[ ROAST DAY 28 OCT 2020 ]



If you run a small boutique, standalone café or a large chain, partnering with a reliable coffee roaster to source wholesale coffee beans is a key step to ensure the success of your business. We have prepared a simple guide to help you understand the most important factors that will guide you to prepare and execute a successful wholesale sourcing strategy. A coffee roaster with a focus on transparent sourcing, a scientific approach to roasting, and offering customization of exclusive products for customers is an ideal partner to accelerate your growth toward coffee excellence.  

Direct Wholesale

Café owners understand the end consumer best while coffee roasters understand the coffees they roast best. Transparency of information between café owners/sourcing managers and roasters allows to develop and maintain products that continuously delight customers at the end of the supply chain. In traditional supply chain networks, cafés often source coffees from large distributors who also distribute several other food products and ingredients to them. The attention to detail can often be overlooked by distributors compared to roasters who are specialized in supplying specialty coffee beans. It makes sense in most cases for cafés with a commitment to quality to work directly with coffee roasters who bring customized products to your outlets and deliver the right training to your staff to offer a phenomenal experience to coffee lovers frequenting your joints. 

Specialty Coffee vs. Commercial Coffee – Differences in Wholesale

Distributors and roasters of commercial coffee typically do not assign importance to freshness or customization. The focus is on the development of a fixed line of products (often four to five variants) and ensuring consistency of each product. The coffee is usually roasted in very large batches before it is pushed into vast distribution networks. There is no control over when the coffees reach coffee shops as the roaster does not hold any major control over the distribution network. Exclusivity is almost entirely absent as the same products are pushed across all distribution networks. In the case of specialty coffee, most cafés are encouraged to work directly with a specialty coffee roaster who will ensure that your orders are roasted in small batches and shipped immediately after roasting. Also, roasters will customize exclusive blends and roast profiles according to your brewing requirements and your preferred flavour profiles. While specialty coffee wholesale prices will inevitably be higher than commercial coffee wholesale prices, this is because of the freshness of the product and exclusivity that is promised. Also, the quality of beans used are superior and the roasting techniques used are much more sophisticated. You can be assured that sourcing your wholesale requirements from a specialty coffee roaster gives you more control over product configuration, product quality and the final experience that you deliver to your customers. 

The Process of Selecting A Suitable Coffee Wholesaler

  • Alignment of Needs and Services 

Evaluate the needs of your coffee business and select a wholesaler who offers services that are aligned with your needs. Is freshly roasted coffee a must? Do you require customized products and blends? What is the lead time you are comfortable with? What are the minimum order quantities you can work with? Do you have any particular specially processed coffees in mind that you want to source? These are some of the key questions you need to answer before approaching a coffee wholesaler/roaster so you can understand if their services fit seamlessly with your requirements.

  • Evaluating the Green Coffee Sourcing Model

In several instances, businesses prefer procuring green coffee themselves and partnering with a roaster to get the coffees roasted. This process is typically termed “job roasting”. Most specialty coffee roasters do not offer job roasting as sourcing plays a vital role in determining their control over green coffee quality. You may find it feasible to partner with a roaster who offers a vast portfolio of coffees to curate your products or may prefer to source green coffees of your choice and get them job roasted. However, by partnering with a specialty coffee roaster, you can go beyond the headaches associated with sourcing green coffee (particularly market volatility) and tap into the vast knowledge and expertise of specialty coffee roasters who will offer you end-to-end solutions. This is a key factor that you must evaluate while picking a partner to work with.

  • Transparency and Traceability

Is your supply partner comfortable with 100% transparency and traceability? The answer to this question lies with how comfortable your supplier is with marketing activities that focus on traceability. Several brands would like to use the names of estates/fields, names of producers, regions of production and other minute details to improve the experience of the end customer. These activities also lead to the empowerment of every member of the value chain from the farmer to the barista. Mass-scale distributors tend to treat coffee more like a commodity than an artisanal product and have no interest in traceability. If this is something that is important to your brand, it will make sense to work with roasters who share the same ideology and motives as you.

  • Pricing

Inevitably, pricing should be an important factor that decides your supply partner. This does not imply that you select the supplier that offers you the cheapest prices but rather a supplier who offers you fair prices. In the case of commercial coffee, it can be argued that pricing is the single most important element to drive your decisions. But if you are looking for traceable, high scoring coffees that offer a unique experience, the complexity of the specialty coffee value chain must be respected. With better coffee comes higher prices – this is the law of the third wave movement in coffee. It must be your goal to find the most bang for your buck while ensuring you are paying a fair price. These are discussions that most coffee roasters of the new age are willing to have and developing long-term relationships with them (and growing their business by growing your own volume) will definitely lead to pricing structures that benefit both parties in the long term. 

  • Promise of Consistency

There is an old saying that goes something like “serving bad coffee that tastes the same each day brings you more customers than serving good coffee that tastes different every day.” This is an undeniable fact and a simple observation of the global coffee market will give you several sources of evidence to prove it. Even if you are serving some of the highest scoring coffees in the world, ensuring consistent flavour is vital to the reputation of your brand. Before partnering with a wholesaler or roaster, make sure you enquire about the methods and QA procedures they have in place to ensure a consistent product. In cases where quality might drop below standards, ask them if they employ any remedial procedures to raise the bar again. This information will help you choose between multiple suppliers and select the most reliable one.

These five points will help guide your research in a very crowded market and identify a coffee supply partner who will contribute to the growth and reputation of your business.

At Naivo, we develop exclusive products for businesses by giving them unlimited access to one of the largest portfolios of coffees (Indian and International origins) offered by a coffee roaster in India. We also offer assistance to entrepreneurs who are looking to enter the coffee space in India and help them transform their ideas into reality with our decades-long experience in the field. Needless to say, our products come packaged with training for your baristas, information for support in marketing activities and complete transparency and traceability. Whether you’re looking for a specific type of coffee or a particular blend, we’re here to provide you with what you need. Click here to find out more about what Naivo can do for you.

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    Akash Ovian, formerly a Cocoa Futures Trader in Côte d'Ivoire, is the Head of Marketing at Naivo Café. His immense love for coffee is cheated only by calculated affections for beatnik poetry, literary fiction and scotch whiskey.

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