Andy Newbom Craft/Operations Finca San Jose Gloria Rodriguez macro micro Roast Magazine roasting sourcing

Developing a Strategic Coffee Buying PlanDaily Coffee News by Roast Magazine

(Editor’s word: This article written by Andy Newbom initially appeared within the July/August 2017 situation of Roast Magazine. Links have been added for context.)

Specialty coffee is a enterprise. It’s a fun and rewarding business, however a enterprise nonetheless, and all businesses have to be built on a strong foundation of numbers. Numbers check with finances, but in addition to every other facet of the enterprise. How many kilos per roasted batch do you yield? How many double photographs per pound can you promote? What proportion of your gross sales are single-origins versus blends? What is your anticipated progress, and how much will you allocate for product improvement, errors or gear points? How many pounds of inexperienced coffee do you have to purchase from Gloria Rodriguez’s Finca San Jose in El Salvador this yr?

Numbers rule your small business — so you need to rule your numbers. Get them proper and you have a strong basis from which to develop and improve the world by means of coffee. Get them fallacious and your small business won’t survive.


A strong plan that includes future shopping for forecasts might help you develop and keep robust relationships with rising and importing partners. Photograph courtesy of Andy Newbom.

In terms of green espresso buying selections, nevertheless, there’s one other query — a query unrelated to numbers — that’s equally essential. That straightforward query is, “Why?”

Why did you buy that yellow bourbon honey-processed El Salvador microlot? Why did you pay $6.38 per pound for it, and why on Earth did you purchase 6,688 kilos of it? Much more importantly, why did you also buy three,192 kilos of a honey-processed Guatemala microlot that fits virtually exactly the identical profile, worth and use in your coffee lineup? And why don’t both of them work on your espresso blend?

The Significance of a Plan

In an article within the Might/June 2017 challenge of Roast (“Stick to the Plan: Why Roasters Shouldn’t Buy Coffee Off the Cupping Table”), I asserted that roasters can buy espresso based mostly on the following criteria:

  1. On your company’s wants
  2. Based mostly on a written strategic buying plan
  3. In your market and use
  4. Within your finances

In this article, we’ll delve deeply into the second level on that listing: “Based on a written strategic buying plan.”

Every coffee roaster, no matter measurement or volume, ought to have a clearly articulated espresso buying and selling plan with each historic and forecasted numbers. It must be written, and it should all the time be accessible. This forecast can take a number of varieties and may vary from easy to immensely complicated, relying on your needs and quantity. The type of the plan just isn’t essential; it’s the forming of the plan that’s key. Whether or not you’re a giant regional wholesale-only roaster, a native cafe roaster or a private-label roaster, a clearly articulated plan will save you money, time and frustration.


Your shopping for plan ought to embrace specifics related to varieties, sensory attributes, certifications, worth ranges and more. Photograph courtesy of Andy Newbom.

To type a written espresso plan, a roaster must first define and arrange its strategy, wishes, theories, philosophies and preferences. This is the why portion of the plan. It is crucial half and requires probably the most thought and determination making.

A few of the criteria that sometimes make up the overview of a coffee plan embrace:

  1. Will you buy for blends, single-origins or both? Why? Will you purchase for espresso, filter or both? Why?
  2. Will you purchase licensed, microlots, specialty, business, and so forth.?
  3. Will you give attention to a few nations or regions, or several?
  4. What are your goal worth points and ranges (high-end, mid-range, worth)? (and) What are your goal sales worth ranges?
  5. What flavors and attributes will you hunt down and/or keep away from?
  6. Are you shopping for for a single brand or line, or a number of?

If your plan is to be an correct and relevant shopping for information, you will want to ask and answer the previous questions, and others, earlier than you begin. They’ll help guide not solely your coffee shopping for and selling plans, however your whole coffee enterprise. Actually, asking the fitting questions is the only most essential factor you are able to do for your corporation to succeed.

Figure 1

Figure 1: Coffee Needs a Plan

Time Journey

Your espresso buying plan ought to be like a time-travel doc. It should help you look again at your past purchases, uses and schedules and use that knowledge to improve future planning. Your espresso shopping for plan is a rolling forecast that goes again in time (as a few years as you have got had the plan) and will go ahead at the very least two to 3 years using forecasted progress.

Forecasting three or extra years out in your coffee shopping for wants could seem excessive, however relaxation assured you may be grateful for considering ahead. One other use of the forecast beyond the present crop yr is to offer your importers and/or producer companions estimates of your possible espresso needs two to 3 years out, to assist them higher plan on your growing needs. It’d even assist you to safe unique tons in highly aggressive markets.

Imagine the state of affairs the place you’re speaking to your importer or producer companion concerning the coffees you’ll want to buy this yr. You inform them the variety of luggage, worth ranges and high quality ranges, they usually use that info to plan for the current harvest. Your needs are small however you hope to develop them over time.

