Industry leaders discuss hot topics at GCR Coffee Leaders Symposium Melbourne

Around 100 industry leaders gathered in Melbourne, in the country’s leading professional development and networking opportunity at t undefined

he GCR Coffee Leaders Symposium.

Over 20 of the country’s largest coffee roasters were present at the event, including leaders from Di Stefano Coffee, Mocopan Coffee, Toby’s Estate, Lavazza, Aromas Coffee, Allpress Coffee, Crivelli and more.

The event also saw an impressive representation from the country’s coffee capsule manufacturers, with almost every major company taking part, including Aldi, Mad Coffee Capsules, Nespresso, and more.

“Although this is only our third event, we’re already seeing an impressive take up from the industry,” says Brad Buchanan, General Manager of Coffee Media and Events, for the event’s organiser, Prime Creative Media. “The event is filling a now apparent gap for a high-level networking and professional development opportunity outside of large trade shows and beyond specialty coffee.”

The Melbourne 2014 edition of the GCR Coffee Leaders Symposium adopted a fresh new format, which included panel discussions at the end of every session.

Discussions became quite animated around the session on direct trade, where two green bean traders, a coffee roaster, and a farmer organisation debated the role and nature of direct trade.

Dave Makin, Owner of Axil Coffee Roasters, advocated that a minimum price paid to farmers should be included in any definition of direct trade.

“Some coffee roasters are only paying 25 cents above the Fairtrade premium. I don’t think that’s enough, and it shouldn’t be called direct trade,” said Makin.

Andres Latorre, Managing Director of Latorre and Dutch Coffee Traders, called himself a “victim of direct trade”. He said he sees a constant pattern of having introduced roasters to farmers, after investing to improve the quality of coffee of those farmers, just to have those roasters “price shop” and use a different trading company to import that same coffee.

“Once that trust is broken, I can’t work with those farmers anymore,” he said, adding that those farmers then see their market access shrink. A result of this discussion is that direct trade doesn’t typically involve cutting out the green bean trader altogether, but rather means the roasters and farmers work together and are transparent on price, etc.

Two other popular sessions that saw their discussions merge were the ones on Specialty Coffee and coffee capsules. When asked whether coffee capsules could be considered specialty coffee, some speakers, such as St Ali Owner Salvatore Malatesta, said that capsules could be specialty, but have a long way to go. Other speakers on the panel disagreed, saying that Nespresso purchases some very high grade coffee that could be considered specialty.

Lavazza’s Trent Knox argued that companies who are looking to make their mark in introducing specialty coffee into coffee capsules should consider the downfalls of compatible capsules, that use less grams per extraction than Italian standards. Lavazza’s Amodo Mio machine uses the same extraction standards set out by the Italian Espresso Institute.

Another popular session was on coffee pricing, where speakers looked at every segment of the coffee chain: from growers, to roasters, to consumers, to see what was determining the price of retail coffee. The conclusion, presented by Wayne Fowler, the developer of the Cappuccino Price Index, was that the price of green beans has traditionally had no impact on take-away coffee. This is a contrast to popular media reports that the price of coffee will jump every time the green bean market does.

The GCR Coffee Leaders Symposium took place one day ahead of the Melbourne International Coffee Expo (MICE2014). The expo welcomed over 120 exhibitors and over 9,500 visitors to Australia’s largest coffee-dedicated event.

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