The Global Coffee Market: A Forward

By Peter Giuliano

I’ve been a member of the Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA), or I have worked for an SCAA member, for my entire coffee career. The vision of the specialty coffee community, as expressed through our association, has been a guiding force in my development as a coffee professional and in building my business. Because of this, I, along with hundreds of dedicated coffee professionals, have dedicated volunteer time and effort towards guiding the direction of our community and our association.

In my early years, before becoming so involved, I was often confused about what the purpose and intent of the Specialty Coffee Association of America really was. I knew the SCAA was important, vibrant and influential; but I simply didn’t know any details of the vision, strategy and management of the association.
In the spirit of transparency and inclusiveness, I intend to use SCAA’s Chronicle to highlight a bit of the association’s vision, and shed some light on the programs we have in place to serve the interests of our members, the specialty coffee community. We’ll be exploring themes in each issue, highlighting a portion of the diverse specialty coffee world, and we’ll be focusing on details about the association’s response to the challenges of the specialty coffee industry.

In this issue, we’ll explore the issue of the coffee market. The question of supply and demand drives any industry, and the SCAA is constantly grappling with the details of the coffee market on behalf of our members. Will there be enough specialty coffee in the future? How is the marketplace for specialty coffee changing? How are supply chains adapting to new market conditions? How do standards—the “rules” which govern the very meaning of specialty coffee—impact our market?

These questions may seem abstract or academic, but we know they have a strong impact on every aspect of the specialty coffee industry. Take green coffee, for example. If climactic or socioeconomic factors change the availability of green specialty coffee, the market will react—making specialty coffee more expensive throughout the supply chain. Coffeehouses will pay more to their roasters, the roasters will pay more to their suppliers, and suppliers will struggle to keep up with demand for high-quality green coffee.
As we know, economic trends tend to have far-reaching consequences—high green prices might dampen purchases of roasting equipment, espresso machines, and they may dampen investment in coffee businesses across the country. Not to put too fine a point on it, but every specialty coffee businessperson needs to understand the state of the specialty coffee market in order to build a sustainable, prosperous business. To this end, the SCAA has dedicated a significant proportion of its strategy to understanding the coffee marketplace, particularly in its strategy to “Compile and Communicate Information” about the specialty coffee market. You hold in your hands one way we communicate this information, The Specialty Coffee Chronicle.

This issue of The Chronicle is only a first step, of course. The educational program at our Expo and the in-depth conversation at the Symposium in Anaheim are places SCAA members can further avail themselves of information about the coffee market. The SCAA has a wide array of reports and surveys available for members. I encourage everyone to learn about the coffee market, interact with other members to understand more, and integrate that understanding into our businesses to create a more stable, more prosperous specialty coffee market.

Peter Giuliano is director of coffee and co-owner of Counter Culture Coffee, a specialty coffee roasting company based in Durham, N.C. Giuliano has worked with fine coffees since 1988. In May 2010, he will become president of the Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA).