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Coffee Sustainability for QSRs

Feb 16, 2011
Margaret Heery, Vice President of Strategic Marketing, recently spoke to qsrbuzz.com about coffee sustainability for QSRs and why QSRs should consider the sources of their products. The site is described as "an insider's perspective on focused, fresh, quick-service restaurant coverage." The following are a couple of questions from that online Q&A post. You can view the article in full on their site, Respect for the Bean: Coffee Sustainability for QSRs.

Most people have no idea what it takes to get coffee from a field to a cup. Could you expand your comments from above about the people and land it takes?

Heery: Coffee is a very labor-intensive commodity. An estimated 25 million people worldwide are involved with the production of coffee from seed to cup and more than 10 billion hectares of land are used for growing coffee trees.

Coffee grows best in the subtropics where the rainy and dry seasons are well defined and the soil is fertile, preferably with high volcanic ash content. The trees are pruned to bush height, which facilitates the picking of the coffee cherries. On average, a pound of coffee contains 4,000 beans (I didnt believe that either when I first heard it and yes: I counted them!). Each coffee cherry is picked, and then the coffee cherry requires the labor of many people as it passes through different washing and drying processes to extract the bean from the cherry. At that point the green beans are sorted, graded, and bagged, and sent to roasters to continue their journey. The majority of the people that work on the coffee farms are paid low wages and work long hours during the seasonal work of planting and harvesting.

When you talk to industry professionals about sustainable coffee, what do you say are the first steps to becoming a QSR that serves it?

Heery: Talk to your coffee supplier. Almost all roasters have a certified coffee available. Having worked with many operators, I know it isnt easy to add another coffee to the menu and certified coffees cost more. A thought to keep in mind is that restaurants dont make their money buying the coffee; they make their money selling the coffee. This is applicable on many different levels. If by offering customers coffee that has a history of sustainability that may also cost more, there is the likelihood of an enhanced socio-loyalty connection to the customer and increased sales. Of course, there is the tangible return to those that grow the coffee of improved social and environmental welfare.

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