Why does specialty coffee cost more than grocery store coffee?

After crude oil, coffee is one of the most traded commodities in the world. In order to meet the global demand and serve more than 2 billion coffees a day, more than 25 million farmers in over 50 countries work daily to ensure that you are able to drink your favourite nectar every morning. Around the world, about 125 million people in all sectors of the industry rely on coffee for their livelihood.

These days, you can get coffee just about anywhere: at home, in the garage while waiting for your car to be repaired, in coffee shops, at work, at the convenience store, etc. If you have had a coffee in one of these places, you will probably have noticed that the price varies enormously from one place to another. Yet it's the same initial product you're drinking, right? Well, not quite…

To understand the difference, let's draw a parallel with the world of wine. Currently, on the SAQ website, you can find red wine in 750ml format from $7.10 to $7,500.00. However, at first glance, these bottles all contain the same basic product, namely black grapes. The major differences between these two bottles are mainly in the production and supply chain as well as in the traceability of the product. Do we know the origin? Under what conditions was this wine produced? We don't know!

Coming back to the world of coffee, it's more or less the same phenomenon that occurs. In grocery shops, you can find coffees whose prices fluctuate enormously. Prices can be as low as $0.42 for a cup of coffee from a popular Italian coffee brand and as high as $1.00 for a polluting pod that is the equivalent of a cup. If you look at our coffees like La Sève, the price comes up to $0.77 per cup.

What explains this price difference?

There are several aspects to consider when comparing the prices of different coffees. First, the price is determined by the purchasing environment in which the coffee is produced. There are three main ways to buy coffee. Firstly, in the C Market, with prepaid contracts that aim for the highest profitability and lowest price, but with no emphasis on the final quality of the product and the welfare of the farmers, pickers, etc. It should also be noted that in this type of coffee purchase, it is impossible to trace which farm or producer the coffee comes from. These batches are bought in several regions of the country blindly and then put together to give a Colombian coffee.It's a bit like blending two grape varieties in the wine world to create a generic French wine; you potentially lose all the beautiful qualities of the two original varieties.

At Nektar, we focus instead on two other types of coffee purchases: importing coffee with facilitating agents, who often have offices directly in the country of origin, and direct trade. Both of these ways of procuring green coffee aim to offer as much money as possible to the producer so that he can make a good living. In comparison, the majority of farmers who sell their coffee in the C Market do so at a loss and cannot even cover their basic production costs

For many decades, the C Market was the only way to do this, but over time, people involved in coffee production realised that it was impossible to support sustainable development by continuing in this way.

That's where specialty coffees come in. At a time when the coffee model is no longer viable in the long term, the various agents involved in coffee production are beginning to take an interest in developing better relationships with farmers, paying them the best possible price and thus helping them to develop a higher quality coffee. This is all part of a vision of sustainable development: consuming coffee that is easily traceable, in smaller quantities and encouraging local economies.

By purchasing specialty coffee, you are not only helping to support a roaster in your local economy, but you are also greatly contributing to the well-being and future development of a coffee producer on the other side of the world.

Coming back to the original question: why does specialty coffee cost more than grocery shop coffee, this is a multi-faceted question with many possible answers.

In the end, whether you buy a specialty coffee or a grocery shop coffee is an ethical question and the answer to that question should be consistent with your own values. No matter where you buy your coffee, one thing remains important: the well-being of those who produce it, an investment in the sustainable development of coffee growing, and a quality end product that meets your expectations.

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