluded with students putting theory into practice, with each of them using the Global Coffee Platform (GCP) Sustainability Framework to guide them in conducting a scientific investigation to further explore how coffee can positively contribute to a better future for people and the planet. The semester concluded with students presenting their final projects during a scientific poster session, which was held at our on-campus coffee research farm!
NJ: Do you think that any of the students who participated in the course may pursue future careers in the coffee sector or a related industry? I hope that we may have a few new recruits out there!
SA: One of my main goals for the semester was for students to realize that sustainability is a mindset, it is a way of thinking and navigating this world. For that reason, the ideas and concepts of sustainability can be applied towards any career. Therefore, I really encouraged the students (both through conversation and their weekly connection journal assignment) to continuously connect what we were learning about to topics outside of class, towards their interests and passions! So, I’m not sure if any of the students will pursue a career in coffee, but I am confident that many of the students will end up working in the field of sustainability.
NJ: Were there any comments from students throughout the semester that really stuck out in your mind as an interesting takeaway regarding the coffee industry?
SA: One thing I love about teaching is how much you learn from the students. The students always offered such a unique curiosity and insight towards the topics covered. Additionally, since Whittier College is a liberal arts school, I had a range of majors in my class, from Art: Digital Art and Design to Philosophy, to Business Administration. I have included below, 14 of my favorite quotes gathered from the student’s assignments this past semester.
“In this course, despite only talking about coffee, you can also observe different realities between societies. I really like learning about the different lives of farmers and seeing gender equality in agriculture.”
“So far one of the things that have stood out is the community that coffee creates. The idea of community is a major part of what I study in Philosophy how individuals can come together to work towards a common goal. The fact that it’s around coffee proves that any group can prosper if their goal is clear, and their purpose is shared.”
“In a very competitive and crowded industry like coffee, it’s important to have a feature of the product that truly makes it stand out among others.”
“As far as sustainability, if one understands the supply chain process and its players, there is an ability to work towards mitigating climate change, creating a beautiful ecosystem, and helping workers to profit along the way. This is the goal, but within the chain exist a number of inequities that need to be addressed and improved. The best way to start is by understanding the chain as a whole.”
“There are so many people involved throughout the process of the coffee supply chain, it’s crazy to think they all get paid somehow from people buying cups of coffee only.”
“Quality is everything”
“One thing she covered that I found interesting was discussing the roles of a coffee importer. One big aspect importers cover is risk mitigation, encompassing who owns the coffee and when. Importers buy coffee from farmers and are responsible for finance and logistics of that coffee, then sell to the roaster.”
“One thing I’m starting to realize is super essential throughout the coffee supply chain and business as a whole is the relationships between the people in each part of the process.”
“I found it very interesting to learn that when coffee makes its way to a cup it has 1000 chemical compounds. Coming from chemistry last semester to learn something like that was very shocking. You would never think that one coffee bean can have such an impact and chemical change throughout its cooking process.”
“This lecture was very connected to spirituality, and I appreciated this addition to our very interdisciplinary approach to coffee.”
“Finally, I learned that the biggest issues facing women in the agricultural sector are the distribution of wealth, income, ownership, leadership, and decision-making. Even though women make up most of the agricultural sector, they get little to no compensation for the hard work they put in every day.”
“One last concept I learned about was that the wet milling process is one of the leading ways that local water resources are being contaminated. Wet milling creates wastewater that is often not treated meaning that water goes to waste and even more water is needed in these communities”
“Without money to help with coffee solutions in production what do smaller farms do?”
“How long will it actually take for the coffee sector to become sustainable?”
NJ: What segment of or topic covered within the course did the students enjoy most or find most engaging?
SA: There are three aspects the students seemed to like the most. First, spending time in our campus coffee orchard. The students said being able to see and experience coffee as a plant, really changed the way they thought about the drink and helped them gain a greater appreciation and understanding of the supply chain. The second was the Coffee Speaker Series, a student commented, “I think the speaker series was also an incredible aspect of this course because we were able to learn from people directly involved in what we were learning about at the time… This made the material relevant to us and showed us the real-world application of what we were learning.” And third, the final capstone project (which I had previously mentioned) in which each student was able to further explore a topic of sustainability they found most interesting and presented their findings during a community showcase. It was truly incredible to see the diversity of topics students chose to focus on. In case of interest, I have included all of the students’ scientific posters here.
Students with their scientific posters at a community showcase
NJ: Are there plans to continue this course or to potentially expand upon it in the future? (I would have loved to take a class like this in college!)
