Updated on June 26, 2019

In 2018, UTZ and the Rainforest Alliance merged. Until the launch of the new certification program in 2020, the two programs will run in parallel. Today we will shed some light on the roots of the UTZ program, and what’s in the name? We get many questions about the name UTZ, in meetings with potential business partners, but also on a birthday party on Saturday night. We’re used to hearing everything from “How do you pronounce it? Is it uts? U.T.Z? ooots?” to “UTZ? Is it an abbreviation? What does it stand for? Where does it come from?” You may wonder yourself. We thought we’d clear up the confusion for you and reveal the story behind the name.

Ward de Groote_animationWhere it all began

Our program was born as “UTZ kapeh” (pronounced o͞otz kahpāy) meaning “good coffee” in the Guatemalan Mayan language of Quiché. And it’s in Guatemala that the UTZ story first began. It’s here where Nick Bocklandt, a Belgian-Guatemalan coffee grower and Ward de Groote, a Dutch coffee roaster, came together after they both saw first-hand the limitations of the coffee market and consumer certifications available at that time.

Filling a gap

In the 1990s, Ward de Groote struggled with the fact that only a small percentage of all the coffee he was buying was available as certified. He wanted all of his coffee blends to be produced more sustainably so he could know the exact origin of the beans in his coffee blends and how they were grown. Therefore, he was looking for an alternative to the few sustainable coffee programs that were out there back then. It was important to him that market dynamics set the price of the coffee beans, not a fixed minimum price or a fixed premium on top. Additionally, he wanted to be able to buy his beans from both large and small coffee farms.

Finca El Volcan

Finca El Volcan

Finca El Volcan

At the same time, Nick Bocklandt was running the Finca El Volcan coffee plantation in the Nick Bocklandt_animationmiddle of the Guatemalan rainforest. In addition to caring for his coffee crop, he invested in taking good care of his people and the environment. He wanted a program that would recognize his responsible farming practices all over the world.

When two men meet…

On a trip to Belgium and the Netherlands, Nick Bocklandt began searching for coffee roasters who were aligned with his mission. He was determined to sell directly to roasters so he could get a good price and know where his beans ended up. That’s when Nick met Ward de Groote and invited him to stay at his coffee plantation in Guatemala for a week so the roaster could learn how his coffee was grown.

Ward de Grootte & Nick Bocklandt

Ward de Grootte & Nick Bocklandt (2015)

After that trip, Ward’s eyes were opened. He was impressed by Nick’s attention to the workers and the care given to education and the environment. He decided to take a chance and buy directly from Nick Bocklandt’s farm. UTZ was born.

In 2002, Nick Bocklandt and Ward de Groote officially launched UTZ Kapeh to bring sustainable coffee certification to a global market and spread the impact of sustainable farming practices worldwide.

Broader horizons

UTZ Kapeh proved successful and evolved from a ‘corporate initiative’ to an independent and robust standard for sustainable coffee production. Within five years of launching, the UTZ program was able to expand its offerings to include certified cocoa and tea. In 2007, the UTZ Kapeh name was changed to UTZ Certified to reflect this broader scope.

In 2016, as our scope continued to widen and we started to collaborate more and more with different stakeholders to work on complex issues like child labor, living wage and climate change, our name changed again to better reflect our business. Shortened to simply, UTZ, this name gives us the flexibility to extend our reach further in different directions, enabling us to make an even greater impact on sustainable production around the world.

Currently, the UTZ program is the largest certification program for coffee and cocoa in the world. In 2017 we celebrated our 15th anniversary and in January 2018 we joined forces with the Rainforest Alliance to create even more impact for people and planet. Join us as our journey continues and see where our organization, and the mission behind it, take us next. Read all about the new 2020 Certification Program.

Curious to see how your company can benefit from working with the UTZ program? Want to know more how we can help your business flourish? Simply send us an email. Watch the animated video about the UTZ story below: