UPDATE, 10/20/21: Well, we didn't win.... But, this is actually one of those cases where it is truly an honor to be nominated! Huckleberry in Denver, CO was the winner in our category, and you can read more about them (and the Micro Roaster of the Year, Little Waves Coffee) here.
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What an honor! We have just been named a Finalist for Roast Magazine's 2022 Roaster of the Year in the Macro Roaster category! We were finalists for the prize in 2020 as well, and are very proud to have been included again. We have been laser focused on our mission since 1993 - using specialty coffee as a vehicle for positive change. And honestly, it feels good to be recognized for our work from the industry! Our direct work in the coffeelands - in activism, ecology and direct, community development - has improved the lives of coffee farmers and their families for over 25 years.
Roast Magazine recognizes winners from two categories: Macro Roaster of the Year, for companies roasting more than 100,000 pounds annually; and Micro Roaster of the Year, for companies roasting fewer than 100,000 pounds of coffee each year. Roast Magazine will be announcing the winners on October 18th, so make sure to check back for the results!
The Roaster of the Year awards recognize companies that roast coffees of superior quality, exemplify a dedication to sustainability, promote employee and community education, and demonstrate a strong commitment to the coffee industry, among other criteria.
In the name of transparency, we're happy to share our entire Roaster of the Year application. Read on - it's a great one-stop shop for who we are, and how we do business...from farmer to roaster.
- What is your company’s mission?
Our mission is to use high-quality, specialty coffee as a vehicle for positive change.
With the profits from our coffee sales, we design and fund grassroots development projects in the communities where we buy our beans, in partnership with the farmers who know better than anyone how to help their own communities. This social justice philosophy fuels our business model and is at the core of what we do.
When Dean Cycon started Dean’s Beans in 1993, he set out to prove that a for-profit business could create meaningful change through ethical business practices rooted in respect for the earth, the farmer, our co-workers and the consumer.
We meticulously roast organic, Fair Trade coffee almost every day, yet deep down we are a social justice organization. Our approach to changemaking focuses on the real needs of communities for the necessities of life – food, clean water, health care, education, income generation. This “people-centered development” model allows us to capitalize on our trade partnerships in order to directly address issues often disrupted by conventional development aid.
We design and fund grassroots development projects in the communities where we buy our beans, in partnership with the farmers who know better than anyone how to help their own communities. This social justice philosophy fuels our business model and is at the core of what we do.
We brew great coffee and create real change through:
- Long Term Relationships
- Shade-grown and Bird Friendly Coffee
- Direct Farm-to-Roaster Trading
- a Solar-Powered Roasting Facility
- People-Centered Community Development Programs, in the coffeelands and here at home
- Organic Certification
Dean’s Beans Organic Coffee Company is a certified B Corporation, solidifying our place in the world as a “business for good”. In 2019, we were honored as a Best for the World Honoree “Best for the Community 2019.” This honor acknowledges that we were one of the top-performing B Corps investing in communities around the world, to build a “shared, sustainable prosperity for all.”(cite b lab: https://bcorporation.net/2019-best-for-the-world)
Dean comes from a background in law focusing on the environment and indigenous rights. It became clear to Dean early on in his career that the best way to exact change in the world was not in the courtroom, but instead was to create a profitable business with meaningful, direct and fair trade relationships with small-scale producers and use those profits to generate people-centered community development projects at the farming source. Dean chose coffee as the vehicle as it was perfectly positioned in the world market, given the structure of coffee cooperatives, existing organic and Fair Trade certifications, and the link to millions of consumers around the world.
Dean combined this for-profit business philosophy with ethical, sustainable, responsible business practices from bean to cup, which earned us official B Corporation certification last year for our now 28 year-old business model.
Dean’s Beans Organic Coffee Company is a proven pioneer in the field of social responsibility, social justice, sustainable practices and ecological stewardship.
- What is your company’s commitment to sustainable practices?
At Dean’s Beans, environmental sustainability and the sustainability of the specialty coffee industry is a founding tenet of our company, and to this end, we are 100% committed to sourcing organic coffee. To us, purchasing organic is more than just a popular commodity; it is a philosophical commitment rooted in respect for the earth, the farmer, our co-workers and the consumer.