Now think about one other espresso buyer of the identical measurement approaches the importer or producer and proposes to purchase the identical coffee at about the identical worth using a rolling-forecast coffee buying plan. The roaster exhibits the vendor its proposed purchases for the subsequent three years, with some quantity of progress inbuilt.

Which coffee roaster goes to get the most effective coffee at the perfect worth?

Photograph courtesy of Andy Newbom.

Plan the Plan

A plan is simply nearly as good as the knowledge it consists of. There are various criteria that guide your sourcing and buying selections, but every espresso buying plan ought to embrace, at a minimal, the following:

  1. Use: espresso, blend, filter
  2. Worth range: value, mid-range, high-end
  3. Attributes: flavor, acidity, body
  4. Certification: natural, truthful commerce, Rainforest Alliance, Utz, and so forth.
  5. Volume (in pounds or kilos, not luggage)

The more info you embrace the higher; nevertheless, these are key standards that must be in each plan.

Use is just how you propose to make use of each espresso. Are you trying to purchase a coffee for use primarily as espresso? In that case, is it a single-origin espresso or a part of a blend? If it is a element of a mix, is it the bottom half with heavier body, more chocolatey sweetness and toffee, or is it the glowing candy grape acidity pop on prime of the blend? The answers to these questions will guide you to decidedly totally different coffees.

Worth vary is fairly simple; nevertheless, don’t fall into the lure of considering each coffee has to fall into the same worth vary. Not only ought to you have got totally different worth factors for various markets and uses, you need to use differing worth points to stability your general coffee prices. As an example, you can purchase a barely lower-scoring value blend from a producer companion, which allows the farmer to promote his or her good but not nice coffees to a trusted companion, and lets you splurge on that farmer’s top-scoring microlot. This doesn’t must be actual, however it should embrace an estimated worth vary for each espresso on your plan. Pay truthful costs for high quality and story. Give value where value is due, and you’ll achieve lasting success.

Attributes comparable to flavor, aftertaste, acidity and body are your most necessary coffee choice tools. Don’t just buy the highest-scoring coffees out there. As an alternative, purchase coffees that match the attributes you’re looking for. Pay special consideration to flavors, stability, sweetness and complexity, which are far harder to seek out than simply screaming acidity.

Certification is probably the most minimize and dried of your shopping for standards, as it’s a easy verify box, but all the time make sure to confirm certification claims. Should you don’t plan to require licensed coffees, you possibly can get rid of this criterion from your plan.

Cupping and tasting must be used as instruments to seek out coffees that suit your strategic buying plan. Photograph courtesy of Andy Newbom.

Volume looks like the only category, however it is the single most necessary one. For the customer, it units the whole price range for every espresso and for the complete coffee shopping for plan yr. For the importer and producers, it units the full sale and, equally essential, the potential forecasted gross sales revenue. Sharing this info helps construct robust relationships that may set your enterprise aside from the competitors and offer you a aggressive benefit. Some key issues concerning volume are seasonality, delivery home windows, delivery months, delivery time and, in fact, use. All the time know whether or not each espresso has a specified season (a sure number of months after harvest, for example, but not all yr) or whether you’ll carry it year-round. Try to plan for delivery delays and shortages whereas avoiding an excessive amount of overlap.

Don’t fall into the lure of forecasting when it comes to luggage. Weight per bag can range from nation to nation, and all coffee at origin is organized by weight (typically lumped into native bag-like measurements such because the quintal). Utilizing pounds or kilos permits for simple calculations when changing between parchment, raw green and export- quality green. Moreover, all your espresso is priced per pound, so this facilitates the only forecasting and price analysis.

Determine 1 exhibits a hyper-simplified example of a espresso needs plan to guide shopping for selections. It focuses on use to create a coffee wants listing you should use to source and purchase coffees to fit your plan. You’ll be able to add as many espresso blends, single-origins and filter coffees as you want. Your particular attributes, worth ranges and different standards will differ based mostly in your business plan, market and objectives.

Plan the Instruments

You should use a number of tools to create and manage your plan. Many roasters use spreadsheets, that are relatively straightforward to make use of, versatile, may be shared and accessed easily — Numbers and Google Sheets both permit group sharing and modifying, for instance — and are easy to arrange for rolling forecasts and history.

Some roasters use specialised planning or forecasting software program instruments. The precise device shouldn’t be as necessary as using it persistently. Should you find a software that appears super cool and is loaded with bells and whistles but you don’t use it persistently, your plan won’t be effective.

