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Pacific Coast Coffee Association (Maui, Sept 14-16, 2011) and the Maui Coffee Market

Kelle Vandenberg

By CEO/President Mark Howley

A relaxing dinner at PCCA.

A relaxing dinner at PCCA.

Glenn Sacco, VP Sales, and I attended the Pacific Coast Coffee Association (PCCA) on Maui this September. We attended for all the obvious reasons: great location, great weather and the opportunity to connect with clients and the marketplace.

We have been to Maui many times, but it always seems to sneak up on you, and relaxation seeps into your bones. I can’t explain it, possibly the heat knocks you down and the scenery demands reflection, but the end result is inevitable; serenity and sloth….then more serenity and sloth!

I realized as I went from social event to social event the coffee community is for me, even with caffeine injections, a nice place to unwind. The PCCA community, I realize fondly, has become a huge part of my personal and professional life. My experiences in coffee parallel my life, and many of the people at PCCA are unwittingly the bystanders. I had discussions with roasters, growers and competitors which floated between newer roasters on the market, market trends, and crazy coffee ideas gone wrong. We all enjoyed sharing stories about children and families, the pros and cons of our crazy world, and always more on kids and schools. I imagine that’s the reward for years of hard work and a stage of life for me, but one fact is clear: none of the personal and professional relationships would be possible without the back drop of PCCA and the amazing stability and the passion for specialty coffee. Pretty good stuff!

Rainbow over Maui Grown Coffee Farm - like a postcard!

Rainbow over Maui Grown Coffee Farm - like a postcard!

A few coffee market observations are worthy of note:

1. Maui Coffee is back.  The cocktail party at Maui Grown, held on the back deck of an exquisitely designed home on the farm was a great event. The coffee farm was beautiful and the special delivered rainbow a great touch of Maui magic.  The event was evidence of a group of people who revived the coffee industry in Maui. I have been to Maui over the years, and remember some bleak days for Maui coffee farming. I heard about the Maui coffee revival, but to see the results, to feel the energy from guys like Kimo Falconer, Jeff Ferguson, David Gridley and so many more is wonderful. Maui Coffee is back! 

15 kg of green coffee vacuum packaged in PBi stock bags (Cup of Excellence 2011)

15 kg of green coffee vacuum packaged in PBi stock bags (Cup of Excellence 2011)

2. Green Coffee preservation: This subject is hot. Every farmer, importer and roaster at the conference I spoke to, when queried, had opinions. Some of them think the burlap/jute bag is fine, others argue specialty coffee benefits significantly from barrier packaging and still others are undecided. 

Pacific Bag is at the forefront in these discussions and tests at origin. Our knowledge base on green bean packaging and quality is growing. We will continue to participate in discussions with farmers to learn more and lastly, we are excited to participate.

In my opinion, this subject is like an itch to folks in the business. We gotta scratch it!
There are so many questions and so much to learn. Wow!!
We will keep you posted.

3. The specialty coffee industry is growing:  Everyone agrees the industry is getting through the economic downturn with good results. We all complain about inflation, and everyone has made changes in response to the economy, but the prevailing comments on consumer demand and industry profitability are good. This is also consistent with our experience at Pacific Bag.

4. The Hawaiian retail coffee market:  I love roaming looking at coffee bags in Hawaii. It doesn’t if I to one of the ubiquitous ABC stores, a coffee farmer’s stores, a café or the Safeway in Maui, I am always impressed with the diversity in packaging. If you are a roaster and you want to see package presentation, on the shelf and doing its thing, go to Hawaii. Coffee is marketed in custom printed gusseted premade bags, premade stock gusseted bags with labels, stand-up pouches, and bags made off the most sophisticated automatic equipment in the world. Every package format side by side! it’s a coffee packaging playground for a packaging geek like me! 

5. Surfing: Glenn Sacco, VP Sales, and I took a morning and hit the waves. The cost, $65, was worth every penny. We both had a blast and I tried my best to sabotage the event for Glenn ( see photo). Unfortunately, I ended in the water and Glenn, true to his determined and directed personality, stayed the course!

Mark attempts to sabotage Glenn

Mark attempts to sabotage Glenn

Mark eats the water (see his feet) while Glenn glides on!

Mark eats the water (see his feet) while Glenn glides on!