At the farm level, certified organic means that the farmer has participated in a three year training and monitoring program. This guarantees not only that the soil is free of pesticides and herbicides conventionally used on coffee (and largely banned for use in the USA), but also that the farmer is protecting the soil and water quality of his or her farm and the surrounding environment.
In addition, farmers mulch and compost all organic waste from harvesting and processing. We have helped our coop partners in Peru and Mexico set up and maintain “bokashi” compost facilities, a high-potency organic compost that can be used on coffee farms to resist and overcome the devastation of la roya.
We believe the integrity of the organic process requires a greater commitment on our part. We are certified as an organic processor by Baystate Organic Certifiers, one of the leading international organic certifying agencies. Processor certification requires us to document and keep a complete audit trail from the farm to the customer for every ounce of coffee, chocolate or sugar that passes through our doors. This annual inspection insures that only certified organic ingredients are used, the beans are segregated from any non-certified ingredients or equipment, and that sanitation and cleanliness are paramount. In this way, we can guarantee that the growing, harvesting, processing, shipping, storage, roasting and packaging of every batch we produce maintains the integrity of the organic process.
We further demonstrate our commitment to sustainability in the following ways:
- Purchase Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center (SMBC) Certified Bird Friendly Coffee:
When it aligns with our current list of cooperative partners, we are committed to purchasing SMBC certified lots of Bird Friendly® coffee. If a coop is not yet certified to produce Bird Friendly® coffee, but they possess the tools and practices to do so, we commit to helping them achieve their SMBC certification. This means we help with funding if the certification is a financial burden, or with training and education on bird-friendly practices.
Pangoa Cooperative (Peru) is now certified Bird Friendly® from our joint efforts, and in late 2018-2019 more resources were poured into obtaining native fruit tree seedlings, plantings, and nursery construction. This year to date, we have purchased over 175,000 pounds of SMBC Bird Friendly® certified coffee from Peru, Guatemala, Nicaragua and Honduras.
In early 2019, we began work with the Redalong Cooperative in Sumatra on a major reforestation project in an effort to certify the first SMBC Bird Friendly® coffee from Sumatra. The project involves close work with SMBC staff to identify native trees to plant that target the correct species of birds endemic to the region of Sumatra. We were hoping that Redalong would have their certification completed in 2020, but things were held up by the pandemic. We have started conversations with them again, and we are excited to help them work towards SMBC Bird Friendly Certification in 2021.
- World’s First Carbon Neutral Coffee:
In the mid-2000s, we launched the world’s first Carbon Neutral Coffee. Dubbed “NoCO2 Peruvian”, we created the concept to fight global warming, one cup at a time. We calculated the total carbon load generated by a pound of coffee, from growing, harvesting and processing, to shipping, roasting and delivery to our consumer. With help from UPS, World Resources Institute, Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center and Trees from the Future, we calculated that seventeen pounds of coffee releases about fifty pounds of CO2 into the atmosphere. Simultaneously, we found that one hardwood in the Tropics of Coffee sequesters about fifty pounds of CO2 annually. The result is a program that, to this day, plants one tree in Pangoa Cooperative (Peru) for every seventeen pounds of NoCO2 Peruvian coffee sold to our consumers. We conduct audits of this program (most recently in 2017) and are pleased to find that we are not only offsetting our carbon load with tree plantings, but the program is actually carbon negative.
We have introduced this program to other cooperatives and several of these cooperatives have started similar reforestation projects of their own, including ASOBAGRI and Redalong Cooperative. We also have a proposal for reforestation work from Serranos de Motozintla, and have started conversations with Sidama Coffee Cooperative in Ethiopia.
- Compostable Packaging:
In 2019, we moved away from using omnidegradable bags made by TekPak to compostable BioTre 2.0 bags. We were excited to make this change, as BioTre is the best in the industry when it comes to balancing function and sustainability. The BioTre bags are suitable for home compost, and breakdown much faster than our old 1# packaging.
All of our 5# coffee bags are PLA lined kraft paper, which are also suitable for home and industrial compost.
