An unidentified Coffea species found in Madagascar, which is preserved in a coffee genebank. Ensuring these genebanks have adequate funding to continue operations should be a major priority of the coffee industry. Source: Sarada Krishnan
Sometimes facts are so obvious they become invisible.
In the case of coffee, one of those facts is this: Coffee comes from a plant. The entire $225 billion dollar coffee industry in the U.S. is built up from the roots of billions of living, breathing coffee plants that spend their days turning sunlight into fruit. Once you stop and think about it, it’s kind of profound. Nearly 1.7 million jobs — including, if you are reading this, probably yours — depend on those plants doing their thing, photosynthesizing, outsmarting diseases and pests, being rained on at the right time in the right amounts.
It’s also profound to think about just how fragile the entire arrangement is. The vast majority of coffee plants in the field today are really, really (really) genetically similar. Most varieties are not resistant to major diseases. Most are way too old (World Coffee Research guesses that about 50% of coffee trees are more than 50 years old). That leaves coffee especially vulnerable — to disease epidemics like the one that devastated Central American production after 2012, to extremes in weather like excessive rain or drought or frost.
When crops are facing challenges like these, it helps to go back to basics: Coffee is a plant. So — what is needed to help the plant thrive? And, thereby, to help the humans who depend on it?
From a 3D printer that enables doctors to construct human tissue, to a virtual reality headset that transports a policymaker in Washington, DC to a remote village in the Amazon to experience projects helping prevent deforestation. Things we never dreamed of 20 years ago are changing our daily lives. And, innovation is not just defined as “the next hot thing” – it’s critical to ensuring the sustainable growth of an industry.
The coffee sector is continually innovating. Consider the new roasting and brewing techniques that led to cold brew and single serve coffees. Or, consumer engagement through creative retail shops offering everything from hands-on technology to fully compostable cups.
That said, innovation in coffee also includes things the everyday drinker might not know about – from researchers developing new varieties and improved practices, to small-scale farmers adopting those varieties and experimenting with new techniques on their farms.
One of the most important innovations the coffee sector has been leading includes the work being done on sustainability.
Despite the fact that coffee has been part of the human experience for centuries, innovation is now a necessity for companies across all sectors of the coffee industry – more than ever before. In fact, if you search online for “innovate or die” you’ll easily return more than a half a million results.
What are the factors driving this change? How do we approach and address the challenges? How do we focus strategies and resources to adjust for success? And how can individual executives and business owners come up with new ideas?
But not all cities are as coffee-crazed as others. The financial experts at SmartAsset looked through the data to see which American cities are the best for coffee fanatics. (Good news for NCA Convention 2017 attendees – Austin, TX is ranked high on the list!)
Because often, inspiration comes from the most unlikely places. For instance: leftover soap can catalyze life-saving change.
Here, Derreck Kayongo, Global Soap Project Founder & CEO of the Center for Civil and Human Rights, shares how learning about the hospitality industry’s considerable waste led him to create a global humanitarian initiative.