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Pacific Coast Coffee Association gathers at Silverado.

Pacific Coast Coffee Association gathers at Silverado

In a daring departure from tradition, the coffee industry's West Coast trade organization will gather this year in the Napa Valley of Northern California for two days of trade talks and social activities. Though the Pacific Coast Coffee Association (PCCA) has been meeting each year at Pebble Beach in Monterey for as long as most can remember, the group opted for a change of venue for this year's 59th Annual Convention, which will held from May 13 to May 15 at the Silverado Resort, just north of San Francisco.

Registration for the annual gathering will take place on Sunday, May 13, while business meetings will begin first thing Monday May 14. The 1990 meeting will also offer participants the opportunity to rub elbows with colleagues during a game of croquet, tennis, golf, or a tour of one of the nearby Napa Valley wineries.

From the line-up of guest speakers and their scheduled presentations, it is clear that the theme for this year's conference is a furturistic one: coffee, coffee producing regions, and the coffee market in the 21st century. Speakers will include politically astute observers of the coffee producing world as well as beverage market analysts and trade representatives. Stephen Schwartz, author and writer for the San Francisco Chronicle and lecturer at University of California, Berkeley, will discuss "Latin America in the 21st Century;" Tom Pirko, noted beverage industry expert, will speak on "Coffee and Other Beverages in the year 2000;" Hans von Gimborn, President of Probat-Werke, will present "The Eastern Bloc's Potential for the 1990's" and finally Dharyono Kertosastro, Chairperson of the Association of Indonesian Chamber of Trade, is scheduled to talk on "Indonesian Coffee: Its Plans and Future."

In addition to these presentations, new PCCA officers and a new board of directors will be elected. In talking with both incoming and outgoing officials and board members, one senses a renewed vitality and enthusiasm to tackle West Coast trade issues and promote West Coast coffee in general. Reviewing his tenure as president during the past year, for example, outgoing PCCA president James Lingle observed that, "The association continues to actively promote the interests of the West Coast coffee trade, including Western Canada. This mandate sets the PCCA apart from other coffee trade associations such as the National Coffee Association (NCA), which represents major roasters and importers primarily, and the SCAA, which represents the interests of specialty coffee in this country." He also noted that, "the association has done very well, having added new members to bring the total to more than 100, with nearly 50 additional allied members," such as shipping companies, warehouses, coffee equipment companies and banks.

Lingle mentioned several specific issues that the PCCA has been working to resolve: "This year we've worked with U.S. Customs, the ports, the Commodities Futures Trading Commission and the Coffee Exchange on a variety of issues that directly affect the entire West Coast coffee trade. These include the change in trading hours, improving the handling of coffee at the ports, and the ongoing problem of clearing coffee through customs."

Lingle made several other important contributions to the Association during his tenure as president. He initiated and produced the PCCA's first newsletter reporting to members on the PCCA's ongoing efforts on their behalf. The PCCA has also come out with a new membership brochure that will help to give existing as well as prospective members a better idea of the organization and its purpose. "The Association is quite busy," he added, "and the committees are actively pursuing the interests of the West Coast coffee industry, though many members are not aware of it. It's not just `business as usual,' and we don't just play golf, but we need to let the industry know that."

Steve Ruiz of the Los Angeles-based F. Gavina & Sons and PCCA board member for the coming year, reiterated Lingle's thoughts on improving communication and working to improve the situation at West Coast ports. Two issues of particular concern are the Salvadoran boycott and the customs delays, and Ruiz expects both topics to be discussed at the Convention. The longshoremen's refusal to unload Salvadoran coffee along the West Coast for the past few months, coupled with the costly delays at customs due to a closer scrutiny of shipments for drug trafficking, especially those shipments from Colombia, has put considerable strain on West Coast importers and those they supply with coffee.

In looking forward to his position on the PCCA Board of Directors, Ruiz wholeheartedly supported the introduction of a newsletter for the membership. "The timing is right to stir up some excitement, to communicate more among ourselves as well as to our customers. The new newsletter will certainly help to achieve this, and I also hope to see the association sponsor more activities or functions."

Mark Mountanos at M.P. Mountanos & Company Inc. observed that the Convention allows people in the West Coast trade to "talk coffee on a more casual basis," face to face, in an informal atmosphere. "We look forward to the event," Mountanos says, "not only for the information and knowledge presented by intelligent speakers and colleagues, but also for the social contact during a game of tennis or golf." In fact, he's hoping to break 100 this year out on the Silverado green.

Regarding his scheduled talk, "On Coffee and Other Beverages in the 21st Century," Tom Pirko of Bevmark, Inc. offers us a few predictions. "I see a continuing amalgamation of beverage categories. Certainly by the year 2000, beverage marketing will be conducted in a more uniform way. We feel strongly that coffee and tea, to effectively compete, will have to adopt the practices of their competitors," which include soft drinks, juices and waters. "They are competing for the same audience," Pirko says, "and they will need to effectively present their case as enticingly as these other categories have been able to do. But the long term future is very bright for coffee," he adds. "It is coming out of the duldrums and showing signs of reawakening. Coffee is beginning to stop its long-term slide and realigning itself. Of course, specialty coffee will be increasingly important, picking up the slack from the generic coffee business."

Pirko also contends that varietals will play a big part in the strength of the specialty business as we see a move toward more differentiation among coffees. "But," he is quick to qualify, "we will continue to see blends for the sake of price. And major roasters will also become increasingly sophisticated in their marketing practices and will look to break down their markets." This means that while the competition will heat up in the market for whole bean coffees, the major coffee companies will look to attract the "Pepsi Generation" soft drink audience at the same time. These categories, however, will become less rigid and their boundaries will continue to blur.

As these conversations tell, the vision to be presented at the 59th Annual Pacific Coast Coffee Association convention is both forward looking and far reaching, and enthusiasm is running high.

Joan Hackeling Castle Communications
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Title Annotation:Silverado Country Club, Napa, California
Author:Hackeling, Joan
Publication:Tea & Coffee Trade Journal
Date:May 1, 1990
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