In addition, we package most of our shipments with plain paper and cardboard, which can be either composted or recycled.
- In-House Sustainable Production Practices:
It all starts at home! For everything we do on the global scale, we do as much as we can here at our Beanery. Here is a list of our in-house ecologically responsible practices:
- SOLAR PANELS: We have offset our fossil fuel electricity usage by up to 65% annually since 2006. We installed new solar panels that doubled the size of our solar array, and now offsets 75% of our energy usage. While a 10% offset increase does not seem like a lot for doubling the size of the array, we have gotten much busier in the intervening 15 years, so we are still offsetting a huge amount of kilowatt hours.
- REDUCING ROASTING EMISSIONS and PROPANE USAGE: We roast on two Loring Smart Roasts, which are the most environmentally-friendly large roasters on the market. These roasters have recirculating burners that save up to 80% on propane usage. They also do not require an afterburner, which greatly reduces emissions – and the neighbors don’t complain about the smoke anymore! We actually were the first roaster to demo the 70 kilo version of these beautiful machines, and now they are being sold across the country.
- COMPOSTING: We compost all of our chaff, coffee grounds and paper waste in partnership with a local composting facility.
- UPCYCLING: We offer all our empty burlap coffee sacks to our local community, free of charge, including large donations of burlap to a local non-profit organization that empowers youth through community gardening. We also give away extra pallets to local farms and individuals for re-use, and we recycle some pallets with our corrugated box company.
- GRAINPRO RECYCLYING: In 2020, we began recycling our GrainPro bags. We started using TerraCycle boxes, which seemed like a great solution at the beginning, but turned out to be extremely expensive, because we roast a lot of coffee! While looking for new recycling solutions, we found The Green Room Inc. in Auburn, WA, who GrainPro has collaborated with to offer recycling services. We now request to have our green coffee packed in GrainPro whenever possible, and we send our used GrainPro bags to them on a monthly basis, which is a convenient and cost effective solution for us.
- We follow the three R’s in order – reduce our consumption wherever possible first, then reuse what we can (i.e. making notebooks out of one-sided reusable scrap paper), and whatever remains, we recycle.
- We choose eco-friendly products for the Beanery and our mobile coffee truck, such as Seventh Generation, Sun & Earth, Simple Green, Ecotainer and Hay Straws.
- Environmental Stewardship at Origin, in conjunction with cooperative partners:
Our People-Centered Development philosophy is based on the priorities that the cooperatives identify as necessary. Since day one, our partners have requested assistance on projects related to environmental stewardship and sustainable agriculture. However, in the last 10 years, farmers have expressed increasing concern over climate change, and projects to help them become more resilient are in high demand. This past year, Dean’s Beans partnered with coops on the following projects directly addressing these concerns:
- Native plant reforestation projects, including raising seedlings, creating nurseries, and planting trees. These projects overlap with SMBC Bird Friendly® certification in some places, and have the added benefit of increasing income diversity for farmers when those native plantings are fruit trees, whose fruits are marketable in places where coffee is not
- Countries with active reforestation projects: Peru (PANGOA), Guatemala (ASOBAGRI), Sumatra (Redalong Coop) and Nicaragua (PRODECOOP)
- Youth Farmers in Agroforestry – keeping young farmers incentivized to stay on the land instead of migrating to urban settings; training young farmers in new technologies to make coffee farms resilient in the face of climate change as well as business management, computer skills, and resources to get started
- Countries with active young agroforestry projects: Guatemala (ASOBAGRI)
- Bokashi Composting facilities – continuing support of the highly potent bokashi composting, which boost soil quality in an effort to combat the destruction of la roya
- Countries with active bokashi composting sites: Nicaragua (PRODECOOP) and Mexico (Serranos de Motozintla)
In 2019, we launched a brand new multi-pronged program of our “Reclaiming Sumatra” project with the Redalong Cooperative and the Leuser Foundation in northern Sumatra. This program aims to combat the assault on endangered species habitats, rainforests and farmers land rights from encroaching palm oil plantations. We have equipped and trained rangers (elephant-mounted Mahouts) to keep illegal hunters and developers off farmer land, as well as endangered tigers, rhinos and orangutans.
