• Roasted coffee


    The market for roasted coffee is somewhat less concentrated than that for soluble coffee. Although market concentration in the roast and ground sector increased significantly, particularly during the 1980s and in the late 1990s, the development of the specialty sector has slowed the trend and the number of small roasters operating worldwide did increase significantly for a while. Small roasters rarely buy direct from origin, but make their purchases through importers who are able to offer some security of supply and cost savings for small lots. In many cases importing direct from origin involves buying a full container load of around 300 bags (18 tonnes), which is simply too large an order for most small roasters. 

    As a result of the development of the specialty and gourmet sectors in many countries single origin roasted coffee are now widely available. However, blends of roasted coffee from different origins remain the most predominant roasted coffee product in the overall market today and this makes it difficult for producers to enter the retail market on their own. The trade in roasted coffee from origin is limited:
    in 2009/10 only 222,500 bags were exported from origin in roasted form compared to 6.9 million bags GBE of soluble and 85.4 million bags of green coffee. In total, roasted coffee accounted for just 0.24% of all coffee exports, but the published statistics on this trade are notoriously inaccurate with reported imports from producing countries greatly exceeding reported exports from those origins.  Even so, and perhaps somewhat surprisingly, Colombia was recorded as the largest exporter of roasted coffee in 2009/10, taking over the top spot from Brazil which had held the top position for many years, although there have been the occasional year in the past in which its position of dominance has been surpassed by countries such as the Dominican Republic.

    There are several obstacles to exporting roasted coffee from origin. None of them are insurmountable but together they form a significant barrier to this trade. Roasted coffee rapidly loses its flavour unless it is vacuum packed or gas flushed. A supplier wishing to export must therefore install an appropriate packing facility.

    Furthermore, consumers are becoming increasingly sophisticated and demand high quality packaging that requires a significant level of investment. Additionally, legislation in importing countries frequently insists that packs are marked with a ‘sell by’ or ‘use by’ date.

    Transporting the product to market from origin can take a considerable amount of time and this puts the exporter at a disadvantage compared to a more local roaster who is able to offer the retailer a product with a longer shelf life. Exporters of roasted coffee therefore need to develop speedy distribution systems in order to minimize this disadvantage. This usually requires the active collaboration of agents or specialized importers or roasters in the target market(s).

    Updated 11/2010 

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