SA: Absolutely! Dr. Fissore and I are so excited to continue to offer students and the community opportunities to learn, research, and work in the field of coffee. Not only have we spent the past three years developing course material, but Dr. Fissore has been spearheading several other campus-related coffee projects which include a reoccurring coffee speaker series, industry internships, research fellowships, and maintaining an on-campus Coffee Research Farm (which just had its first harvest this year). Since all of these efforts were made possible by the A.V. Davis Foundations grant (which is in its final year of funding), we are now taking time to evaluate the next steps and see how we can continue to build and expand our efforts! We know there are many schools with emerging and expanding coffee programs and are very interested in connecting and sharing knowledge regarding how we can best use academia to foster sustainability in coffee.
For now, I have been inspired to take the lesson learned from my teaching experience and apply them towards my job at RGC. This past summer, we partnered with a Los Angeles-based college preparatory school to provide students an opportunity to learn and explore Climate Action in Coffee Supply Chains. I developed a month-long student internship program and hosted three high school seniors. The main goal for students was to learn (and be able to articulate in conversation) the relevancy and importance of climate action in coffee supply chains and offer an insightful analysis regarding a company’s existing efforts. And this fall, I plan to develop an in-house Educational Training Program so that my colleagues can also participate in learning about and exploring the ways in which coffee can contribute to sustainable development.
NJ: What was your greatest takeaway from this experience?
SA: This experience has shaped and defined my understanding of sustainability. I now realize sustainability is not a goal, it is an ongoing journey toward continuous improvement.
NJ: As a “next gen-er” in coffee yourself, what excites you most about the future of coffee?
SA: Right now, I am most excited about the increasing consumer demand for responsibly sourced products.
NJ: Is there anything else that you would like to share regarding the course and/or your experience? Perhaps anything that wasn’t covered in the questions above but that you found meaningful or interesting?
SA: I just want to say thank you. Thank you, Nora, for providing me with a platform to share my experience and work. And thank you to everyone who made it all possible. It really does take a village and I have been so incredibly lucky for the support and mentorship I have received throughout my academic and professional career. I’d like to especially thank my two current mentors, bosses, and collaborators Dr. Cinzia Fissore at Whittier College and Nathalie Gabbay at RGC Coffee.
On behalf of the Next Gen Council, we extend our sincere thanks to Stephanie Alcala for her time and willingness to share her experience. Stephanie’s work to educate and promote the coffee industry and sustainable coffee supply chains to the current generation of college students is of utmost appreciation as she is truly cultivating and engaging the next generation!
By William “Bill” Murray, President & CEO, National Coffee Association USA
While not a new format by any means, cold brew has shot up in popularity in recent years and is expected to keep growing. About 16% of coffee drinkers reported having had cold brew in the past week, according to the NCA National Coffee Drinking Trends report – up from only 8% in 2016. What hasn’t kept pace, however, are clear food safety best practices, guidance, and regulations to help keep this massively popular product – and the customers who demand it – safe. It is crucial to stress that cold brew coffee, like traditionally prepared coffee, is generally safe – but changing times and evolving brew methods call for food safety vigilance – despite coffee’s long, safe track record.
That’s why, with help from our team of scientists on the NCA Science Leadership Council (and support from our cold brew partner BUNN), NCA has created the all-new Cold Brew Safety Guide for Retailers along with several other new resources to help coffee retailers safely brew, store, and serve cold brew – one of the hottest drinks in coffee today.
Here are three key things every cold brew retailer should know to help keep their cold brew coffee food-safe:
1. The “danger zone” for cold brew where bacteria can grow is 41-140˚F.
Brew, store, and serve your cold brew at a temperature of 40˚ F or below to minimize the risk of pathogens like botulism that could cause foodborne illness. Above 140˚F, most toxin-producing bacteria are killed. However, while cold brew doesn’t technically have to be served cold, it may lose some of the smooth taste and flavor your customers have come to expect from cold brew if heated above this temperature.
2. Retail dispensed cold brew (i.e., made on-premises in a coffee shop) and RTD cold brew are not created equal – and each requires special safety considerations.
RTD packaged cold brew is cold brew that is manufactured and bottled under aseptic conditions in a manufacturing facility following FDA’s low-acid food regulations (21 CFR Part 113), whereas dispensed cold brew is often prepared and served on-site at a retail location and is regulated by a local health inspector following FDA’s Food Code.