Farmers have received training in endangered species management to minimize potential conflicts and to help them become stewards of the species. Lastly, we have been working with legal teams to help farmers retain the titles to their farmland, so it cannot be snatched up by developers for palm oil. In June 2019, we received word that the first oil palm trees were chain sawed to the ground on land we purchased with our development dollars.
- What are your employee practices?
Dean started this company to prove business can be a global force for love and compassion, near and far. Our employee practices reflect that founding philosophy, from our employment philosophy to our robust compensation packages to a healthy work-life balance. When the company grew big enough to warrant moving out of the initial operation (Dean’s barn!), he chose to put the company in a nearby town with a struggling economy. This move to Orange, MA translated to new, well-paying local jobs, the boosting of a marginalized local economy, and a commitment to community development and growth.
Dean’s Beans provides each employee:
- Competitive compensation that exceeds the living wage for our area
- Full health care coverage for employees, as well as spouses and families, if applicable. In addition, HRA reimbursement for medical expenses and copays up to $5,000.
- Disability insurance
- Group life insurance
- 401k with employer contributions up to 5% of salary
- Quarterly profit sharing bonuses
- Paid time off, which increases with longevity
- Paid sick leave
- Paid family leave, including maternity, paternity, adoption, and dependent care
- Child Care Reimbursement
- A healthy work-life balance which allows for flexible schedules or hours, depending on what constraints or opportunities employees have going on outside of work
- Professional development opportunities, including coffee industry training and skills development
- Internal growth opportunities, as many of our staff start out on the production floor and advance into leadership positions.
- Team building activities, through staff meals, lawn game tournaments or other planned group outings (past examples include Red Sox games and trips to area amusement parks)
We have an incredibly low turnover rate. Many employees have worked here for over 10 years, some up to 16 years. We feel this speaks for itself about employee satisfaction, and we have been recognized as one of “Boston’s Best and Brightest Companies To Work For” in both 2018 and 2019. We also earned high marks with our B Corp Impact Assessment for our commitment to employee well-being.
During the Covid-19 pandemic, we took extra steps to make schedules flexible, listen to our employee’s needs, and keep them safe. Based on employee input, we decided to move from a single, 8-hour shift schedule to a split schedule with two 6-hour shifts, to make it possible to accommodate social distancing. Because of this change, we were able to stay open and operating at full capacity during the pandemic, and we did not have any Covid infections in our workforce. Employees were allowed unlimited sick time during the pandemic to deal with quarantine requirements related to testing or exposure for themselves or a family member. Our workforce were all fully vaccinated on May 30th, and we had a party to celebrate!
Lastly, we are an equal opportunity employer. This means we will extend equal opportunity to all individuals without regard for race, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, age, disability, veteran status or all other marginalized groups not listed here. Our policy affirms Dean's Beans commitment to the principles of fair employment.
- Please describe your company’s commitment to diversity, inclusion and equity.
Since our founding in 1993, Dean’s Beans has been committed to Gender Equity throughout the supply chain through advocacy, activism and People-Centered Development. We actively support and lobby for important gender legislation, such as Pregnant Worker’s Fairness, Earned Paid Sick Leave, and Paid Parental Leave, and are known throughout the state for our advocacy and our internal policies in each of these areas. We are also major financial supporters of such initiatives as MotherWoman, Inc. and The Prison Birth Project. In 2021, we added a “preferred pronoun” section to our employee information sheet in place of binary male/ female options in an effort to promote equity for and make ourselves more welcoming to all genders.
The idea behind Dean’s Beans is to run our business as an expression of progressive values, and we live those values every day, not only here at Dean’s Beans, but in our community. We support our local food pantry with monetary donations and volunteer hours every month so that they are able to provide nutritious meals to the most underserved and overlooked in our community. Dean is also an outspoken advocate for voting and voter rights, putting this activism into action when he served as a poll watcher in Georgia during the 2020 Presidential Election. We also use our blog and social media as a way to explicitly express our values to our followers and customers.
