A Realistic Look at the Numbers Game

by Tracy Ging

Stocks take another dive as new employment figures are released, analysts warn of further declines, and as I write this, the coffee market has just experienced 18 straight sessions of higher highs. Understandably, there is a palpable edginess in the coffee industry now—an unease that is centered mostly on the question: What if coffee prices continue to rise?

It’s worth noting that for the most part, roasters and retailers have successfully adjusted to a rising market last year and again earlier this year, but the fear is that the value proposition has been pushed to its upper limits. There is a lot of speculation and naturally some trepidation, particularly the closer you get to retail. Roasters share stories of push back, even suggestions to compromise quality if necessary. Specialty coffee is being tested. Can the industry keep pushing forward, driving quality and expanding the points of value, or will it make fundamental sacrifices?

While prior statistics can’t necessarily predict the future, they can inform our theories. There is evidence to suggest a degree of optimism is in order. The numbers show stable consumption, price inelasticity, and retail sales growth among specialty coffee operators. More importantly, the numbers make a case for quality.

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