Beverage Industry

Starbucks expands C.A.F.E. with new agronomy center in Costa Rica

Coffee company appoints new global chief marketing officer

March 19, 2013

Starbucks Coffee Co., Seattle, announced plans to expand its $70 million comprehensive ethical sourcing program with a new farming research and development center in Costa Rica. These programs are part of Starbucks’ ongoing billion-dollar commitment to ethically sourcing 100 percent of its coffee by 2015, the company says.

Starbucks has signed an agreement to purchase the Costa Rican farm through a subsidiary of Starbucks Coffee Trading Co. The terms of the purchase are not being disclosed. Upon final closing in May, Starbucks will adapt the 240-hectare farm located on the slopes of the Poas Volcano into a global agronomy center. The work happening on this farm will enable the company to expand its Coffee and Farming Equity practices (C.A.F.E.), an ethical sourcing model developed in partnership with Conservation International, Arlington, Va., that ensures coffee quality while promoting social, environmental and economic standards.

In addition to supporting resiliency for farmers around the world, this farm also will influence the development of coffee varietals based on the insight offered through soil management processes.

“This investment, and the cumulative impact it will have when combined with programs we have put into place over the last 40 years, will support the resiliency of coffee farmers and their families as well as the 1 million people that represent our collective coffee supply chain,” said Howard Schultz, Starbucks chairman, president and chief executive officer, in a statement. “It also opens up an opportunity for Starbucks to innovate with proprietary coffee varietals that can support the development of future blends.”

In total, Starbucks has invested more than $70 million in collaborative farmer programs and activities during the last 40 years, which include C.A.F.E. practices, farmer support centers, farmer loans and forest carbon projects. All of these integrated programs support improving farmer livelihoods and a long-term supply of high-quality coffee for the industry. This new facility will build on the work currently happening at five farmer support centers worldwide in Rwanda, Tanzania, Colombia, China and Costa Rica.

Starbucks farmer support centers are home to agronomists and quality experts working directly with farmers to provide support in growing high-quality Arabica coffee. By providing farmers with expertise and training in soil management, field-crop production and milling processes, these practices can improve the quality and size of the harvest, the company says. The varied elevation of the farm will allow the agronomists to test responsible growing practices while ensuring robust biological diversity, it says. The research discoveries and best practices from this work will inform growing principles for farmers around the world, it adds.

“The convergence of climate change and ecosystem deterioration creates stress on the ability of farmers to produce crops,” said Peter Seligmann, chairman and chief executive officer of Conservation International, in a statement. “The work of Starbucks over the last several years to address many of these issues facing coffee producers — including the environmental, economic and social development of coffee production — is very impressive. The opportunity this continued investment brings will ensure the most innovative resources are brought to bear for sustainability and resilience across all farming communities.”

In 2008, Starbucks and Conservation International began conducting impact assessments of C.A.F.E. practices on coffee farmers and communities, and in 2012 they aggregated the year-over-year performance impact. For example, on average, farmers employing C.A.F.E. practices saw 98 percent of farms maintaining or improving soil fertility, and 100 percent of school-age children on smallholder farms were able to attend school. Of the 545 million pounds of coffee purchased by Starbucks in fiscal year 2012 across 29 countries, 93 percent was ethically sourced, the company says.

In other news, Starbucks appointed Sharon Rothstein as global chief marketing officer. Rothstein will report to Schultz and serve on Starbucks’ senior leadership team. She will steward the Starbucks brand as well as the company’s portfolio of emerging brands, including Seattle’s Best Coffee, Evolution Fresh, La Boulange, Tazo and Teavana.