Dean’s Beans also embodies inclusion and equity through our relationships with our farmer-partners in a way that most coffee companies do not. We do not just purchase coffee from indigenous farmers and people of color, but Dean has actively cultivated relationships with these farmers and coops since the inception of the company. We have worked with most of our coops for over 10 years, and with some of them for more than 20 years. These long-term relationships provide the farmers with reliable, consistent income year over year, and this income allows them to make meaningful investments in their own communities.
In 2020, we started our Kids Stimulus Program to provide food insecure children in our region with meals during the pandemic. We did this by donating to our local school meals programs who were providing students with meals during the school closures. We brought on a summer associate in 2021 to help us analyze how we can best use our resources to combat childhood hunger with the Kids Stimulus Program as it continues to grow and evolve. To date, we have donated $144,000 to nine different school districts. We have done outreach with our own community encouraging people to support their own local anti-hunger organizations.
- What are your educational practices?
We have been intensely committed to education and advocacy as a tool for change since the beginning, both at home and abroad. While we offer educational experiences and professional development to our employees, when we think about “education” what we really mean is a focus on public education and advocacy related to combating social injustices.
Before we can educate others, we spend a lot of time learning. We pour over current events, new Fair Trade standard documents, and ask farmers and local community members about their challenges and livelihoods. From there, we do what we can to call out injustice when we see it.
This year, we raised our voices loud about childhood hunger in Western Massachusetts. This has always been a problem in our area, but was exacerbated by the pandemic. We began donating money to local school meals programs who were feeding kids during the pandemic, and we used social and traditional media platforms to help spread the word about childhood hunger in our area.
We are active sponsors of the policy branch of the Northeast Organic Farmer’s Association (NOFA) here in Massachusetts. NOFA-MA’s is focused on banning neonicotinoids, thereby protecting pollinator species. We have just planted a pollinator garden at the Beanery, which is another opportunity to education the public about ecological causes.
Past advocacy work includes:
- Testifying at committee hearings and lobby legislators, speak at and advise UN agencies, and rabble rouse at rallies and community gatherings at home and abroad.
- Lobbying the government to label GMO products, both in Massachusetts and nationally
- Actively advocated for paid sick leave, raising minimum wages, pregnant workers fairness, keeping integrity in national organic standards and fair trade, and other important social advances
- Writing speeches on social change for Presidents (Timor)
- Organizing indigenous communities to fight destructive natural resource exploitation (Ecuador, Peru, USA, Canada)
- Marched with farmers demanding justice and land reform (Guatemala, Nicaragua)
- Advised governments on legislation (Ethiopia, Brazil, Kenya).
We also dedicate a lot of time and energy doing outreach and education in our local community. We speak at schools, universities, summer camps, and to church groups and other clubs and organizations about our views on trade justice. We do this not as paid speakers, but completely for the good of educating consumers, future consumers and the next generation of coffee drinkers and global activists.
- Please describe your company’s commitment to and involvement in the coffee industry.
We are unwaveringly committed to organic, shade grown, fair trade coffee and have been from the inception of the business. We work hard to elevate those best practices year after year. We do this through ongoing membership to the Fair Trade Federation and through our organic certification. We spend time cultivating and building long-term relationships with farmers, who go on to be major cooperative producers in the coffee industry.
For example, we pioneered Direct Fair Trade in East Timor, creating a relationship with Atsabe in 2009. In 2003, we did the same with Pangoa, a small coop on the Amazonian slopes of Central Peru, being their first Fair Trade and Direct buyer. Since then, we have introduced Pangoa’s coffee to the specialty marketplace, and the sweet, soft beans prepared so well by indigenous Ashaninkas farmers have been in great demand in America and in Europe.
Fast forward to 2019, where Esperanza Dionisio Castillo, General Manager of PANGOA Cooperative and the same person to first thrust her green beans into Dean’s hand, was awarded the first ever SCA Sustainability Champion Award in 2019. She earned this award for her consistent and diligent attention to social, environmental and economic improvement of the cooperative members. The coop is one of only a few in Peru to hold organic, Fair Trade and Bird Friendly®, the latter of which is a direct result of our partnership.
