Digital transformation in the coffee sector
By Elisa Criscione, Consultant Communication & Marketing for Beyco
Digital transformation is not new to the coffee sector. Yet, its boost during 2020 has taken technology at the forefront of many industry-wide discussions. Of course, the pandemic played an important role in increasing the attention towards coffee digitalisation. However, also during 2019, a strong agreement among different coffee professionals highlighted the importance of using digital tools to create a more sustainable system for all actors involved. The volatility of the coffee price and the consequences of climate change are well-known factors in which technology can provide instrumental solutions.
Every step and every actor, from producer to consumer
The extensiveness of the digital tools is particularly broad. From farm-oriented management systems to digital information tailored for consumers, innovation has been brought to every step and every actor involved in coffee, from production to consumption. But it is also crucial to understand that technology and digitalisation are very general concepts. The monitoring of agricultural practices at farm level is very different from the scanning of a traceable QR code in a coffee shop. The software itself is different, but also the challenges it needs to solve.
Focus on main users and secondary actors
When looking at the development and implementation of digital tools, the most challenging aspect is creating functionalities that focus on the intentions of the main user, but also on the secondary actors connected to it. For example, with online coffee trading, the challenge is to create a system that responds to the needs of selling players at origin, as well as the needs of buying players whose business structures vary broadly from one to another. This has been, indeed, the main focus when Progreso developed Beyco.
Sustainable digital transformation
The same complexity applies to other digital systems, such as climate-smart agriculture, digital financial services and traceability platforms. All these solutions are somehow collecting information from different sources, interacting with a variety of players, and responding to diverse needs.
In this context, a sustainable digital transformation implies building solutions where the cost-opportunity is balanced among producing actors and end-market actors, and where social, environmental and economic benefits are also equally distributed among the chain.
From challenge to opportunity
The digital transformation of the coffee sector comes with huge potential, but also carries a considerable structural complexity. The key for tech providers (and coffee stakeholders developing technology) is to make this challenge an opportunity. How? By maximising the efficiency of their tools and by creating collaboration with exceptional tech providers in other areas. Partnerships will become the key to successful integration and less fragmentation within the value chain.