Dispensed cold brew is generally prepared at 40-70˚F overnight at a retail location using roasted coffee and filtered water and can be infused with nitrogen to make nitro cold brew. The cold brew can be stored in airtight or covered (non-airtight) containers.
Health inspectors examining a retail dispensed cold brew operation may require a HACCP Plan – see more on HACCP Plans below.
NCA’s 2018 Cold Brew Toolkit for Industry dives into RTD cold brew safety considerations, while dispensed retail cold brew (and its potential food safety risks) are covered extensively in the just-released NCA Cold Brew Safety Guide for Retailers (2022). Both are available here.
3. You might need a HACCP Plan.
Every retail cold brew operation should determine whether a Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) Plan is necessary. This seven-step framework is critical in reducing hazards in food to acceptable levels, and consists of:
Critical Control Point (CCP) identification.
Establishing critical limits.
Establishing monitoring procedures.
Setting corrective actions.
Setting verification procedures.
Establishing record-keeping and documentation.
A HACCP Plan is generally not required in retail locations unless the cold brew is brewed, held, and served above 41˚F, or if it is held in a container with an airtight lid for over 48 hours. NCA offers a model HACCP Plan that our Members can refer to when developing food safety protocols for their own retail cold brew business.
You can learn more about NCA’s Cold Brew safety resources in our NCA Cold Brew Toolkit, which includes our new Cold Brew Safety Guide for Retailers, our 2018 Toolkit for Industry, a model Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) Plan, answers to frequently asked questions about cold brew and a compliance checklist to ensure you’re ready when the health inspector comes knocking.
NCA: We serve coffee (and want the cold brew coffee YOU serve to continue its long record of food safety.)
Back in February, we launched a new series, “Words of Wisdom,” bringing career development stories and top-notch advice from industry leaders right to your inbox! For this second edition of “Words of Wisdom,” Michelle Dunaway, Sales Executive at Mercon Specialty, spoke with Jonathan White (White Coffee Corporation), John DeMuria (Volcafe USA LLC), and Michael Gaviña (F. Gaviña & Sons, Inc.). White, DeMuria, and Gaviña are all current NCA Board Members and long-time leaders of both the National Coffee Association and the industry overall.
Executive Vice President / White Coffee Corporation
An attorney by trade and lifelong New York resident, Jonathan White, Executive Vice President of White Coffee Corporation, was born into the coffee business. White Coffee Corporation was founded by Jonathan’s grandfather in 1939, and his father carried on the legacy, spending over 40 years in the business, advocating for and developing the specialty coffee trade long before there were a plethora of chain and microroasters.
Jonathan explains, “I grew up with the smell of coffee in my father’s station wagon; there was never a time he would not help a customer with their emergency needs and he would be sure to not only meet but to exceed their expectations. After practicing law and gaining experience in helping to run a variety of organizations, I joined the company in 1990. It is very rewarding to see our company’s growth and to serve our customers for many years – multi-generational in many cases – and to have many of our team members with White Coffee for 10, 15, and 20 years or more. “
“Our business has continued to evolve and grow, from the independent local stores and delis to national chains of club stores, supermarkets, hotel chains, and online retailers. We also have worked with many licensors and private label retailers to develop proprietary brands.” In his role, Jonathan is involved in many aspects of the business, including oversight on commodity purchases, major account sales, financial oversight, team management/building, strategic direction, and day-to-day management.
Career advice for the younger generation in the coffee industry:
Diversify both your business channels and your skill sets.
Embrace change and flexibility as the world will continue to evolve. Expect the unexpected!
Ask lots of questions, and don’t always accept the first answer you get – assume nothing.
Think ahead and consider various scenarios and how you would best respond.
Always be selling! Create a unique selling proposition (for either yourself or for your product).
Aim for constant learning, improvement, and giving back to your community.
Favorite pastimes: Jonathan loves baseball (especially the NY Mets!), all kinds of music, travel, and reading all kinds of non-fiction books (especially those about current events/politics).
Managing Partner / Volcafe USA LLC
Prior to joining the coffee industry, John DeMuria (JD), worked in banking on Wall Street, with a focus on coffee, cocoa, sugar, and grains. Volcafe, formerly known as Volkart Brothers, recruited JD, initially to work in finance, but he later transitioned into trading. In his first two years trading, JD worked to learn and absorb as much information as possible; at this time, differential prices were gaining prominence and the futures contract was evolving. From there, JD went on to manage the Colombia and Central America books.
