Responsible consumerism was a phrase we tried to establish in the psyche of the marketing press when we launched our Responsible Research offer in 2010 (www.responsibleresearch.co.uk) . This initiative we took was in response to observations in much of our work in grocery food and drink markets where even in the darker days of the downturn we found consumers embracing ‘responsible values’, not just in purchasing of food items and grocery shopping when all around them was a sea of promotional activity and price cuts (no change there then).
In a battle of words, ours was a tiny voice in a noisy room and it appears that ‘sustainability’ became the word which best captured that sense of buying something or acting in a way that demonstrated more…. well, we would still say responsibility. You did it because you believed it was a better way to behave; it had some form of positive legacy and emotionally it made you feel better about yourself and the way you spent your money. Okay, not everyone behaved that way and look at the correlation between multi-buy promotions and wastage if you need evidence for that.
However we still believe that responsibility (see we are not giving up) is alive and well. One market that is embracing that principle is the growing wave of speciality coffee houses we see opening across the country. These largely independent outlets fly in the face of the brand uniformity of the major multiples who have fed our growing habit for our latte’s; flat whites and cappuccino’s throughout the last 10 or 12 years in the UK.
Firstly the majority source their coffee from speciality Arabica farms across Africa, Latin America and Indonesia and Asia. They know the farms and growers intimately – many of them are providing direct support in the form of washing stations to provide a slightly enhanced value to the farmer or the provision of education to the children of the pickers and farm workers. They pay market fair prices for the coffee they import, rather than play the hedging speculation of the commodity markets which can break small growers hearts and farms.
Consumers who are using speciality coffee shops may or may not be aware of the full story – most go because the coffee is better and the food certainly is! If you have not been to such a coffee shop and you stick to the Costa or Starbucks of this world, I would urge you to make an effort and try an independent specialist. Relax and take a moment to observe the people in there. You will no doubt see the same number of people catching up with the newspaper or browsing the net on tablets or laptops. But the conversation and the interaction is different. In my experience the largest proportion of people in these kind of outlets are the responsible consumers we highlighted in our study of 4 years ago. They love the coffee; they enjoy the atmosphere and the relaxed conversation they have with the staff and other customers and they also know or suspect that they are supporting a small local business, rather than a national or international brand. In turn by digging a little deeper they will find they are also supporting a small independent grower and community in a remote upland area of the world. If only more people knew that connection they would seek out the independent coffee house instead of standing in line at Costa or Starbucks or Cafe Nero’s.
The Buzzz support North Star Coffee Roasters, Leeds first micro roaster who embrace all of those responsible values we continue to hold up as important. If you love great coffee – check them out at www.northstarroast.com. We recommend Dark Arches!