(Update: I now regularly update the post Corporate coffee: How much is eco-certified? as new information becomes available.)
I often point out that the amount of sustainably-grown coffee that various large corporate coffee roasters purchase is a very small proportion of their total coffee purchases. In a previous post, I looked at the current market share of certified sustainably-grown coffee broken down by certification. Here, we’ll look at which of the world’s major coffee buyers/roasters are purchasing this coffee.
The source of this data is the Tropical Commodity Coalition, a group of ten NGOs that puts out annual reports on various aspects of the coffee, tea, and cocoa industries. The Coffee Barometer 2009 presents market developments in the certified coffee sector.
Among the interesting data included is a summary of the green (unroasted) coffee purchases by each of the world’s top ten coffee buyers for 2008. It highlights how much “certified” coffee each buyer purchased, including Rainforest Alliance, Utz Certified, organic, Fair Trade, 4c, and the private initiatives of Starbucks (CAFE Practices) and Nestlé (Nespresso AAA Sustainable Quality Coffee Program).
In this post, I’ll disregard coffee purchased under Fair Trade (which does not have strong environmental standards) and the 4C Code (see this post on Nestlé and deforestation for information on this bottom-rung system, which does not include environmental criteria any of us would consider as being meaningfully “eco-friendly”). I’ll leave in the Starbucks and Nespresso programs and comment on them below.
So, how much eco-friendly, sustainably-grown coffee is purchased by the big buyers?
Nestlé. Owns Nescafé, Nespresso, Taster’s Choice, Clasico. Purchased 780,000 tons of green coffee in 2008.
- 13,000 tons under their Nespresso AAA Sustainable Quality Coffee Program, or 1.7% of total purchases –but read on. The standards used by Nestlé in this program are not publicly available. Nestlé is working with Rainforest Alliance for guidance, but currently source farms are not certified by Rainforest Alliance. From what I have been able to gather, this program probably has fewer meaningful requirements for environmental protection than Fair Trade or Utz Certified, so pegging them at 1.7% is being generous.
Kraft. Yuban, Maxwell House, General Foods International Coffee, Gevalia, Kenco, Maxim, Tassimo, Nabob, and Sanka. 740,000 tons.
- 29,500 tons Rainforest Alliance, 4% of total.
Sara Lee. Senseo, Java Coast, various foodservice, Merrild, Kanis & Gunnink, Cafe Pilao, Cafitesse, Harris, Piazza d’Oro; Douwe Egberts is its coffee subsidiary, under which many of these brands appear. 450,000 tons.
- 20,000 tons Utz Certified (4.4%). The Utz focus is more on traceability and the business end of the spectrum, not environmental standards.
Smuckers. Folgers and Millstone (acquired from Procter & Gamble), Kava, Dunkin Donuts grocery store coffee. 280,000 tons.
- 1,500 tons Rainforest Alliance/Fair Trade/organic (0.5%). This is a combination of the three, rather than the total amount being triple-certified. There are few organic coffees in their line, one RA coffee (discontinued as of 2011), so the amount is heavily weighted toward Fair Trade. Because of the relatively weak environmental standards of Fair Trade, this means the percentage of eco-friendly coffee is even lower.
Starbucks. 175,000 tons.
- 4,500 tons organic (2.6%).
- 120,500 tons under their CAFE Practices (68.8%, for a combined total of 71.4%). I recently took a look at the environmental standards of Starbucks CAFE Practices, and found they address many more relevant ecological issues than either Fair Trade or UTZ Certified, and they are certainly much stronger than the Nespresso program. What does this mean?
Starbucks buys nearly twice as much coffee grown under meaningful environmental standards than the four largest coffee buyers in the world combined.
Perhaps more than all nine other big buyers. And they have developed these standards, worked with farmers to meet them, and use third-party verification as part of their own corporate initiative. Say what you want about the Mermaid, they do good work on the ground.
Tchibo. 170,000 tons.
- 5,500 tons Rainforest Alliance/Fair Trade/organic (3.2%). See note under Smuckers about this combined total.
Aldi. Purchases for their private label store brands Beaumont, Alcafe, and Grandessa Signature. 145,000 tons. Percentages not disclosed.
Melitta. Melitta, World Harvest Estate. 145,000tons. Percentages not disclosed.
Lavazza. 140,000 tons.
- 1,400 tons Rainforest Alliance (1%).
Segafredo. Segrafredo is a brand division of Massimo Zanetti, Beverage Group, which also owns Chock Full o’Nuts, Chase and Sanborn, MJB, and Hills Bros. They grow all their own coffee on plantations in Brazil (said to be the largest plantation in the world) and Costa Rica. Presumably, the 120,000 tons quoted in the report apparently is their production, not actually purchased. None is certified.
So, not counting Aldi and Melitta, since they did not disclose how much (or if) they bought any certified coffee, the big buyers purchased 2,855,000 tons of coffee, of which less than 7% was grown under verifiable sustainable environmental standards.
As mentioned in the last post, I’ve often heard that the reason big roasters do not purchase more sustainable coffee is because there isn’t enough available. This report also gives data on the amount of certified coffee produced, versus the amount purchased. There were 124,000 tons of Rainforest Alliance certified coffee produced in 2008, a surplus of 62,000 tons that was not purchased as certified. The surplus of Utz Certified coffee was 230,500 tons. Had all this been bought, then the percentage of certified coffee purchased by these buyers would have risen to around 17%.