My First NCA Event

By Rocky Rhodes, International Coffee Consulting

[Ed. note: The following is an unsolicited post sharing the author’s experiences at the NCA Annual Convention 2017 in Austin, TX. Learn more about contributing a guest post to The First Pull]

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I have been in the coffee industry for 21 years now. I feel I am pretty well versed in most things ‘coffee.’ That was until I went to the National Coffee Association Convention.

The attendees are made up of multi-generational coffee companies that have survived and thrived for 50, 60 – even over 100 years. I knew I had a lot to learn at this event.

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From Brew Boomers to the Gourmet Generation: National Coffee Drinking Trends 2017

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By Kyra Auffermann, NCA

Today’s “typical” cup of coffee is anything but – it may not even be a cup.

Innovation is fueling growth across the gourmet coffee segment (aka specialty coffee), according to the new NCA National Coffee Drinking Trends Report 2017, released at the NCA 2017 Annual Convention in Austin on March 25, presented by Michael Edwards, Dig Insights.

The latest data shows a market shift toward high-quality, premium beverages, with younger demographics driving this change.

So what does this mean for the coffee industry? Here are the top consumption trends, based on the latest market data.

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Women’s Work: The Economic Imperative for Gender Equity in Coffee

“Gender equality is both a fundamental human right and a necessary foundation of an economically prosperous coffee community.”

Robério Oliveira Silva, former Executive Director of the International Coffee Organization (ICO)

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This International Women’s Day is a great opportunity to celebrate the work of women in coffee, and to advocate for gender equality across the entire supply chain.

But how can the coffee industry go beyond the hashtag and create systematic opportunities for women to thrive?

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Seeding Coffee’s Future: A Conversation About Conservation and Verification

By Hanna Neuschwander, World Coffee Research

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An unidentified Coffea species found in Madagascar, which is preserved in a coffee genebank. Ensuring these genebanks have adequate funding to continue operations should be a major priority of the coffee industry. Source: Sarada Krishnan

Sometimes facts are so obvious they become invisible.

In the case of coffee, one of those facts is this: Coffee comes from a plant. The entire $225 billion dollar coffee industry in the U.S. is built up from the roots of billions of living, breathing coffee plants that spend their days turning sunlight into fruit. Once you stop and think about it, it’s kind of profound. Nearly 1.7 million jobs — including, if you are reading this, probably yours — depend on those plants doing their thing, photosynthesizing, outsmarting diseases and pests, being rained on at the right time in the right amounts.

It’s also profound to think about just how fragile the entire arrangement is. The vast majority of coffee plants in the field today are really, really (really) genetically similar. Most varieties are not resistant to major diseases. Most are way too old (World Coffee Research guesses that about 50% of coffee trees are more than 50 years old). That leaves coffee especially vulnerable — to disease epidemics like the one that devastated Central American production after 2012, to extremes in weather like excessive rain or drought or frost.

When crops are facing challenges like these, it helps to go back to basics: Coffee is a plant. So — what is needed to help the plant thrive? And, thereby, to help the humans who depend on it?

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Innovation, Sustainability, and the Global Coffee Industry

By Bambi Semroc, Conservation International

[Ed. note: To learn more about this project, join Bambi Semroc and Annette Pensel, Global Coffee Platform, for the breakout session “Making Coffee the First Sustainable Commodity,” at the NCA Annual Convention 2017, March 23-25, Austin, TX]

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Source: Conservation International, Cristina Mittermeier ©

Innovation is all around us.

From a 3D printer that enables doctors to construct human tissue, to a virtual reality headset that transports a policymaker in Washington, DC to a remote village in the Amazon to experience projects helping prevent deforestation. Things we never dreamed of 20 years ago are changing our daily lives. And, innovation is not just defined as “the next hot thing” – it’s critical to ensuring the sustainable growth of an industry.

The coffee sector is continually innovating. Consider the new roasting and brewing techniques that led to cold brew and single serve coffees. Or, consumer engagement through creative retail shops offering everything from hands-on technology to fully compostable cups.

That said, innovation in coffee also includes things the everyday drinker might not know about – from researchers developing new varieties and improved practices, to small-scale farmers adopting those varieties and experimenting with new techniques on their farms.

One of the most important innovations the coffee sector has been leading includes the work being done on sustainability.

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Leading To The Future: Innovation and Your Coffee Business

By William (Bill) M. Murray, CAE, CEO, National Coffee Association

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Despite the fact that coffee has been part of the human experience for centuries, innovation is now a necessity for companies across all sectors of the coffee industry – more than ever before.  In fact, if you search online for “innovate or die” you’ll easily return more than a half a million results.

What are the factors driving this change? How do we approach and address the challenges? How do we focus strategies and resources to adjust for success? And how can individual executives and business owners come up with new ideas?

First, here’s a snapshot of the issues:

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The 10 Best Cities for Coffee Lovers

via Derek Miller, SmartAsset

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A unique culture around coffee is growing across America.

According to the 2016 National Coffee Drinking Trends (NCDT) report, more people are consuming coffee out of home. As a result, the number of coffeehouses and cafes are increasing in neighborhoods across the United States.

But not all cities are as coffee-crazed as others. The financial experts at SmartAsset looked through the data to see which American cities are the best for coffee fanatics. (Good news for NCA Convention 2017 attendees – Austin, TX is ranked high on the list!)

Here are the full rankings:

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Video: How Wasted Soap Became a Catalyst for Change

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The theme of the National Coffee Association 2017 Convention is “innovation” – inspired not only by our host city Austin, TX, but the transformations and transitions we’re seeing across the coffee industry.

Wherever it’s found, innovation can be fueled by the power of “weak connections”  (and strong coffee). In other words, exposure to fresh perspectives through conversation and acquaintances – such as networking with more than 700 coffee industry executives – helps your brain combine different ideas in new ways.

Because often, inspiration comes from the most unlikely places. For instance: leftover soap can catalyze life-saving change.

Here, Derreck Kayongo, Global Soap Project Founder & CEO of the Center for Civil and Human Rights, shares how learning about the hospitality industry’s considerable waste led him to create a global humanitarian initiative.

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