Reflecting back on the start of his time trading, it brings to light just how much trading has evolved over time. Back when JD started in the business, trading was done by a telex machine and all documentation was done by hand. JD explains, “You had your telephone, telex, and a calculator. The telex operator was probably the best trader on the floor; every offer, every bid, went through their hands!”
Career advice for the younger generation in the coffee industry: “Be determined & dedicated. Hard work always pays off. Live your dream and have a passion for what you do. Getting involved in Next Gen is a great opportunity to engage at an earlier age and early stage in your career.”
Favorite past NCA memory: “Being invited by your boss to the NCA Convention was the highest achievement; you said to yourself, ‘I made the inner circle.’” JD has served on the NCA board since 2007.
Michael was born into the business, meeting and networking with others across the coffee industry since an early age. Previously serving as the Purchasing Director at F. Gaviña & Sons, Inc., his current role is now that of Managing Director of Finance and Accounting. Michael explains that despite the formal titles, in a family business, you wear many hats; his experience ranges from sales to sustainability to equipment servicing.
Career advice for the younger generation in the coffee industry: “Be of service.” [Publisher’s note: As you will observe through his favorite past NCA memory below, Michael certainly exemplifies the phrase, “practice what you preach,” and we are very appreciative of the role that Michael had in the development of the NCA Next Gen Council!]
Favorite past NCA memory: Michael played an integral role in the creation and development of the NCA Next Gen Council with the mission of nurturing, building, and developing the next generation of industry leaders.
Recommended reading: “Start with Why” by Simon Sinek
Many thanks to Jonathan, JD, and Michael for sharing their stories and advice for this edition of “Words of Wisdom!” Their leadership and service to the NCA is admirable and tremendously appreciated!
By William “Bill” Murray, National Coffee Association President & CEO
The world of coffee has never been more complex – which is why having consistent, transparent data about coffee drinkers is crucial for your coffee business.
We’ve just released the Spring 2022 survey of U.S. coffee drinkers, the latest addition to NCA’s legendary coffee trends research, the NCDT – National Coffee Data Trends – with important findings about the rapidly changing consumer landscape.
1. Nationwide coffee consumption is at a two-decade high. 66% of Americans reported that they had consumed coffee within the past day. This is up a staggering 14% since January 2021 – the largest year-on-year increase we have seen since we began gathering data.
2. The COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact Americans’ coffee drinking habits. While 27% of coffee lovers (up 8% from January 2021) are venturing out of home for their brew more frequently, out of home coffee consumption still has not returned to pre-pandemic levels. In addition, we found that at-home coffee consumption remains elevated; 84% of Americans had coffee at home in the past day, up from 4% in January 2020.
3. The popularity of specialty coffee is at a five-year high. 43% of American coffee drinkers chose a specialty brew in the last day – up by 20% from January 2021. Learn more about specialty coffee in our new, free-to-download specialty coffee breakout report, produced with the support of the Specialty Coffee Association.
4. Americans love espresso-based beverages. Cappuccinos and lattes are tied for the most popular espresso-based drinks nationally, followed closely by plain espresso and café mocha.
As the country begins to emerge from the worst public health crisis in recent memory, it is only fitting that coffee — backed by decades of independent scientific evidence showing its unique health benefits — is more popular than ever.
Industry leaders are telling me, over and again, that they have never seen a more complicated, challenging business environment. Our motto here at NCA is “We Serve Coffee” – whether by providing accurate market data, championing fact-based regulation, or celebrating the science of coffee and health. I invite you to acquire our latest market research, as well as learn how joining the NCA can support the strength and success of your coffee business.
NCA: We Serve Coffee.
Not sure if you’re an NCA Member? Check ourMembership list. If you’re not a member but could benefit from access to this research or other key industry resources, explore yourMembership options.
Bent Dietrich Jr, Coffee Trader at American Coffee Corporation, chatted with Basilio Fusich, trader at the renowned and highly-regarded Cohonducafé. A coffee exporter in Honduras, Cohonducafé leverages its local knowledge and relationships to share Honduran coffee with every corner of the globe.
The interview below has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.
When was Co. Honducafe founded? How did you get your start in the coffee industry and at Co. Honducafe?
November 1999. Coffee has always been part of my life. Ever since I was a kid, coffee has been a topic of conversation. I officially began to work at Honducafe right after I finished my master’s degree in Coffee Economics and Science from Universita del Caffé in Illy in Trieste, Italy.
