• Quality in relation to marketing - the basics


    The basics of quality in relation to marketing are simple. Coffee must

    • be suitable for human consumption. European Union legislation now imposes full accountability and responsibility on all participants and stages in the food chain, who must therefore be clearly traceable and identifiable, from producer to consumer. See Quality control issues in Chapter 12.
    • be free from extraneous matter, live pests and moulds.
    • fully conform to the contract description or selling sample, and be of uniform quality throughout the entire shipment.
    • be clean in the cup, i.e. free from obnoxious flavours.

    The first two points cover the general acceptability of a coffee, while the third and fourth deal directly with the quality. Without an agreed description of the quality, or a sample of the actual coffee, there could not be any trade in coffee because quality is a subjective term, open to many interpretations depending on who is making the judgement.

    For the serious, committed producer and exporter the focus should always be on quality. Price should never play a role when preparing a shipment of an established type of coffee. It is only by strictly adhering to contractual obligations and always supplying exactly what was sold that solid reputations are created. Solid reputations attract equally solid buyers, which leads to repeat business that in turn raises the level of interaction between seller and buyer from just price to quality and price.

    Probably the worst offence an exporter can commit is to knowingly ship a coffee that does not meet the contract specification. Roasters purchase coffee with specific purposes in mind and if a shipment is not up to standard then it cannot be used. Usually, even the offer of a subsequent reduction in price (an allowance) does not help. Respect for quality and impeccable contract execution are an essential, and may even be the most important part of an exporter's marketing arsenal. Both large and small roasters tend to reject coffees that on arrival do not match their requirements, something that can cause major problems. And roasters are increasingly purchasing subject to approval of quality on arrival. For the exporter, prevention is always better than the cure.

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