Stephen reports back from SCAA Portland
Mercanta was delighted to attend the Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA) event in Portland last week. This was our first time exhibiting at the show and we had an excellent few days meeting friends old and new.
Our booth was staffed by our Mercanta North America team of Leah and Katherine (Hartline), who are based in our Seattle office, plus Joanne and Stephen (Cornford) from our UK office, Christian from Mercanta Central America and myself.
I heard tell that this year’s SCAA event was the biggest show ever held in the excellent Oregon State Convention Center – and I can believe this from walking around the immense show floor. I was really pleased with how Mercanta’s booth turned out; well done to Leah for all her hard work on this.
I was also very impressed by Portland itself. An excellent venue for a premium food and beverage show, this pleasant and well organised city is a treasure trove of fine dining and also renowned for my particular favourite - artisan, micro-brewed beers!
These big international shows are ideal venues to meet a wealth of customers and suppliers under one roof. Many of our friends from Brazil were in Portland, as well as large delegations from Guatemala and many African producers. Honduras was noteworthy, with a very evident strategic interest in coffee from a governmental level. Christian and I attended a luncheon with the Honduran President and Vice President, plus 9 government ministers, Cup of Excellence, many key roasters and a number of specialty importers. You could not help but see the commitment of Honduras to the coffee cause.
Many Colombian private exporters were at the show – yet, strategically the country appears to be on an entirely different path from many of the Central American producers, such as Guatemala and Honduras, where efforts are directed at SUPPORT for the coffee sector, not direct government involvement in the business itself. I could not help comment on the irony that Colombia is reported to be the second largest customer for Peruvian coffee (after the USA) as their own production has fallen from 10m+ bags annually to closer to 8m bags - or perhaps even less - over the past two years. I personally see Colombia as the least known, best known specialty coffee producer. Huge untapped potential exists in Colombia in differentiated product export, yet historically Colombia is defined by focus on volume export of good (but undifferentiated) commodity grade product.
Ecuador, not generally in the front line of specialty coffees, also had a large presence and we will see what we can find there – given its situation near to Colombia and Peru it may reveal some good potential.
Our Canadian and American customers were much in evidence, and it was also good to see a number of European customers, as well as others from Australia, Japan and Asia. The cuppings at our booth proved very popular as ever. We have a good system down for these now – being so much at the heart of what we do. Needless to say, coffee that is lying in our USA or UK warehouse is far more likely to fully and accurately represent the coffee that a customer will receive, rather than a sample cupped and approved at origin many months prior to arrival. Our value added service includes accepting and managing contract execution and quality risk on arrival, not departure.
People often ask me if these big shows are worth it. It is difficult to say in pure dollar and cents terms, but undoubtedly we have the opportunity to network with a huge number of customers and suppliers under one roof, we can show what Mercanta can do to existing and potential new clients, position ourselves professionally in a relatively new market for us, and also meet potential new suppliers and origins not currently on the Coffeehunter map.
I would like to thank all the customers and suppliers who came to say hello at the booth, and who came to cup with us. It was great to see you all, and we now start our planning for Boston 2013!!
For those of you who are going to the SCAE/WBC Vienna show in June we look forward to seeing you around the cupping table at our booth (H6).