Gourmet coffee lovers have been seeing a few new terms in local premium coffee shop as they file past seasonal retail displays of roasted whole bean bagged coffees. Phrases include eco-friendly, organic, shade grown, fair trade and certified sustainable. Most often those beans seem to casual buyer to be simply more expensive than corporate mega-brands.
But these few phrases represent far more than at first glance, including economic and social gains for growing regions and farmers, harvesters and processors of green coffee beans at local level. Sustainable coffee means premium prices and quality coffee due to organic farming practices, fair market payment for beans to local growers and quality controls being adopted by "certified" coffee brands.
Those premium coffee prices reflect growing concerns worldwide of paying fair wages to growers, using more expensive ecologically friendly organic farming practices, better pay for traditionally underpaid harvesters and processing workers and strict quality controls being adopted for "certified sustainable coffees."
Daniele Giovannucci consults with governments, international agencies, and businesses on coffee markets and production strategies to improve competitiveness and support innovative environmental and rural poverty reduction work. Giovannucci has authored exhaustive studies, including 2003, "The State of Sustainable Coffee Report - A Study of Twelve Major Markets."
This study discusses coffee market forces in Europe and Japan and growth of sustainable coffee around world, estimating that fair trade, organic, and eco-friendly coffees represent less than 2 percent of coffee consumption in developed markets.
Another Giovannucci authored study, "Sustainable Coffee Survey of North American Specialty Coffee Industry," he estimates Global market for sustainable coffee to be approximately $565 million retail for over a million 60 kilo (about 132 pounds) bags of green coffee beans.
It is estimated that growers of certified sustainable coffees can nearly double their income from otherwise depressed coffee prices. So economically challenged third world countries see small farmers adopting organic growing techniques as a ticket out of poverty and subsistence. Corporate buyers are attracted to sustainable growers by consumer goodwill and health concerns related to those organically grown coffees. This leads to dubious claims by some of corporate coffee representatives and has lead to need for certification authorities.