Marcos Fava Neves
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The Colombian Coffee Example of Sustainable Inclusion

Popularity 1Viewed 2429 times 2016-9-14 21:32 |System category:Economy

special to China Daily, by Prof. Dr. Marcos Fava Neves

Colombian coffee farmers in 1927 created a very insightful organization for sustainable inclusion of smallholders, aggregating around 500,000 farmers. In essence, this organization brought capacity to adapt to market changes in the coffee chain promoting value for the farmers and building global scale. Their experience brings considerable learning points, and I will address some of them in this story.

Related to the structure and history of this organization, we can learn with the good governance (very democratic and participative) and transparency. For educational purposes, they have trainings for coffee experts in order to enhance quality knowledge and several other topics, and these are under a foundation named Manuel Mejia. For research there is an institute called CENICAFE (organizes events, scientific publications and others). The organization has risk management policies and financial sustainability with transparency (all the reports available in the website) and linked to a recognized company doing their reports (Deloitte).

Café de Colombia has a strategic planning and management process with prioritization of projects and a strong ethical code transmitting responsible practices in the coffee chain. They are organized in regional structures, with local departments and committees making it possible to reach farmers all over the country and to deal locally with local problems. Café de Colombia also has a clear positioning that shares consciousness, knowledge and enhances the proudness of using Colombian Coffee. They created a coffee farmer “stereotype” named Juan Valdez allowing several marketing activities. Nice videos can be seen in the web site.

In terms of products, brands, packaging and communications we learn with their ability to create and manage a global brand (named Juan Valdez) and differentiate the Colombian coffee from others, creating value with this origin. Juan Valdez also sells coffee cups, plates, milk recipients and sugar with their logos in a very creative design. Innovation is also seen with the development of new products (lattes, liquor, rum and other brand extensions) and colorful packages using the image of the farmer and farms, old houses and others.

Communication shows working with different types of social media (Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, Youtube) and the brand builds a linkage recognized by consumers and with positive impacts in society and environment. They also have training programs for baristas do be real communicators of Colombian Coffee and created a community (friends) in a loyalty program, a real club of consumers expanding fast. An amusement park in Colombia (Coffee Park) helps to complete the Juan Valdez experience. They pay attention to details, and we know that marketing is… details.

Other learning points are coming from Juan Valdez’s strategies in distribution channels. Consumer experience in their coffee shops should be unique and build emotional ties. Café de Colombia sells in very different channels, from own coffee shops in Malaysia, Kuwait, Latin America, North America to supermarkets in 19 countries and more than 3000 point of sales.

Channels also involve embassies in Colombia and other countries, selling in large companies offices and in several restaurants. They are open to receive investments (franchising) and exports Colombian talents to work in these coffee shops. The Café de Colombia coffee shops are considered embassies of Colombian and Latin American people in several countries, being a place where people gather and enjoy, valuing the consumer experience.

Finally, the learning points in sustainability (social/people, environmental/planet and economic/profit) involves a clear strategy for costs reduction, risks mitigation, innovation, brand value and healthier working environment bringing more productivity. Efforts in the area of rural education, social security and investments, income distribution (considered one of the five most important inclusion business models in the world), a program “free of alcohol and drugs”, management of environmental resources with climate smart coffee production, measuring carbon emissions, specific program for solid residues management and reuse of materials, linked to the trend of the circular economy.

A final question refers to who should learn with this case, with this nice storyo? My experiences in public and private projects shows that this nice experience of the Colombians have important messages to Governments, to see how to help an organization or to stimulate the creation of these forms that can provide sustainable inclusion being able to move forward with their own legs. Messages are given also to other associations and cooperatives to benchmark their programs, projects, strategies and governance, how to create capture and share value with vertical integration towards the final consumer using innovative marketing and sustainability strategies. 

Colombian coffee has a story that I admire and use in my lectures and the reasons are the ones listed above. Congratulations!

(more info:

The author is professor of strategic planning and food chains at the School of Economics and Business, University of Sao Paulo, Brazil ( and international speaker. Author of “The Future of Food Business” and coordinator of other 50 books published in 8 countries and in China, “The World on the Tongue”.


(Opinions of the writer in this blog don't represent those of China Daily.)




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Reply Report mauriciomunhoz 2017-3-6 11:05
a good analysis

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Professor of strategic planning and food chains at the School of Economics and Business, University of Sao Paulo, Brazil ( and international speaker. Author of 25 books published in 8 countries and in China, “The World on the Tongue”.


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