Power to the Consumer

Power to the Consumer

There's an idea going around the coffee world at the moment: empowerment for producers. This concept is meant to highlight the fact that producers are often disenfranchised in the coffee supply chain. A typical example is the producer’s inability to choose how they sell their coffee, and how much they can sell their coffee for. Sometimes this is because of global or local prices, as well as market forces. And other times, this is the result of bad luck or bad intentions by coffee buyers. For this reason, the idea of empowering producers is undeniable, and it's something we think about deeply, and often, at Timely. 

But there is something else that is also important in the supply chain: empowering consumers. It might seem counterintuitive, as consumers traditionally have all the power and producers have none of it. But how much power do you really think that you have? Do you truly believe you have the ability to influence a global supply chain?

Yesterday, I had a video call with one of our upcoming producers, Sara Gutierrez. We had a chance to talk about challenges she's facing on her farm, which she describes as being primarily due to climate change and social unrest in Colombia. And we also talked about the future of her farms, how we were going to work together in the years to come, and how Timely can support her and her vision.

As I was talking to Sara, we were discussing how we were going to price her coffee, and how we would pay for her produce (the price we pay will most likely be calculated by multiplying the C price by a positive factor so Sara can still receive a greater return as the market increases, while also establishing a “floor” so that prices paid do not drop below Sara’s cost of production).

As I reflect on that conversation, I realise that my intention as a coffee buyer to empower Sara is not in question. But I also know that my ability to do so is only possible because of the decisions that you (yes, you) make as a consumer. Every time you choose to buy Timely, you give me the ability to buy coffee from people like Sara Gutierrez. Producers who are so proud to work with coffee and produce something of a high quality and highly sustainable, and who are deeply passionate about what they do. People who are geographically isolated, and who can sometimes find it hard to connect with roasters and consumers who will pay a fair price for a fair product, and who will celebrate traceability. 

I understand that as a consumer, it can feel as though we have little impact on the world. You may feel like a very small drop in a very big ocean, and that no matter what we do, our choices will be overwhelmed by the bad actions of the majority. But this short exchange with Sara clarified something for me which I’ve believed for a long time: that it's the small choices that we make and that impact the lives of people all throughout the supply chain.

The choices you make, no matter how small you think they are, impact the world in ways that can be hard to understand. I genuinely hope you remember that every time you choose how and where you spend your money, you influence the world. This is not to say that every decision that we make has to be perfect. But the point is that when those small decisions are doing good, it’s nice to hear about it. It feels good to know you have a positive impact on the world, just by drinking coffee. 

Your choice to buy coffee from Timely enable us to ensure fair returns to producers like Sara Gutierrez - and that is what empowering producers, and consumers, is all about. 

Thanks for all your support, now and always. 

Seb Prosser
Timely Coffees