Marketing

Buencafé:  four decades of leadership

One of the world’s foremost producers of freeze-dried soluble coffee, Buencafé’s story is inextricably entwined with that of the product it produces. Since it was established as part of the Colombian Coffee Growers Federation (FNC) in Chinchiná 40 years ago, Buencafé’s output has grown more than 600 per cent, from 1800 tonnes of coffee in its first year to 11,500 tonnes today. Over this time the company’s business has changed significantly. It has gone from a single product manufacturer of Colombian freeze-dried coffee to a producer of a large variety of premium soluble coffee products for the international market. The past decade has seen a massive increase in the competitiveness of the industry, with a 20 per cent growth in supply, but just a 4 – 5 per cent growth in demand. “Our operation has evolved as the market has,” says Buencafé’s Director, Constanza Mejía. “In the 1970s, when the freeze-dried coffee industry was just starting to take a space in the market, the FNC/Freeze Dried Coffee factory [today Buencafé] used all its capacity understanding the international markets and the high standards we had to reach if we wanted to be leaders in this segment.” Mejía says these lessons have forced the company to grow in line with the needs of customers around the world. In the process they have learned how to do business worldwide, improved industrially, and developed new products to bring them closer to their final customers. “Fortunately we have done a very structured and rigorous job, in which we have grown with very demanding customers,” she says. Buencafé has benefited from the global rise of house brands and private labels, particularly those with a focus on premium lines. “Global brands have their own production facilities, therefore private labels/house brands is where our focus is,” says Mejía. “Our experience and expertise is what our customers value most and is basically the reason we are leaders in the premium segment. We are confident that our innovation processes have improved in the past couple of years and that’s how we will continue to support our business partners.” Constanza Mejía has been working with the Colombian Coffee Growers Federation for 26 years. She has held management positions in Buencafé in the areas of Human Resource Development, Information Technologies and Administration. In September 2009 she took over as General Director of Buencafé. She is an Industrial Engineer from Universidad Nacional de Colombia and has completed postgraduate studies in Information Systems Management (Universidad Nacional de Colombia) and in Senior Management (Universidad de los Andes). Since she became Buencafé´s General Director, she’s been committed to the company’s commercial and social objectives, with the high levels of both human and product quality and with the cultural change processes that are required to face the new challenges. Now Mejia sees the fortunes of the industry being driven by two clear, and paradoxically convergent, trends. “First, due to the world economic situation, value products are being launched, these products stand only on their price level,” she says. “Second, the trend towards premium products is holding. Soluble coffee consumers are looking for differentiated products, all of them with better coffee values. We are confident as that’s our core.” Buencafé has also benefited strongly from the recent consumer focus on the origin of the products they are buying. This is an area where Buencafé had a headstart. Buencafé’s Fairtrade and Certified Organic lines speak to this market tendency, as does its long-running contribution to community improvement programs through the FNC. In recent years, the FNC has worked with the Colombian government and a range of other partners to help build roads, hospitals and classrooms that have benefited millions of Colombians. With more than two thirds of the company’s personnel hailing from the local area, Buencafé is also responsible for the livelihoods of more than 400 families. “Throughout its history, Buencafé has been firm in its commitment to local and regional providers, with community mindedness emphasizing children, seniors, culture, education and the environment,” says Mejía. Along with this hard work at community level, Buencafé is still looking to get closer to its customers through the development of a growing range of differentiated premium products. “The understanding of the final customer, their needs, their expectations, the environment in which they move, will enable us to develop more tailored products,” Mejía says. “In line with this, we have been working in the past couple of years in order to strengthen our research and development and marketing teams to be an added value partner.”

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