NCA Annual Convention promotes resilience, reinvention, advocacy and collaboration

After two years of convening virtually, the National Coffee Association (NCA) of the USA returned to an in-person convention this year hosting nearly 800 attendees from around the world at the Tampa Marriott Water Street in Tampa, Florida from 9 to 11 March.

While the NCA Annual Convention is a leading event for executives and decision-makers in the US coffee industry, this year’s gathering welcomed individuals from more than two dozen countries, and included representatives from international coffee organizations such as the British Coffee Association, CeCafe (Brazil), the Coffee Association of Canada, the European Coffee Federation, the German Coffee Association (Deutscher Kaffeeverband), the International Coffee Organization (UK), Sintercafe (Costa Rica), the Swiss Coffee Trade Association as well as the Specialty Coffee Association (US/UK).

“We are thrilled to finally welcome back the coffee community to their beloved annual event, in person for the first time in three years,” said William “Bill” Murray, NCA president & CEO, in his opening day remarks. “These past few years have been challenging, and I continue to be awed by the strength and resilience our industry has shown.”

Murray also reiterated the NCA’s mission –to grow the US coffee community through education, advocacy, and connection – and vision for an open, sustainable and growing future for coffee. He noted that the NCA is ramping up its advocacy efforts this year in jobs, climate change, sustainability, deforestation, gender equity, plant research, public health, immigration, innovation, and international development.

He also pointed out that while coffee consumption in the US remains strong (the exception being instant coffee), a particular bright spot is cold brew. Quoting statistics from Technavio, Murray said that the cold brew coffee market is estimated to grow at a CAGR of 7.73% between 2022 and 2027, adding that the size of the market is forecast to increase by USD $439.93 million.

This year’s convention theme, Resilience & Reinvention, spoke to the industry’s ability to evolve to meet the challenges of the day and thrive despite ongoing economic and public health challenges. The opening keynote speaker was Amanda Lindhout, who was kidnapped by criminals while working as a freelance journalist in Somalia in 2008. Her speech discussed her need to stop asking ‘why me’ and all that she suffered and let go of her anger because it was only hurting her after she was freed so she could find and harness her innate inner resource of resilience.

In her keynote presentation, ‘Say What you Mean in a Nice Way: Communication with Kindness and Compassion’, and quoting Maya Angelou, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel,” Sarita Maybin advised attendees on ways to transform uncomfortable conversations – whether

in business or personal situations – into constructive communication by offering ways to ‘say what you mean and mean what you say in a nice way’.

The always popular and insightful G Scott Clemons, partner & chief economic strategist, Brown Brother Harriman, returned and shared his economic outlook for 2023, noting that the likelihood of a recession in the second half of the year is growing. “The job market is relatively robust but it is more of job recovery than new job growth,” he said, adding that the biggest issue has been trying to find workers. Clemons explained that the labour market growth will weaken as trends return to normal and the housing market is declining as mortgage rates — combine this with consumer confidence, which remains at post-pandemic low levels, as well as weak manufacturing confidence and the continuing Russia/Ukraine conflict, and the probability of a recession is strong. However, “I believe if we have a recession, it will be a relatively short one as households are in better financial shape than they have been (household debt is at all-time lows),” he said.

Many conversations during the convention centred around the impact of the proposed European Union Deforestation Regulation (EUDR), on businesses. The goal of the EUDR is to prevent a significant share of global deforestation and forest degradation, and in turn, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and biodiversity loss. The EUDR is at a standstill as trade representatives for the targeted commodities (along with coffee, there is soy, beef, palm oil, and rubber, among others) argue that it should not be a ‘one size fits all’ approach as each commodity is unique and its impact varies greatly. Furthermore, Michael von Luerte, secretary general for the SCTA, explained that DG Environment, which is drafting the regulation, had “very little consultation with the private sector, which should have been heard and third-party producing countries were not heard.” Producing countries should have been given a word, he said, because those impacted the most will be the smallholders. Essentially, the people and the countries the new law is intended to help, will currently be hurt the most by it.

The NCA also presented two awards on the convention’s opening day. The first went to Days for Girls International, NCA’s 2023 Origin Charity of the Year, in recognition of their work improving the health, education, and livelihood outcomes of women and girls in coffee-growing regions around the world. NCA also presented Charles ‘Charlie’ Cortellini with the NCA Distinguished Leadership Award in honour of his over four decades of service and dedication to the NCA and coffee industry.

The next NCA Convention will be held 7-9 March 2024 in Nashville, Tennessee.

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