New technologies like Era of We are providing the coffee industry with greater levels of connection, transparency, and value creation, from the coffee producer through to the end consumer.
The coffee supply chain has traditionally been shrouded in secrecy, with decisions of what information is made available and value addition firmly concentrated with the buyer. But new technologies and greater consumer demand for transparency are changing that.
In June 2021, Era of We – an end-to-end digital marketplace and social networking platform for the coffee industry – was launched with the goal of reinventing the coffee supply chain and shifting the value of coffee back to the growers and consumers.
“Era of We is a digital platform based on transparency, collaboration, and a new way to see the roles in the industry. It’s all about creating a higher value for coffee, starting with the farmers and empowering them in the industry,” says Martin Löfberg, Founder and Chairman of Era of We.
“It enables farmers to create their own identities and brands and sell or market things other than coffee – their services, knowledge, and experience on the farms – to tell the story behind the coffee in a much broader way than before.”
From farmers to general consumers, all members of the coffee supply chain are invited to join Era of We. Producers and estates can access the platform’s consulting and branding services to fine tune their craft and generate new revenue opportunities. Löfberg says this will ultimately enable producers and estates to set their own prices, rather than rely on the commodity exchange market to determine prices.
“Over several decades, I’ve travelled to origin countries around the equator from Central and South America to Africa and Asia, and realised from talking to hundreds of coffee farmers around the world that there are hidden opportunities,” he says.
“I’ve seen and tasted beautiful coffees the rest of the world doesn’t know or learn about. It would be fantastic to enable farmers to reveal these to the world and build a business that goes beyond selling a bag of green coffee.”
While Era of We is ultimately designed to redistribute value creation throughout the supply chain, this is not necessarily to the detriment of the importers and coffee roasters where the majority currently rests. For them, Löfberg says the platform serves as an open marketplace to source a larger variety of coffees and create new relationships. It also provides them with a tool to create “extraordinary experiences” for their consumers – allowing them to connect with estates and build lifelong relationships with their favourite farms.
“Coffee roasters using Era of We are speaking directly with farmers and making transactions on a completely different platform, where they can learn from access to instant feedback and huge waves of new data insight,” he says.
“That flows on to the roaster’s clients and consumers. They gain immediate access to coffee farmers in new ways. With an appealing simplicity, they can access interesting coffees, find their favourite farms, and build lifelong relationships with them. I think relationships, together with transparency, will be the future when it comes to food and beverage.”
Era of We aims to tackle systemic problems in the coffee industry, but it hasn’t lost sight of other roadblocks and hurdles to transparent supply chains. For instance, Löfberg says language barriers have often limited producers’ abilities to bargain and speak to end consumers, so the platform has integrated an AI-enabled translation feature for more than 100 languages into its chat function.
“Coffee producers today face many challenges, from price mechanisms not reflecting the true value of coffee to access to financing, knowledge, and travel. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, agronomists’ ability to visit and work on farms will probably be affected for years,” Löfberg explains.
“But the pandemic has also created new opportunities and a readiness in people to embrace and use digital tools. That is the approach we bring with Era of We.”
The Löfbergs Group in Sweden, of which Martin Löfberg is the Purchasing Director, was the first coffee roaster to partner with Era of We and since its launch, Löfberg says many more consumers, farmers, estates, and industry leaders have joined or expressed interest in the initiative.
“We’re coming with a proposition of raising the value of coffee and, at the same time, accelerating farmer income. People see there is a huge opportunity to work together on this, and in the new world, you need to collaborate to address global issues and challenges,” Löfberg says.
“But it will take time for some business to adapt and change how they do business. Era of We is ambitious, in some ways quite disruptive, and a global initiative. We will expand all over the world in the coming years, onboarding new participants who fulfill the criteria, and welcome everyone to join, participate, and collaborate on shaping the future of coffee.”
For more information, visit www.eraofwe.com
This article was first published in the September/October edition of Global Coffee Report. Read more HERE.