Coffee Megatrend #9: Our Industry will be 100% Sustainable

By John Buckner — SVP, National Account Sales


As the largest coffee and tea manufacturer and supplier to restaurants and convenience stores in America, we are in tune with the trends of the away-from-home market for coffee — which entails 10 billion servings annually and is growing at a 6 percent clip. In this blog series, we will walk through 10 mega trends we’re seeing in the coffee industry.

 We are facing significant head winds at origin:

  • There is an increasing demand for coffee from around the world
  • Climate change continues to threaten coffee-growing regions
  • Around 125 million people worldwide depend on coffee for their livelihoods and 25 million smallholder farmers produce 80% of the world’s coffee. These smallholders are the most vulnerable and we need them to stay with us

 The next megatrend is #9: We will meet the Sustainable Coffee Challenge and become 100% Sustainable sometime between 2020 and 2022.

This is a lofty goal. It’s going to take collaboration, as no one company can do it alone.

We can be the first agricultural commodity to get there, but it means coffee either needs to be certified or verified.

 The programs that are being implemented today are more impact-driven than ever before.The ultimate goal is greater productivity. Farmer prosperity shouldn’t rely in higher prices — the key is bigger yields.

S&D is doing that with a project we started in Colombia to provide technical assistance literally at the ground level.

We funded a soil lab based on the premise that smallholders didn’t know what was in their soil and the nutrients in the soil can nurture the coffee plants for great yields. The soil lab serves 3,600 cooperative members and the entire coffee growing community in Antioquia.

S&D is VERY active in helping our customers understand the criticality of sustainability and the benefits to them with their consumers. And, we have many, many projects now to help our customers with a sustainability program — more than I can ever remember.

Across the board, customer concerns include:

  • Protection for their brands – are there issues at origin that could damage my reputation?
  • Supply chain risks – will there be enough quality product to meet my needs for the future?
  • Sales impact – can the programs and support through sustainability investments change the trajectory of my sales?

Fifteen to twenty years out we need to have drought resistant strains of the coffee plant. World Coffee Research is leading these efforts — learn more about their initiatives at

What we have to do in the interim is to support our producers, particularly smallholders, with technical assistance so they can achieve maximum productivity per hectare from coffee.

Through our sustainability sourcing platform, Raíz Sustainability, S&D partners with small and medium scale farmers — measuring progress and promoting continuous improvement. Ongoing collaboration with established industry leaders and local affiliates at origin are key elements to the program’s success. Watch this video to better understand Raíz Sustainability and its impact at origin.

More than just a megatrend, a sustainable future for coffee is a critical consideration for our business, our industry and our planet.