Cafés Novell is a family-run Spanish coffee roaster, the first in the country to become UTZ certified. Proud of the quality of their coffee and commited to sustainability, we sat down with CEO Josep Novell to learn more.
What does sustainability mean to Cafés Novell?
Josep Novell: “As a company of corporate responsibility, we don’t have any particular responsibility in Spain, but as coffee is our passion and it is produced in developing countries, we believe we should focus our corporate responsibility on the country of origin.“
How did you find the right certification program to work with?
“We had been searching for two or three years for the adequate label. We wanted an external certifier and we wanted high quality coffee. In 2002, we heard about UTZ.
We realized that UTZ had some origins that were of high importance to us, but they weren’t all UTZ certified. However, gradually more and more producers became certified– if I remember well, one cooperative from Java was one of the first to which we were saying: ‘What if you get certified?’“
What was your objective in becoming certified?
“We didn’t want to be a company with just a small percentage of certified coffee. The objective was to have 100% of all coffee sold to the end consumer certified, including vending machines and capsules. Certified coffee for hotels, restaurants and cafés would follow more gradually, with the end goal of having coverage of 100%.“
What challenges did you face?
“Firstly, to find a third party certifier – which was UTZ. Secondly, finding the same kind of blend and quality we had before. Thirdly, we did not want a negative impact on the end consumer, meaning we wanted to sell the coffee at a similar price to before. The supply chain should carry the cost of certification – the consumer should never pay for it. This was and still is our vision.”
What lessons have you learned in terms of communications?
“In the past we made the mistake of promoting the sustainability of our products by showing the issues that certification tries to tackle, such as child labor. But it was a mistake to see sustainability as an attribute. We learned that this is not the case, that coffee is not sold because it is certified. The consumer buys coffee because of its quality. If it is certified, it’s a bonus.”
Is there a difference in how you promote your products in different countries?
“If we take the UK and Spain, the most important difference is that in the UK, people generally understand what it means when coffee is certified. Here in Spain, the difference between certified or not is not recognized. It is far more difficult to explain the topic.”
We have to explain what the label means, what it consists of. However this also means we have an opportunity to differentiate ourselves here in Spain.