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End to End traceability in specialty coffee supply chain; myth or reality


Source-to-consumer traceability in the specialty coffee supply chain refers to the ability to track and document the journey of coffee beans from the farm to the consumer, not as in most cases from the cooperative to the coffee company, we even have seen coffee brands share only the country of origin and call that full traceability. Also, requires capturing pertinent information at each stage of the supply chain.


End-to-end traceability, a subset of source-to-consumer, falls short in its inclusivity of all supply chain participants. As an example, it will capture traceability information from the cooperative to the brand, leaving out two crucial groups – producers and consumers. Embracing a more comprehensive approach to traceability is essential, as it empowers all stakeholders, fosters accountability, and enables ethical choices for a transparent and responsible supply chain.


Key elements of full traceability or source-to-consumer include:


Farm Level: Identifying the specific farms or estates where the coffee is grown, including information about the farm, location, cultivation practices, environmental conditions, and producer information.


Currently, the initial purchase from the producer lacks traceability, as only the buyer reports the transactional details, leading to a broken chain of information. We could argue without each individual farmer as part of the verification process no brand is fully traceable.


Certification and Standards: Tracking certifications and compliance with industry standards, such as organic, Fair Trade, Rainforest Alliance, or other sustainability certifications, to ensure adherence to specific criteria and practices. Again, if we capture each individual producers’ initial delivery data, we can cross reference with the certification bodies, that indeed the farmer carries the correct credentials.


Roasting and Packaging: Capturing data on the roasting process, including temperature profiles, duration, and packaging methods to ensure consistency and quality control.


Supply Chain Actors: Identifying all intermediaries involved in the coffee supply chain, such as exporters, importers, distributors and brands, and tracking the flow of coffee between these entities.


Certificates and Documentation: Maintaining proper documentation, such as invoices, certificates of origin, shipping documents, and audit reports, to verify the authenticity and integrity of the coffee and support the traceability claims.


Consumer Information: Providing consumers with relevant information with a use of a QR code, (generated independent of the brand or coffee company) about the coffee they purchase, including details on the origin, who the farmer is, sustainability practices, and any certifications or special attributes associated with the coffee.


Full traceability allows for transparency and accountability throughout the coffee supply chain. It enables consumers, roasters, and other stakeholders to make informed decisions, ensures ethical and sustainable sourcing practices, verifies product ESG claims, and fosters consumer trust and confidence in the specialty coffee industry.

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