Buencafé reached new heights in 2020 thanks to a focus on quality in the instant coffee market and its Sensoria by Buencafé technology concept.
Buencafé is owned by Colombian coffee producers. All of the soluble coffee plant’s profits are reinvested into improving coffee growers’ quality of life, sustainability of the coffee sector, and the Colombian coffee culture.
“As a factory, we focus on quality and improving processes, but as a part of the Colombian Coffee Growers Federation (FNC), we do the best for our owners, the coffee growers. When we improve our technology or products, it’s so we can add value for coffee farmers,” says Buencafé General Manager Cristina Madriñan.
“Buencafé has an R&D team that continuously seeks out new products… Our pilot plant allows us to experiment and develop prototypes very fast, making the developing process a flexible and very customisable experience.”
Since opening its factory doors in 1973, Buencafé has continued to expand its range of coffee products, which includes freeze-dried soluble coffee, micro-ground options, and coffee extract, as well as fully customisable private-label services.
It’s also focused on improving its own equipment and operations, reaching new heights in 2019 with the roll out of Sensoria by Buencafé technology. The concept unites a suite of technologies and processes which Buencafé has sourced from around the world to best preserve the complex flavours and aromas of freshly roasted coffee.
“It begins with a unique roasting process in which we unlock the delicate, volatile flavour compounds that are responsible for the aroma and taste of the coffee. Thanks to Sensoria by Buencafé technology, we are able to capture and return those compounds at the right time, avoiding losing them and maintaining distinct and complex flavour profiles intact,” Madriñan says.
“We combine this with the Colombian raw material, the richest coffee in the world, which allows us to achieve an instant coffee with a cupping profile that is very difficult to distinguish from roasted coffee.”
Madriñan says Sensoria by Buencafé technology resulted in an immediate reaction from Buencafé’s customers, some of whom called it a “game changer” for the industry.
“The first feedback we received from people was a surprise, because it’s a new category of quality in the instant market that didn’t exist before,” she says.
“Sensoria by Buencafé technology has also allowed us to better customise our process to what the customer wants and needs. The market is changing quickly, so it’s become important for us to be able to adapt and respond to new requirements.”
Madriñan adds this focus on customisation is important because, over the years, customers have moved from just needing a coffee solution to a yearning for a true “coffee experience” for their businesses.
“This is when flexibility and customisation become true added value to our product offering, bringing us even closer to our customers to earn their loyalty,” she says.
Buencafé’s ability to adapt was put to the test at the start of 2020, when the onset of COVID-19 restrictions saw many customers need to make sudden changes to their orders.
“It was important we be very agile and flexible. If a customer had to postpone orders, we allowed them to. If another required higher volumes, we applied our full capacity to give them what they needed,” Madriñan says.
“Last year was a challenging year for all, but being close to our clients, understanding and supporting their needs, led us to increase our sales, driven specially by a higher demand of retailers in America and a good performance of the ingredients business in Asia.”
Buencafé reported its strongest sales results ever in 2020, with sales above US$160 million, up 9 per cent versus 2019.
With COVID-19 seeing a shift to remote work for many people around the world, at-home coffee consumption has never been more in the spotlight.
Madriñan says while the places where people consume coffee are changing, so are the expectations of coffee in those locations.
“Instant is the king of coffee at home. People want easy, convenient, and practical solutions, but they don’t want to sacrifice on quality anymore. That’s something we can take advantage of,” she says.
“People are experimenting with new, increasingly premium products. And in line with the search for better quality, Buencafé launched a new line of products made through its Sensoria by Buencafé technology, which preserves the most delicate flavour and aroma of fresh Colombian coffee, without losing the convenience of an instant soluble.”
Madriñan adds that many of Buencafé’s customers were also able to quickly adapt to the new landscape, having already jumped on market trends that were accelerated due to COVID-19.
“Our North American customers grew very fast this year. They already had established ecommerce channels, which I think made it easier for them to respond to the new reality,” she says. “The pandemic decisively accelerated the use of digital platforms and e-commerce, which are now a priority for leading companies and brands. In 2021, online sales will continue reaching new devotees, and the industry must get ready and transform rapidly.
“Our coffee extract business also grew, because it’s primary market in Asia was able to manage the COVID situation better than many other countries and regions.”
While instant coffee is the lion’s share of Buencafé’s portfolio, the factory also produces coffee extract with a diverse array of uses. These range from ready to drink (RTD) coffees and beverages to ice creams, candies, baked items, and liqueurs.
“RTD is very popular in Asia, but it is also growing in the United States, and the US is like a reference point for trends that will soon spread to other markets,” Madriñan says.
Another aspect of Buencafé’s business reinforced by the pandemic was its private label services, where Madriñan says smaller and cheaper brands are filling a new need in the market.
“Private labels have reinvented themselves during the pandemic and shown competitive strength, becoming very attractive options for consumers whose income was hit,” she says.
“Private labels are one of Buencafé’s main businesses and we support our customers by offering timely delivery and availability of all our installed capacity. In 2021, we will continue strengthening innovation in labels, packaging, and products.”
However, not every industry trend of 2020 is directly related to COVID-19. Issues like sustainability have become increasingly pressing year on year, and Madriñan says this is where Buencafé’s connection to producers comes to the forefront.
“Consumers are increasingly conscious, responsible, and interested in sustainability and traceability. Quality is just one part of what we offer to our customers. There’s sustainable value, because we are the only instant coffee company in the world that invests 100 per cent of profits back into coffee growers,” she says.
“It’s not just social or economic, it’s a combination of many elements. As part of the FNC, we’re also involved in promoting environmental best practices.”
With consumer used to higher quality coffee experiences at home – like Sensoria provides – and lasting societal changes from the pandemic, Madriñan sees a positive future for the instant coffee market, Buencafé, and the Colombian producers that own it.
“These trends will continue as recover from COVID. They might not grow at the same rate as in 2020, but these seeds have been planted and will flourish in the coming years.”
For more information, visit www.buencafe.com/en