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Java heads converge in Seattle.

Over 1700 java heads converged in the Emerald City to participate in a kaffeeklatsch that went on for four days. Seattle, Washington was the sight of the annual Specialty Coffee Association of America Conference and Trade Show April 25 - 28, that drew 1,756 registrants and 100 exhibitors. Ted Lingle, executive director of the SCAA, said the number of attendees was three times larger than ever before and if you weren't there, you missed the coffee meeting of the year.

Keynote speakers were Nancy Moore, editor of the Gourmet Retailer magazine, and Dr. Ernesto Illy, president of Illycaffe Espresso and an internationally respected authority on espresso coffee.

Both speakers had interesting and pertinent information to share but with the short time alloted (1/2 hour) to each. Ms. Moore and Dr. Illy had to condense the presentations to fit time constraints and were unable to go into much detail.

Moore presented an excerpt of information obtained in the Gourmet Retailer 1991 Subscriber Survey. It included a look at the types of stores that sell gourmet coffee, retail sales according to store type, coffee sales by origin, and consumers' perception of which country provides the best quality coffee. "Coffee Sales by Presentation" and "Coffee Sales by Category" reinforced what many in the industry are seeing -- iced coffee takeout is the fastest growth area in sales by presentation and flavored coffees are the largest selling single segment of 1991 retailer sales.

Dr. Illy presented excerpts from a paper, "From Coffee To Espresso: Why Physiology and Social Habits are in Tune" and shared a high-tech video that explored the dynamics of coffee grinding and included computer simulations of different size coffee granules. Although he gave a one-hour presentation on "Espresso Trends" the next day, it didn't make up for the lack of time during his keynote address.

The educational programs Saturday through Monday explored 26 different topics and covered the perspectives of retailing, roasting, green perspective, "hot issues" and producer focus.

The hottest of the "hot issues" seemed to be the two sessions dealing with cold coffee beverages of Seattle (especially the wonderful "granita") and espresso based beverages. These sessions were filled to to overflowing, and many people ended up sitting on the floor around the speakers podium with the rapt attention and squashed posture of rock concert attendees. A definite trend in Seattle is adding caramel syrup to espresso drinks. Alone or combined with the ever popular chocolate syrup, caramel and espresso is a good combination.

The coldest of the "hot issues" was the poorly attended "Innovations in Recycling". The lack of attendance was unfortunate because it contained valuable information about the strides that have made in recycling polystyrene. I can only speculate that retailers, having made up their mind about the recyclability of styrofoam cups, are turning a deaf ear to any new developments.

The "Promoting Speciality Coffee Beverages" segment included a handout that touched upon everything from packaging, specials, promotions and espresso as theatre to sales incentives, training, holiday promotions and customer discounts.

A very interesting segment was "Guerilla Marketing" (marketing without a marketing budget). The focus was promoting you business while spending as little money as possible. A couple of key points included the value of making a list of the area media and sending information about your retail operation and including the word "free" in print ads as a way to bring in new customers.

Phil Johnson, president of Millstone Coffee, conducted a segment about the "Problems in Tracking Supermarket Sales of Specialty Coffee." Millstone has a large presence in supermarket sales and, based on their sales information, decaffeinated coffee sales are declining and flavored coffee sales are increasing. Decaffeinated sales were 20% and now are 16%; flavored coffees represent about 50% of overall gourmet

V sales (in less sophisticated markets).

The educational sessions were filled to overflowing with people and good information but even more action took place out on the streets of Seattle. Every single day of the convention, groups of java junkies would roam the streets, hit every espresso cart in sight and gulp down single, double and triple "shots" of espresso.

Espresso was served and sipped throughout the trade show too. Over 80 booth spaces were taken up by vendors with information and products related to specialty coffee.

The speakers were interesting, the seminars were educational, the trade show was informative and Seattle's ambiance was perfect for this gathering (as was the dry weather) but the highlight of the event was the sheer number of attendees; close to 1800 people drawn together by a common interest in specialty coffee.

A few of us who have been in the business for a while were remarking that at previous meetings, we could look around a crowded room and recognize most of the people attending; at this meeting, most of the faces were new and not as familiar. It was a wonderful feeling to see the growth.
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Title Annotation:1992 Specialty Coffee Association of America Conference and Trade Show
Author:Sturdivant, Shea
Publication:Tea & Coffee Trade Journal
Article Type:Column
Date:Jun 1, 1992
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