Customers know their Coffee
The current economic conditions are defining for the coffee business. In recent years (known unofficially as the “good times”!) there was a wide gray area for coffee categorization. The designations of Specialty, Gourmet, and combinations of the two, were banded around without any real meaning. We even had “super-specialty” at one time.
This has been followed by roaster-created designations such as farm-direct, farm-friendly, eco-friendly and many others. While some are genuine, many are false and frivolous designed to mislead the customer into believing the roaster is buying direct while visiting the farm and shaking the farmer’s hand. Not so.
The reality is customers are knowledgeable, informed and discriminating with their evaluations. With money a little tighter, the customer is activating their discretion.
In the “good times” a customer would try out a new place, resulting in the purchase of an espresso beverage. If it was sub-standard, no big deal. Pitch the beverage and seek a replacement from a proven retailer. No longer.
The differences between Specialty (we will keep this one) and Commodity coffee are clear. Basic Commodity coffee has always been presented in a can. In the gray area there is what can be called “pseudo-specialty”. It is Commodity coffee masquerading as specialty, usually in a bag as opposed to a can. It is amazing these roasters think the consumer is that gullible.
In tighter economic conditions, pseudo-specialty should be called what it is – Commodity coffee. This is coffee purchased on price NOT quality, even if the “marketing messages” tout otherwise. This is bad karma and they are heaping it upon themselves. Quick side-note – when farm families have to sell worthy, quality coffee at a commodity price, they do not eat, nor come close to having access to any form of medical care.
Customers are making their choices. They know Specialty (it is the taste – consistent high quality) and they know Commodity (it is the taste – raspy, low quality). And they know good companies – Coffee Roasters who operate within a set of values and standards, who value the human component of coffee farming and whom are involved in their communities.
Trust the Customer – they know their coffee. Convey your position of quality, service and community and your regulars will continue to support you…and new customers will find you.