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SCAA Conference & Trade Show: attendance figure break all records.

Anyone who thought Seattle's location was the big draw to last year's Specialty Coffee Association of America's (SCAA) Conference & Trade Show should have been in Boston in May. Seattle's record of 1,700+ attendees was broken by the almost 3,000 attendees of the Boston show.

The number of exhibitors almost doubled from last year and could easily have tripled if booth space had been available. As a result of the show, the SCAA's membership has edged to the 1,000+ mark. There is no doubt about it, this conference has become the place to see and be seen if you are in the specialty coffee industry.

Last year in Seattle, the response was so overwhelming, conference officials seemed almost overwhelmed - lines were long and educational seminars were overcrowded. This year, they were better organized and ready for the crowd.

The tone for the conference was set by keynote speaker, Ben Cohen, chairperson of Ben & Jerry's Homemade Ice Cream Co. whose topic was "Serving the Community Plus Making a Profit." Ben Cohen is a very likeable fellow anyway ... but after his remarks, he's obviously a likeable fellow with a social conscience. He believes that business is "a powerful instrument for change, it's not just for maximizing profits." He considers his company, a valuesled business that combine social services and profitability.

He puts these theories in action by buying from companies that are doing things for social change. In addition from purchasing products from these type of suppliers, Ben & Jerry's get involved at their own store levels. Some of their ice cream shops serve as voter registration sites and any new registrant gets an ice cream cone free of charge.

Ben encouraged his specialty coffee audience to become more socially responsible by doing such things as purchasing coffee from the Aztec cooperative as most of the profits go back to the farmers; using organic coffees as a higher percentage goes back to the growers; and setting up a coin drop for Coffee Kids in each retail location to help improve the quality of life for the children of coffee growers. He believes that as you give, you receive, as you help others, you help yourself.

There were over 30 educational programs Saturday through Monday this year compared to 26 last year and the more popular ones were repeated. The categories again included retailing, roasting, green perspective, and producer focus.

Periodically, presenters of the educational programs would ask people who had been in specialty coffee one year, or who had not yet started their business, to raise their hands. These two groups combined seemed to form the bulk of the attendees. Anyone who thinks specialty coffee sales are about to level off should have been at this conference.

An educational program that was very well attended was "Customer Service" by Dr. David Bell. His focus was on providing better service to the customer, and specific ways to accomplish this goal. Two examples he kept referring to was Walmart and its founder, Sam Walton, and Starbucks.

According to Dr. Bell, Sam Walton epitomized customer service and the way to offer a customer a better a deal. Starbucks was held up as an example of the "right" way to run a business. A common thread in the two examples is that both companies focused on customer satisfaction and employee involvement and both companies were extremely successful financially. Dr. Bell also examined specific recommendations to achieve these two goals.

Linda Smithers of Susan's Coffee and Tea conducted a session on "Retail Store Operations" and as usual enthralled the audience. Linda has conducted portions of the SCAA's Retail Training Seminars, held several times a year at difference locations and is a dynamic speaker.

Although she handed out a "book" of material, "The Six P's of Operational Success," (philosophy, planning, people, products, place, and promotions), the overflowing crowd kept interrupting her presentations with specific operational questions.

She finally put the presentation away and began to answer questions and this continued in the hallway long after the allotted time for the session came to an end. Linda repeated her popular program later in the day.

Martin Elkin, founder and president of Elkin Coffee Co., founder of Fairwinds Courmet Coffee Co., and a vice president of Specialty Coffee Holdings conducted a "Basics of Cupping Coffee" class that was a prerequisite for The Coffee Connections Workshop. Many of the attendees had never cupped coffee and Marty's relaxed delivery and sense of humor put them at ease.

Elkin went over the why and how coffee is cupped and basic terminology, as well as a history of the procedures. The big ice breaker came when he demonstrated the loud slurping noise associated with cupping coffee. First time slurpers at the afternoon workshop noisily followed his example.

The second part of the class was at The Coffee Connection Cupping Workshop held at the company's roasting plant. Different samples of coffee were available to be cupped, sampled, and compared. At the end of the workshop, individualized certificates of completion were handed out.

If the class is offered again next year, it would be helpful for an experienced cupper to discuss the taste characteristics of each coffee as it was cupped. Novice cuppers can identify different coffee tastes but may not have the knowledge of terminology to be able to verbally describe what they are tasting.

The "Understanding Flavorings" session was full, reflecting an obvious interest in flavored coffees. Panelists represented all of the major flavoring companies and they discussed flavorings as we head into the 21st Century. Other topics covered were food labeling laws, new flavoring methods, and consumer health concerns.

Other well-attended sessions demonstrating attendees quest for retailing knowledge included "How To Increase Loyal Customers" moderated by JoAnne Shaw with the theme of coffee promotion through education; and "Choosing a Retail Location," led by moderator Jerry Baldwin.

At the gala dinner/dance, Dan Cox of D.C. Enterprises received the SCAA's Outstanding Services Award. With his remarks, the meeting closed as it had begun. Dan echoed the humanitarian theme of his friend Ben Cohen, "Growers need help ... you can make a difference by how you buy things."

Shea Sturdivant is a consultant and writer to the specialty coffee industry and can be reached at: Tel/Fax (205) 539-5237.
COPYRIGHT 1993 Lockwood Trade Journal Co., Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1993 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Grounds for Discussion; Specialty Coffee Association of America Conference and Trade Show, 1993
Author:Sturdivant, Shea
Publication:Tea & Coffee Trade Journal
Article Type:Column
Date:Jun 1, 1993
Words:1045
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