Market Reports

Westrock Coffee Company CEO Scott Ford on predicting the unpredictable

scott ford

While 2020 proved no crystal ball is accurate, GCR invited industry leaders to share their hopes, ambitions, and predictions for 2021, in what is likely to be a defining year for the international coffee market.

Prognostications and most professional prognosticators are ultimately doomed by reality. This, we all recognise as old news. That said, and for the sake of fun, I will nonetheless take a couple of wild guesses about what might be ahead of us in the new year. 

First, COVID-19 will run its course soon enough, but its impact on the capital structure health of many in the food service aligned roasting community will be felt for several years. We are therefore likely to see several participants forced to recapitalise, consolidate, significantly scale back, or close shop. Twenty-thirty per cent reductions in demand in a thin margin, commodity processing business will be more than many can overcome. That said, the survivors will fill the void and the remaining competitors will be leaner, tougher, and more price disciplined than they have been in decades.

Secondly, now that coffee can be digitally traced from end product retail container all the way back to the farmer – including the date and quantity purchased, coffee quality, price paid, and details of the individual farmer duly recorded – the largest retailers of coffee will soon insist that this information be provided to them in order for the product to be granted shelf space. While this might not happen in 2021 specifically, I imagine that we will see great strides in this direction over the coming year.

What exactly will happen in 2021 is a mystery, but what we do know is that the year will be full of both positive and negative surprises, as is every year. How we handle these issues, good and bad, will determine the quality of the year we actually experience.

Written by Scott Ford, Chief Executive Officer of Westrock Coffee Company.

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