Specialty Coffee Expo 2024 unveils new features for April show

Specialty Coffee Expo

With so much pressure on companies to adopt sustainable practices and make transparent efforts to reduce unnecessary waste and emissions, this year’s Specialty Coffee Expo is determined to show its green side.

In partnership with Caravela Coffee, a Latin America green coffee exporter and importer, plant-based food provider Pacific Foods Barista Series, and coffee machine manufacturer Barista Attitude, these organisations are working together to create an innovative offset strategy for SCA’s trade shows, with impact closer to coffee farms and landscapes, and as an avenue for promoting equitable value distribution across the coffee supply chain.

“We will be directing this financial support to coffee farmers in Latin America, who will plant native trees that contribute to soil health, reduce erosion, and sequester carbon,” says Carrie Gibson, Events Director with Specialty Coffee Association (SCA). “We’re calling this the ‘Sustainable Expo’ and using Specialty Coffee Expo to benefit producers and their communities. We’ll be showcasing the plan during the show at our Community Lounge.”

By implementing agroforestry systems as carbon sinks, the initiative will offset between 1600 to 2000 metric tons of CO2-equivalent emissions through the planting of approximately 6000 native trees. It will also provide support to at least 150 coffee farms and families across Colombia, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico, Nicaragua, and Peru, enabling improved access to education, technical training, and knowledge on climate change adaptation.

In addition to this year’s ‘Sustainable Expo’, taking place from 12 to 14 April in Chicago, United States, Gibson says the SCA has taken feedback from the community and designed a show that offers value to anyone in the international coffee community.

“It is a high energy and fun environment, but it is also an amazing place to conduct and grow a business and develop as a coffee professional,” Gibson says.

“There is something for everyone and the opportunity to create your own experience.  I think that makes our Expo pretty unique. Our hope is that every visitor has a show experience that exceeds their expectations professionally and personally, and that SCA makes it easy to do so.”

The Roaster Village is one of the most popular features at the show each year. Since moving it onto the show floor, Gibson says she has seen an increased demand thanks to its vibrant, high-energy spot, that offers networking and delicious coffee.

“It’s pretty hard to beat,” she says. “But I am most excited about the Best New Product competition this year. We’ve created a 360-display to give all products better visibility, added a People’s Choice category to get attendees engaged, and made the finalist portion of the judging into live presentations. It will be fun to see how it is received.”

The Best New Product competition recognise products that represent the best in quality and value to the industry. This year, entries represent six categories.

This year, the SCA is introducing two new features: Green Coffee Connect, and Retail Buyers Lounge. Green Coffee Connect is a new show feature that is meant to foster inclusive business relationships. It’s an opportunity to dive into the world of green coffee sourcing and sustainability allowing growers, exporters, and roasters to connect and foster relationships taking coffees from farm to cup. Green Coffee Conversations, where industry experts can share their insights and expertise, will offer participants invaluable lessons to elevate their coffee businesses.

Making its debut at the expo is the Retail Buyers Lounge, a space for retail buying professionals to network, listen to speakers, catch up on work, and be part of a new ‘pitch slam contest’.

Additionally, the Specialty Coffee Expo Private Buyer/Seller Meetings provide an opportunity for meaningful discussions and potential trading opportunities, fostering collaboration, and innovation.

Based on industry feedback, the event organisers have also designed a space for skill-sharing, learning, and networking among global coffee retail industry professionals. Education remains one of the most important offers at the expo, with more than 55 lectures and 25 workshop offerings taking place during the three-day event.

“Lectures as an inclusion of the Expo badge specifically because education and professional development are so critical to success in this industry,” Gibson says. “Workshops allow for deeper dives into specific subject matter.  We expect that of the 1000 or so spots available, most will be filled. Several workshops are sold out already.”

The show has seen “explosive growth” on the exhibiting side over the Past three shows, and Gibson expects Chicago to be its largest show floor, and the highest number of attendees to date.

“We have strived to keep the integrity and of the show. The Expo should be a representation of SCA’s values and mission with a focus on meeting the needs of our members and the coffee community. We listen to feedback and continuously evolve,” she says.

“I think every coffee professional will be able to create a unique agenda to meet their objectives. Being able to tailor your experience to match your professional needs is where the value lies.”

The annual coffee tradeshow is among the most prestigious and best-attended on the international circuit, and the work of a core operations team of four staff that work on the show year-round, another 15 people that contribute with support, content, customer experience, several contractors, 250 volunteers, and another 50 to 60 temporary roles onsite. Then add in the plumbing, electrical, catering, audio-visual, venue management, booth builders and so on, adding to hundreds of people working to make this show happen.

Gibson has worked on the event in various capacities since Houston 2011, and moved into the Show Director position in December 2021. She is proud to be a part of such an inclusive and friendly coffee community while doing a job she loves. One of her favourite accomplishments has been helping Specialty Coffee Expo achieve the award for Most Sustainable Trade Show.

“You might think, ‘same show, a different city’ but that is not the case. This role is fast-paced and constantly changing. I really do love my job. There are so many moving parts and details to attend to that it is always interesting. But I mostly love seeing it all come to fruition,” she says.

“Events are like a marathon – you train for a long period for a short burst, but the

accomplishment is so rewarding.  I love seeing this event come together every year and especially love when I see happy exhibitors and attendees at the show. It makes it all worth it.”

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