Inaugural World Coffee Portal CEO Forum takes place in New York City

On 24 September 2015, Allegra World Coffee Portal hosted its inaugural CEO Forum at The Intercontinental Times Square, New York, welcoming more than 100 senior executives from across the global coffee industry.

Jeffrey Young, Managing Director of World Coffee Portal and Allegra Group opened the programme by welcoming delegates from around the world. He then handed over to keynote speaker Cliff Burrows, Group President, US Americas of Starbucks who spoke on the topic ‘Using Our Scale for Good’.

In his talk, Cliff spoke of international diversity and Starbucks’ aim to make coffee the world’s first sustainable commodity, working more closely with farmers and their families. Asking the question ‘what is the role of a public company in the 21st century?’ Cliff shared Starbucks’ commitment to communities. He cited examples such as hiring veterans and supporting students by offering a flexible work-study balance and tuition assistance.

Todd Carmichael, Founder and CEO of La Colombe, came in with a bold statement that cold beverages were the Fourth Wave of coffee, after revealing that 73% of the world’s coffee drinkers would choose a cold, rather than a hot, coffee.

Gregory Zamfotis, Founder of Gregorys Coffee, invited us all to ‘see coffee differently’ in his passionate talk ‘Do Not Enter the Market, Disrupt It’. Gregory examined how the industry has changed over the years, emphasising that customer feedback is essential for progression. He suggested that business owners look to social media and online reviews to establish what their customers really want.

Focusing her discussion on the importance of understanding the millennials, Tracy Ging from S&D Coffee & Tea provided insight into this generation’s demand for sustainability. She highlighted the importance of sharing company values with consumers and challenged the industry to do better at explaining sustainability.  

Taking on the task of discussing ‘The Meaning of Coffee’, Allegra’s Jeffrey Young explored the differences between leading global markets, citing major trends such as the continued rise of branded chains, artisan coffee and the iced beverage revolution. He spoke about what delegates could expect from the New York Coffee Festival and applauded New York and its community spirit which has helped to welcome the new consumer generation.

The Future of the Speciality Coffee Market

The first panel of the day featured several of the morning’s speakers plus Jason Cotta, Managing Director – EMEA of Costa International. Chaired by Jay Lijewski from Espresso Parts, the discussion focused on ‘Strategies to Engage with the Future Consumer & What’s Next for the Coffee Market’.

Once again cold beverages was a strong discussion point, with ready-to-drink and iced coffee hailed as ‘on the way up’ by both Todd Carmichael and Cliff Burrows, and the rise of non-dairy alternatives was also debated.

All were in agreement that embracing new technology was important, especially when engaging with mobile-savvy millennials, but each panellist was adamant that the crucial element remains people. Well-trained staff who are passionate about coffee are what can really differentiate one coffee shop from another.

The importance of people was also the focus of Jason Cotta’s talk after lunch, describing them as ‘The Most Important Ingredient in Our Coffee’. He praised the hospitality industry for its ‘no barriers to entry, no limit to progression’ as individuals can still work their way to the top from a junior store level.

Aleksander Eng from Joe & The Juice also noted the importance of people, alongside passion, culture and team bonding to ensure that staff feel a sense of belonging with the brand.

Similarly, Darren Miles, Vice President of Development and Operations – International, from Caribou Coffee discussed how expanding a business requires you to ‘Think Global, Act Local’. He explained that you must adapt for each local market, but remain true to your brand’s message and values. His example was that Caribou’s famous fireplace is a key feature in each of their stores across the world, even in Asia where a fire is a rare thing. He also recommended that businesses pay attention to internal data to find out what their customers really want.

Localisation was also an important aspect for Karla Gichard from Ozone Coffee Roasters in New Zealand. In her talk ‘11,000 Miles for a Cup of Coffee – Why Not Australia?’ Karla clarified her reasons for choosing the UK as Ozone’s second location. She explained that even though it was much closer, the Australian market had become crowded and also spoke about how Ozone kept their identity whilst adjusting to a new country’s culture and lifestyle.

The Challenges in the Market

True to form James Hoffman from Square Mile Coffee Roasters caused some controversy by speaking about ‘The Failure of a Cup of Coffee’. He disagreed that the fourth wave of coffee has arrived and stated it will not for some time. He admitted that it was challenging to open a coffee shop because the market is so crowded, but still believed that if we could get people to taste really great coffee, they would stop drinking instant.

Bringing chocolate into the equation was Angus Thirlwell, Founder and CEO of Hotel Chocolat, a brand that prides itself on authenticity and innovation. Explaining that he initially took inspiration from the fashion world, Angus told his brand’s story noting the similarities between cocoa and coffee as well as the importance of sustainability and the people behind the beans.

The second panel session, chaired by David Latourell from Franke, looked at the ‘Challenges and Rewards of Entering New Markets’, touching on the problems of high priced real estate, creating a unique brand and the importance of social media marketing when targeting millennials.

Finally Bill Murray, President and CEO of the National Coffee Association, took to the stage to offer his closing remarks, emphasising the importance of the younger generation who have stronger values when it comes to coffee. No-one in the room could deny that millennials are clearly important to the future of the coffee industry.

The day ended with a gala dinner and charity auction in aid of Project Waterfall where selected artwork from the Coffee Art Project was sold, raising $5,700. The following day, delegates took part in a coffee shop and roastery tour in Williamsburg and also attended The New York Coffee Festival.

The World Coffee Portal CEO Forum and gala dinner were proudly sponsored by Huhtamaki, De’Longhi, Califia Farms and Ghirardelli.
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