What is the current socio-economic climate for coffee growers, exporters, and stakeholders in Honduras?
These last couple of years have been very harsh for all parties involved. Back in the 2018/2019 crop, the market was below levels of $100, then during COVID-19 came the 2019/2020 crop, and then we had hurricanes Eta and Iota in [the span of] 15 days for crop 2020/2021 — and are still suffering from the pandemic. Ever since I began in the industry, the country has been climbing uphill every year to be able to export its crop.
What are the biggest challenges young members of the coffee industry face in Honduras?
There is already a lot of competition in the industry and adding the hardships of COVID-19 will make it more challenging. The reason I mention Covid is that the economic impact on small businesses here will be very long term. The economy is extremely dependent on coffee and any changes to the supply chain pressure the entire economy.
The freight rates are increasing, causing all our necessary goods to [go up in price] rapidly. At the end of the day, younger and newer farmers are more susceptible cost increases. The real challenge will be keeping younger people engaged in the industry long-term.
Does Co. Honducafe have any sustainability initiatives in Honduras you are particularly proud of?
We have Fundacion Co. Honducafe, a non-profit organization that promotes the development and improvement of the coffee sector by promoting and supporting initiatives that promote productivity, economic growth, social responsibility and care for the environment.
We have numerous projects with many clients around the world that have built schools in coffee producing areas in Honduras.
We have seen the market rally from around $150 recently to almost $220 and back. For this year, how do you think it will impact Honduran producers? You mentioned previously it was an election year, and coming off last year’s hurricane, there must be many concerns for the industry?
It would have been great for the producers to have these levels at the beginning of the 2019/2020 crop so that they can receive more money and invest in their farms. The timing limited the opportunity for producers to take advantage of the higher prices. We are hoping that this year everything goes smoothly and the industry can work without interruptions from political and natural events.
What do you think NCA Next Gen members should really know about Honduras, and the future of coffee in Honduras?
I invite them to get to know more about our coffee. We have excellent quality that can be promoted in the highest markets of the industry.
Any advice for young people in coffee on growing in the industry?
My advice is to continue the good work that is being done, and always be on the lookout for new technologies that will make coffee growing more efficient and sustainable. Through our foundation, we partner with farmers and producers to continually explore new technologies and inputs to increase their yields and profitability.
What has your experience been working with the NCA?
My experience has been great. It has given me the opportunity to seek new customers and build my network of clients.
Finally, what is your favorite way to consume a cup of coffee?
I will sound boring, but my favorite way to consume my multiple cups of coffee during the day is Americano with no sugar. Especially freshly roasted from my grandfather’s farm.
By Bambi Semroc, Vice President, Sustainable Markets and Strategy for Conservation International and leader of the Sustainable Coffee Challenge
Trees get old. They
get sick. They die. And it’s up to us to replant them.
I grew up alongside two beautiful, mature and statuesque maple trees in the back yard. My parents saved those trees when they built our house. Dad said you don’t cut down old trees because it takes too long to grow another one. I watched showers of helicopter seeds fall in the spring. I raked their leaves and jumped in huge piles every fall with my brother. We mulched and planted flowers around them. Those trees are still standing, but my dad is not. I have long-since moved away and so has my brother. My mom now cares for those trees on her own. Last month she called with the sad news that she has to remove one because it is dying. I can’t imagine that tree not being there, and I wonder what tree we will plant to replace it.
With the UN General Assembly kicking off
this week in New York and the International Coffee Organization convening in
London next week, we’re heading into a busy time for the global coffee
community. With all the travel hours ahead of us, it’s a good time to pause and
reflect on the hard questions and big opportunities that will shape coffee’s
show coffee consumption reduces risk of everything from dementia to heart
disease to depression to certain types of cancer. The science is clear – coffee is good for the
people who drink it. This past summer even California joined the side of
scientific consensus to recognize coffee’s health benefits.
It’s not just that some coffee is
good. More coffee is better. In fact,
research from the National Institute of Health shows that drinking six or seven cups of coffee a day may
reduce the risk of death from any cause by up to 16 percent. The average
American coffee drinker only drinks three cups per day currently, meaning many
of us are missing out on coffee’s full potential.
Even better – an extra cup of joe (or five)
isn’t just good for the people who drink coffee, it’s good for the people who
The world currently grows a billion pounds
more coffee than we drink. A study
commissioned by the World Coffee Producers Forum confirmed that coffee prices
are stable based on current supply, particularly driven by increased efficiency
in leading coffee-growing countries.