In addition to pioneering Direct Fair Trade relationships, as mentioned above, we are also working hard to bring SMBC Bird Friendly® certification to other our farmer partners where it aligns.
Dean’s Beans is globally recognized for our work in international development and ethical business model, an achievement we believe to be unique to us as a coffee roasting company. For instance:
- 2019 B Corps “Best for the World” Honoree recognizing the significant positive impact on coffee farmers around the world
- 2019 Flourish Award from AIM2Flourish, who showcases positive business innovations that span the globe and demonstrate how businesses can help achieve the 17 United Nations (UN) Global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). We were awarded the prize for our work on Global SDG #1: Eliminating Poverty
- 2019 Ethical Corporation’s Responsible Business Awards for Business Transformation & Business Leader Nominee (winners selected in October 2019)
- World CSR Congress 50 Top Social Innovators (Mumbai, 2015)
- UNWomen’s Community Engagement Award (NY, 2014)
- Oslo Business for Peace Honoree, fondly known as the Nobel Prize for Business (2013)
- Boston Business Journal Pacesetter Award (2010)
- Gold Medal as the Best Travel Essay Book for Dean Cycon’s book “Javatrekker: Dispatches from the World of Fair Trade Coffee” from the Independent Publishers Association (2008)
- Fetzer Institute Exemplar of Compassion in Business (Assisi, 2006)
- Environmental Excellence Award form Antioch New England (2006)
- United Nations Global Compact signer, and case study for sustainable business practices (2006)
- United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization Best Practices Recognition (Rome, 2005)
- Specialty Coffee Association Sustainability Award (Seattle, 2004)
Our history is rich with championing fair trade in the specialty coffee industry, as Dean Cycon is a co-founder of both Coffee Kids (non-profit development group), as well as Cooperative Coffees, the world’s first fair trade roaster cooperative.
- Please describe your company’s innovations in roasting.
All of our high quality, specialty coffees are grown by cooperatives of small scale farmers all over the world. We firmly believe that certified Organic coffee not only tastes better, but is better for the farmers, their environment, and for consumers. All of our coffee is grown at high altitudes (above 4,000 feet), and shade grown. This allows the coffee cherries to ripen more slowly, and increases their complexity and flavor. Shade grown coffee also provides critical habitat for native wildlife. Where possible, some of our coffees are certified Bird-Friendly by the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Council. This is a rigorous certification that ensures shade and habitat for migratory bird species.
We buy direct whenever possible, meaning we receive nearly all of our coffee as entire containers at a time. This ensures consistency throughout the year. We also only buy as much coffee as we will roast in a growing season, so we never have old, past-crop coffee. We rigorously cup our coffees throughout the year for quality control, and only buy coffees that score 84 points or above on the Specialty coffee scale.
Roasting daily, and only as much as we need to fulfill orders, is our main innovation, and what sets us apart from other companies. We use two Loring Smart Roasts: a 35k Kestrel, and 70k Peregrine. These two machines offer unparalleled consistency and precision, allowing us to match roast profiles exactly, roast after roast. They are a drum/air hybrid system, which is extremely gentle on the coffee, retaining all the inherent qualities of the bean itself. They are also the most energy efficient and environmentally-friendly coffee roasters on the market. Our Peregrine is the first one ever built - it's actually the prototype. In 2019, we upgraded to Version 2.0 software, and added the additional layer of quality control by adding destoners to both machines.
Our roasting philosophy is to use different origins and roast levels to cater to all different types of coffee drinkers. We think coffee can be a very personal thing, and we acknowledge that not everyone likes the same bean or roast level. That being said, we don't roast super light, so the coffee tastes unbearably sour and vegetal, and we never burn it beyond the point of recognition.
Our medium roasts are meant to highlight the delightful nuances and flavor characteristics of each different coffee origin. They are well-developed, so you get a nice balance of lively acidity, sweetness, nuttiness, and florals, which vary greatly from each region. They also have a smooth finish, without a heavy, lingering aftertaste.
Our medium-dark blends are designed to offer a complete flavor profile in one cup. They are often a blend of different origins and roast levels, so you get all the smooth, lively, sweet characteristics of a medium roast, plus the full body and bold finish of a dark roast.
