Schizophrenia: Trade vs. Consumer
I have a confession to make...
I have a split personality. I am divided between my consumer self, and my industry self. A constant struggle to which I find no real resolution. My consumer self wants to go into a “wholesale club” and buy the biggest and least expensive box of teabags and can of coffee. We are, after all, in a recession, and I should be watching my wallet. But just as my consumer self wheels the shopping cart to the checkout counter, that voice in my head screams, “what about quality?”
My industry self then leads me to a specialty store. Brown bags of freshly roasted beans, fancy tins of perfectly plucked teas... astronomical prices. Can I justify spending this much money on a beverage? My two selves fight, right there in the coffee aisle - a spectacle if I’ve ever seen one. My schizophrenic actions of grabbing the item from the shelf, examining it, returning it back to the shelf and repeating are of amusement to fellow shoppers. Can my two personalities, consumer and coffee and tea “insider” ever be at peace?
It was then that I realized that I, as a consumer, wasn’t doing my research. My choices are not either a below par product at an affordable price or a specialty item that lends sticker shock. But rather, there is a whole world of economical options that are suitable for my “industry self.” In a recent conversation with a regional manager of a large retailer/roaster, he told me that while in-store coffee sales have dropped, sales of their bagged, fresh-roasted, whole bean coffee have nearly tripled over the last five years. A reasonable alternative to your supermarket selections.
Will consumers pay a premium for a premium product? Or better yet, can premium products be produced and sold at lower costs? With all the education we are now imparting on consumers, don’t they understand that “you get what you pay for?” My “consumer self” answers: no, they don’t. Taste tests, smart packaging choices, marketing strategies and a good sales pitch can make the everyday coffee or tea drinker comprehend that these products range in price for a reason. And while a “box of 100 teabags still costs $3.00” (see “Twenty Years of Tea” by Joe Simrany on page 20), one cup of fresh-brewed iced tea at your neighborhood bakery can set you back the same amount. Understandable to my “industry self,” as I am able to take into account the quality of the tea used, the time and preparation. “Consumer self” however, is confused and rather baffled.
The future of this industry, the livelihood of our companies and the economy of many of the tea and coffee growing regions across the world depend on the loyalty and budgets of the consumers. So let’s keep in mind who determines our fate, and work with them to embrace the products as we do.
Tea & Coffee - August, 2009
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