Crucial standards to think about when selecting a software to create and manage your plan are:

  • Ease of use: Is it straightforward to use and easy to concentrate on the content relatively than the process?
  • Flexibility: Can you make modifications easily?
  • Entry: Can it’s shared and accessed from totally different units/ places?
  • Time span: Are you able to roll forward and backward in time in the plan?

When you plan to supply coffees processed utilizing totally different strategies, make sure you make a place for them in your plan. Photograph courtesy of Andy Newbom.

Create the Plan

The most typical option to arrange a espresso shopping for plan is to first create a coffee selling plan. The promoting plan is a rolling forecast going a minimum of 12 months ahead, although the extra months the better. This plan ought to detail all the coffees you might have bought in past months and assume you’ll be able to promote each month ahead, broken out by coffee sort, want, model and use. Holding a gross sales log with details on climate occasions, holidays, and different external influences will help when anticipating futures sales forecasts.

Most roasters use their espresso wants plan (see Determine 1) to create this rolling sales forecast, detailing how many kilos they already sell or plan to sell every month for every sort of espresso. When you create this, you’ve a fairly strong forecast (and historic look) at your complete coffee needs by category or sort of espresso. This will be the foundation for creating your espresso buying plan.

Figure 2

Figure 2: Coffee Gross sales Forecast

Should you use a spreadsheet, a primary setup for the coffee promoting plan might appear to be Determine 2, with the following organization:

  • Left column: espresso varieties (espresso, filter, worth, and so forth., based mostly on the coffee wants plan proven in Determine 1)
  • Prime row: timeline, sometimes by month, displaying gross sales in pounds
  • Far-right columns: summaries, displaying complete kilos and complete luggage for each coffee sort

This rolling forecast, up to date with month-to-month actual sales and inventory, together with a always up to date espresso needs plan, can make sure that (most of the time) you don’t buy an excessive amount of or too little general, and may also help you propose your buying to fill all of the wants in your lineup with out overloading or under-filling any specific need.

You’ll be able to, in fact, make room in your plan for these superstars that bounce off the cupping table and strike your fancy. Actually, for those who buy spot coffees (coffee already acquired and stored at a domestic warehouse), you’ll be able to embrace a particular proportion of stock in your coffee wants plan for those. Nevertheless, ensure the spot coffees you purchase fit your general espresso plan, financial mannequin and wishes. Don’t buy a espresso simply because it tastes good. Buy it as a result of you can also make a area for it in your plan.

Finally, combining your coffee wants plan together with your rolling coffee gross sales forecast, you’ll be able to create a espresso shopping for plan. For some roasters, this plan will probably be remarkably complicated. For others, it can be relatively simple. All of it is determined by what you are promoting, objectives and volumes. At its core, the coffee shopping for plan takes the coffees you want, in the volumes you assume you’ll be able to promote, and matches them to coffees you should purchase to fit your wants. It have to be a dwelling doc that is constantly up to date, revised and clarified. Make it work so that you can build a strong enterprise.

Utilizing the Plan

For instance of the way to use your newly crafted plans, let’s look at the foundation coffee for the espresso blend shown in Figure 1: Coffee Needs Plan. The plan signifies that this espresso must be a lower-toned, rounded, darkish chocolate sort espresso, and not a Brazil. It additionally signifies a target worth between $3.35 to $3.65 per pound inexperienced, and complete espresso gross sales of 33,900 kilos over the subsequent 12 months, leading to a target purchase of 18,000 kilos (53 % of the mix) over the subsequent 12 months.


With that in mind, you may determine you need to cut up this espresso into two purchases to keep it recent, vibrant and seasonal. Let’s say you determine to purchase 10,000 of the 18,000 complete kilos from Veracruz, Mexico, masking your wants for 60 % of the yr. You then determine to buy a Selva Central Peru to cowl the opposite 40 %. By holding monitor of what you’ve got bought and what remains to be bought on your coffee needs plan, and by maintaining your coffee gross sales plan updated with precise sales numbers and updating forecasts based mostly on those actual gross sales, you’ll be able to manage your inexperienced shopping for and gross sales with precision and guarantee your stock, delivery and logistics meet your wants.

Accomplished proper, and optimized and customised for your enterprise, this three-stage coffee plan will make your complete enterprise run more easily and effectively, with less danger and decrease prices. Word that even the perfect of plans can break down when faced with the day-to-day realities of the espresso business. Assume that coffees, markets, prices, provides, clients and calls for will change, drastically and constantly. Construct in some wiggle room to account for as much of this as you’ll be able to.

Basically, this process is centered on asking questions, and the first query you need to ask about any coffee you contemplate shopping for is why? Why do you have to purchase this coffee? Does it suit your plan? In that case, where? What is going to you do with it, and how will you promote it?

As I all the time say, knowledge only solutions the questions you ask of it. Ask the best questions, and you may retain control of your coffee enterprise.