Our dark roasts are for those who enjoy a more robust flavor profile. The perceived acidity is lower at this level, and the coffees are bittersweet, full bodied, smoky, and lingering. They are bold but smooth, and again, never burnt.
Both members of our roasting team have graduated from Coffee Lab International's week-long roasting and cupping course, and also attend industry classes to continually enhance our roasting practices.
At Dean’s Beans, we prize quality while also encouraging creativity in roasting and blending. This is why we designed our “Blend Your Own” fully-customizable coffee option – why should roasters have all the fun? This interactive on-line tool allows our customers to explore the dynamic nature of coffee by building their own flavor profile and finishing it off with a custom label. This tool challenges the customer to take the blending process into their own hands as they design their coffee by roast level, body, flavor, acid and aroma. Many of our wholesale customers take advantage of having custom blends for their stores or cafes as well.
- Please describe your company’s innovations in marketing.
Our marketing strategy, like our coffee, is organic. Doing meaningful work in the coffeelands is hard, time-consuming and requires many resources. Instead of having to split our resources between marketing and community development, we focus our attention on our development work, and trust that the marketing will follow. With genuine stories, real farmer photos and heartfelt passion, our organic marketing has never let us down.
For us, marketing is a way for us to educate people about our business model and our work in the coffeelands, not just a way to get clicks and drive sales. We like to use our social media to promote our wholesale partners and amplify causes we support which, we have found, actually leads to more engagement than paying to promote a post that is all about sales.
While we do paid social media or Google ads from time to time, we rely heavily on our sharp narrative and compelling story telling to do the work for us. Our photos are real, and we use these farmer photos (with explicit permission!) on our website and in our marketing campaigns. Our quotations and stories from farmers are genuine. Our narratives come directly from our collective travels, and we are always finding fun and creative ways to share our stories.
We sponsor many events, festivals, world music shows and support various local non-profit organizations, mostly because we believe in their mission, but sometimes simply because they are plain old fun. For instance, our commitment to bringing World Music to the Pioneer Valley in Massachusetts means we love being the annual sponsors of the World Music stage at the Green River Festival in Greenfield, MA.
These events and relationships has helped us reach a wide range of coffee drinkers that have become our champions, and have allowed our company to grow slowly and steadily over 28 years.
We rely on word of mouth, organic searches, and the values held by our customers. Our customers are our biggest “social media influencers” and our greatest marketing consultants – plastering their cars with stickers, begging us to bring our Javatrekker coffee truck to their local farmers market, or gifting our coffee to their friends and family. We market purposefully, using local radio, local television and social media. We remain an outlier in the coffee industry, bucking expensive marketing trends, because we realized that something that never goes out of style is heartwarming, honest-to-goodness development work.
- Please describe your company’s best business practices.
Our best business practice is also the most counterintuitive. We “Buy High” and “Sell Low.” We pay farmers as much as we possibly can while still remaining profitable. There is real negotiation based on our needs and our ability to pay, countered with what the farmers need. It is not based on the international C-price. It is a true give and take between both parties, which always ends up substantially higher than the C-price, and even the Fair Trade premium. We also commit development dollars from our profits directly to the same farmers. On average, these development dollars add an additional 11% annually to the price they are paid.
We then turn around and price our coffee to consumers as low as we possibly can, while still remaining profitable. We want consumers of all income levels to be able to participate in socially just trade, not just those with disposable income. People of all economic backgrounds should have access to organic, delicious, high-quality coffee.
This innovative model is the answer to today’s coffee pricing crisis. Pay more for coffee. We have been doing this for 28 years, turning a profit and experiencing growth every single year. We have built strong, long-term trade relationships that help build capacity and provide consistency and stability from year-to-year for our farmer partners, while paying them the most livable wage we can. On the other side of the supply chain, we have built a loyal customer base (both wholesale and retail) of dedicated Dean’s Beans coffee drinkers who range from activists, to organic enthusiasts, to coffee “snobs”, to people on fixed incomes with discerning palates and beyond. And their unwavering support keeps the entire project alive.