The wellbeing of coffee growers makes business sense for big brands like Kenco, as well as niche ones.
Big brands tend to get a bad rap when it comes to sustainability. But a company with 50,000 metric tonnes of coffee beans passing through their doors and selling millions of jars of coffee every year, is in a position to make a big difference, and quickly.
In 2005, Kraft Foods’ coffee brand, Kenco, decided to begin sourcing from Rainforest Alliance Certified farms, a certification programme that ensures land is farmed in an environmentally sustainable way while also protecting the rights of workers. Over five years, Kenco has transformed their entire range, and Kraft Foods is now one of the largest purchasers of Rainforest Alliance Certified coffee worldwide.
For Kenco, ensuring the wellbeing of their coffee growers made business sense, but brand manager Stephanie Okell says there was a further business case to be made: selling ethically sourced coffee could be used to “increase consumer and customer engagement.”
“We’ve had a lot of growth on the back of becoming certified and launching the Eco Refill (a lightweight reusable plastic alternative to coffee jars),” says Okell, pointing out that since 2008, there has been over one million additional consumers buying Kenco coffee. “Sustainability has been a key business driver” she says. Central to this success is brand owner Kraft Foods' ability to make more ethical coffee accessible for a mainstream audience. As a large company, it can absorb the extra cost of buying certified coffee in exchange for a larger market share. “We can make sure people don’t have to pay a premium to enjoy great quality coffee. There are more niche brands of ethical coffee out there, but we are bringing it to an everyday consumer.”
Kenco’s advertising strategy has also been important, Okell believes. Instead of lecturing about saving the world, they focused on how Rainforest Alliance Certified coffee brings direct benefits to real people. And the lighthearted adverts for the Eco Refill helped. “There was no preaching. We just made it easier to make a sustainable choice.” - Sarah Lewis-Hammond
Photos: Rainforest Alliance