Global Head of Sustainability,
WHERE DID THE IDEA OF REVIVING ORIGINS BEGIN?
We began to see the initial potential in 2011 while working with farmers in the Yei region of South Sudan. They had left their farms during the civil war and their return presented an opportunity for us to help restore the region’s coffee industry and improve the livelihoods of the farmers affected.
The led to the introduction of the limited edition Suluja ti South Sudan – a coffee that’s helping to diversify the economic base of the nation. This experience has made it clear to us that high-quality coffee can have transformative power in helping to bring stability to farming regions around the world.
IN WHAT OTHER REGIONS ARE YOU BRINGING THIS IDEA TO LIFE?
Our focus is to invest in regions where coffee crops and farms are under threat – whether through civil conflict, economic hardship, or natural disaster.
Building on our South Sudan experiences, we began post-conflict operations in Caquetá, Colombia in 2016, as well as investments in Cuba that enabled its first coffee export to the US in more than fifty years. In 2019, this journey continued through two new single origin coffees: TAMUKA mu ZIMBABWE from Eastern Zimbabwe, and CAFECITO de PUERTO RICO which is supporting the revival of coffee farming in Puerto Rico after hurricanes Irma and Maria. Finally, in 2020, through a partnership with Agri Evolve, we unveiled AMAHA awe UGANDA, a seasonal coffee which translates as ‘Hope of Uganda’, as well as KAHAWA YA CONGO (US only) from the Democratic Republic of Congo – our first organic coffee under the Reviving Origins umbrella.
All of these coffees, I believe, show the transformative potential of the Reviving Origins program…and this is just the beginning.
REVIVING ORIGINS: AT A GLANCE
WHY IS IT IMPORTANT TO SOURCE COFFEE FROM THESE AREAS?
Reviving Origins is grounded in our belief that quality coffee, and the premiums farmers earn from it, can be a catalyst for the long-term sustainability and resilience of farming communities and economies. It’s important to say that Reviving Origins is a driver of not just economic development but social development too. For example, we are establishing local entrepreneurship structures to provide access to clean water, as well as setting up a children’s education project in two other regions we’re working in and we plan to incorporate these into the Reviving Origins program at a future date.
The other important point worth mentioning is that, by actively contributing in these areas, we are also helping to safeguard rare coffee varieties and to protect the rich heritage of coffee farming.
DOES THIS APPROACH BUILD ON THE NESPRESSO AAA SUSTAINABLE QUALITY™ PROGRAM?
Yes, these efforts are aligned with the Nespresso AAA Sustainable Quality™ Program, which we established with the Rainforest Alliance in 2003. Through this program, we go farm-by-farm with agronomists and on-the-ground partners to provide technical assistance, training, and materials, incentivising quality upgrades and best-farming practices. We also offer access to new practices and to networks that had not existed before. Today, we’re working with more than 110,000 farmers across 14 countries.
The Reviving Origins program takes these foundational principles of sustainable quality coffee cultivation and adapts them so that they are able to support the rebooting of coffee production in these neglected regions.
WHAT IMPACT IS NESPRESSO HAVING IN THESE REGIONS?
I have to be modest in terms of what’s been achieved, as it’s early days. But I can say that, in the areas we’re present, we see a tremendous spirit of optimism for the future. It is palpable. Farmers tell us that they are experiencing something they never thought would happen and there is such a high level of motivation as a result.
This new sense of optimism means farmers eagerly embrace the improved practices which enable their farms to achieve higher quality yields. It is remarkable how quickly this is happening and how volume is growing as a result. I should point, however, that the initial volumes are understandably very low and these coffees are in high demand by our customers.
HOW MUCH IS NESPRESSO INVESTING IN THESE ORIGINS?
Initially, we’re investing a relatively small amount – around USD 10 million of seed capital – as we test consumer responses and the impacts on economic and social development in the relevant regions. These types of investments are not new though – they have been integral to our business for many years. I mentioned Colombia before where, in 2017, we expanded our coffee-sourcing program in several former conflict zones, as part of a USD 50 million investment in the country.
We have also attracted a lot of interest from development agencies keen to co-invest with us through Public-Private-Partnerships, catalysed through the Nespresso Sustainable Innovation Fund.
As with any innovation, we must ensure there is also a viable business case. So, the more these coffee experiences appeal to our customers, the more we can invest to scale production and further improve yields and quality. Creating market demand for Reviving Origins coffee is critical for driving investments at farm and community level.
ARE YOU WORKING WITH PARTNERS TO REBUILD COFFEE EXPERTISE AND INFRASTRUCTURE?
Absolutely. None of the AAA Program work can happen without our valued partners, including the Colombian Coffee Growers Federation, Fairtrade International and the Rainforest Alliance, to name a few. Our partners help us to improve farming practices and to design new ways to address many of the everyday risks that farmers face.
Specifically, Reviving Origins depends on the support of TechnoServe, a non-profit organisation committed to providing know-how and skills, building capacity in producer communities and creating access to markets. They work closely with local agronomists who train farmers in best practice techniques designed to improve the quality and yield of the crop.
WHAT HAS THE RESPONSE BEEN TO THESE COFFEES AMONG NESPRESSO CONSUMERS?
Really positive. Nespresso consumers are always enthusiastic about our latest coffees and these have been the fastest selling in our range, often selling out in just weeks! We believe that’s because they speak directly to people’s interests: they combine exciting new coffee profiles with farmer stories and positive on-the-ground impacts. I think this is particularly the case with millennials – the newer generation of coffee consumers – who are more invested in brands with a strong sense of purpose. Reviving Origins really encapsulates this sentiment.
HOW ARE YOU MAKING PEOPLE AWARE OF THESE STORIES BEHIND THE COFFEES?
One way we’re doing this is with the help of National Geographic. Their brilliant photographer, Rena Effendi, has travelled to many of these producing regions to capture the spirit and tenacity of the people involved, as well as the incredible diversity of the locations.