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Everything except the girl with the smile in the bikini.

Everything except the girl with the smile in the bikini

During the past two decades Colombian coffee has increasingly played a `marketing' role in the emergence of a more refined French coffee consciousness. Whereas in 1980, one was hard pressed to find a cup of pure Colombian, in 1990 almost all French coffee drinkers can readily avail themselves of one if they so choose. The campaign to bring Colombian coffee to France earns credit not only for achieving its own goals, but for having helped infuse new vitality into the national coffee market, something of value to all coffee origins.

Colombian coffee now occupies a place in French coffee markets and `thinking' that far exceeds the importance of its physical presence. France is not a nation of Colombian drinkers, nor is she likely to become one in the near future. Although number four in volume among coffee consuming nations in the world, France takes less than three percent of Colombian coffee direct exports (part of France's imports come from Northern Europe) as against the 6.5 percent shipped to Japan, the 21 percent sent to the U.S. and the 30 percent exported to Germany.

Nevertheless, during the 80's, the Colombian share of the green coffee market in France increased from the vicinity of 5.5 percent to that of seven percent on an annual basis. In bags, this relates to a gain of better than 50 percent during the decade. Currently, France is taking more than 300,000 bags of Colombian coffee annually. This volume becomes impressive when considering that the coffee is not part of the drinking tradition here, as it is elsewhere, and was literally unknown to consumers and to most of the industry even as recently as 25 years ago.

The man deserving praise for having done much to bring Colombian coffee to France is Alexandre de Kluguenau; and the company is SACA, in Paris. Although de Kluguenau is now retired from SACA, his pioneer spirit has become company lore and is part of the enthusiasm of the current management, headed by Philippe Juglar and Francois Girardot with the close assistance of Didier Traumann.

SACA has been commercializing Colombian coffee in France for 27 years, as such it has evolved as both a trading company and a marketing firm. Its clients for Colombian coffee are trading houses, importers and roasters. This is physical coffee only and with a minimum per-sale volume of 250 bags (or of one container). Traumann, a company in the same holding group as SACA, is a full service independent trading house, but has also become deeply involved in Colombian coffees and in smaller volumes to medium-sized roaters.

The SACA offering is of seven or eight regional varieties, depending on year, in Excelso, Supremo and Bucaramanga. The coffee is sorted in Colombia to specific screen size, as per the demand of the roasted/ground or (in larger screen) of the Horeca markets.

Yet SAGA is perhaps best known in France for its extensive marketing programs and support services to roasters and to such discriminating institutional Colombia coffee clients as Air France, the French railroad, and even the Louvre. In essence, SACA is selling the idea and image of Colombia coffee. Specifically, this means selling advertising and retail image packages to medium and small-size coffee roasters. The company is offering roasters Colombia coffee posters, cups, bags, umbrellas, signs, stickers, one-cup filter services, sugar packs, even complete stands to rent - almost everything in other words, except the girl with the smile in the bikini.

SACA also produces the `Cafeteros de Colombia' newsletter and is always pursuing some form of special promotion. For example, this past year the company organized a tour by 70 French roasters to Colombia, sponsored an elaborate promotion among roasters in support of the Cafe de Colombia team in the Tour de France bicycle competition, and helped inaugurate coffee service at the Louvre Museum's new Pyramid Reception Center, where Colombia coffee has exclusivity. The Pyramid is now serving about 40 kgs of coffee per day - a marketer's dream come true except that probably less than 30 percent of Pyramid visitors are French.

As a result of this swirl of promotional activities and mountain of promotional materials, the `Cafe de Colombia' logo is surprizingly well known in French coffee circles and to the public at large. Juglar and Girardot are especially proud that there are at least 70 established coffee brands in France now carrying the `pure Colombie' signature, as opposed to no more than a little number in existence in the early 80's. This number of 100% Colombian coffee brands in France does give a clear indication of the origin's success in gaining grassroots acceptance. Attaining high profile through a 100% blend strategy has given stability to the Colombian green coffee market share in France. Enviable stability, perhaps, but only to a degree because the origin's share is still vulnerable, as a blend ingredient, to Brazil's international market position (this is evidenced in the figures for 1987, when Brazil was not in the market, and Colombia's share of French buying shot up to 9.3% of the total).

Nowhere is the vulnerability more evident than among the big industrial roasters. Five companies have major roasting plants in France, and between themselves account for 82 percent of the green coffee market. These are in order of market share: Jacobs, Douwe Egberts, Leporq-Mokarex, Vadour Danon, and Sopad-Nestle on the soluble side. In 1988, of the some 370,000 bags of Colombian coffee in the French market, these companies used about 280,000 bags, or approximately 75 percent. However, they produce only three 100% Colombia products - two soluble brands, by Nestle and Jacobs respectively, and a solitary roasted brand, by Leporq. Doubtless, for growth and more stability, SACA is hoping for more `pure Colombie' launches among the big five.

SACA's day-to-day strength and the measure of its true success lies in its close working relationship with numerous small and middle-size roasters. There are said to be about 530 small roasting firms in France. They account for less than five percent of the national green coffee market. In 1988, however, this group bought some 30,000 bags of Colombia, and they remain consistently loyal to the coffee and the image. According to SACA, 98 percent of these small roasters buy at least some Colombian coffee and 38 percent have clients for a pure Colombian product.

If a French roaster handles anywhere from 20 to 300 tons per month of green coffee, he can be classed as `middle-sized,' a very broad volume range indeed, but one that now numbers only 35 companies in France. These middle-size roasters take about 13 percent of the green market. They bought 67,000 bags of Colombian in 1988. Fifteen of the companies have a 100% Colombian brand.

Of course there are problems for Colombian coffee in France. Some semi-roasted Colombian coffee is routed clandestinely into France from Panama; incidents of fake Colombian coffee continue to be reported - the bags are printed in Europe, and the swindle so outrageous that one roaster in France even received a shipment of `Colombian' coffee with the paint still wet on the bags. As well, genuine Colombian coffee sold to non-member nations has also floated back into the European marketplace.

But such problems are not new in coffee, nor will they disappear soon. The more pressing concern at SACA is to keep the origin growing on the French market, where it seems to be in a period of stasis. "I'm confident we will have growth again," says Juglar. "It will come from more pure Colombian sales by small and middle-size roasters, and through greater blend usage among the large roasters."

PHOTO : A dynamic duo for SACA in Paris - Philippe Juglar and Francoise Girardot manage the development and marketing of Colombian coffee in France.
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Title Annotation:Colombian coffee's market share in the French market
Author:Bell, Jonathan
Publication:Tea & Coffee Trade Journal
Article Type:column
Date:Jan 1, 1990
Previous Article:Nothing new under the sun.
Next Article:Belgium: a closer look at coffee's image.

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