Kahlúa achieves coffee supply chain transparency

Kahlúa, the coffee liqueur brand, has reached a significant milestone in its ambition to gain transparency and traceability in its supply chain. To achieve this, the brand has mapped all steps of its supply chain to identify any potential risk areas. Today, 100% of its key ingredient, Arabica coffee, has full traceability and is solely sourced from the remote Mexican farming communities participating in its ‘Coffee for Good’ initiative, launched in 2016.

Over the past six years, Kahlúa has been working with a local NGO, Fondo Para La Paz in four local communities in the mountains of Veracruz, Mexico. Together, they have been investing in better living and working conditions for farmers, establishing good agricultural practices, and protecting the region’s biodiversity. Having nurtured close relationships with farmers, Kahlúa now is confident that its coffee is derived from a more sustainable source.

Kahlúa’s milestone comes with brands and retailers facing mounting pressure from their customers to provide greater transparency into their supply chains. Customers are demanding more information on where a product originated and what environmental impact it has had.

Lynne Millar, director of purchasing, Kahlúa, commented: “It’s paramount that we have traceability across our coffee supply chain – not only for our own peace of mind, but it’s essential that we provide the same assurances to our retail customers.”

Having started in Ocotempa, a remote village in the Veracruz mountains, the project focuses on three interconnected themes – social, economic and environmental – to help smallholder farmers move towards a sustainable farming model and improved living conditions.

The project starts by addressing communities’ most basic needs, such as improving access to fresh water and sanitation. Extensive planting is undertaken – replacing old and less productive trees with new disease-resistant plants that are more resilient to climate change. With the advice from experts, the “Coffee for Good” program has provided nutritional packages and fertilizers to nurture young trees – as well as protect the environment and biodiversity. Establishing strong bonds between villages has also been vital in creating community support and encouraging knowledge sharing.

Since the project began 704 farmers have been trained, 214 dry toilets built, more than 213,500 coffee trees planted and around 70 women are now in leadership roles. The project continues to evolve, and the next priority is to certify the work of the farmers and set the standard for two new villages added to the Coffee for Good program.

Lynne continued: “Sustainability means changing, improving and investing now for the benefit of a greater and more secure future. We have helped farmers introduce techniques and farm management practices that will not only maximise yields and combat climate change but guarantee to preserve the nature and biodiversity of their surroundings.

We have provided training on how to grow and market other crops, in addition to coffee that can help provide an alternative income stream and improve livelihoods by reducing dependence on a single crop. We also wanted our farmers to become more entrepreneurial, which many have and one of our farming families has created its own coffee brand. It is important to us that the farmers don’t sell 100% of their coffee to Kahlúa. We must ensure that they are not wholly dependent on one customer.”

Craig van Niekerk, global VP of marketing for Malibu and Kahlúa, said: “We want to go further. Coffee for Good is at the heart of our brand. This year, we have added another two villages to our program, Popocatepec and Mitepec. We are also looking at the potential for youth scholarships at local agricultural colleges. In the past, younger generations have been quick to migrate to Mexico City to seek work but through the project’s success, many younger people believe that there is a future in coffee farming after all.”

To learn more about Coffee for Good visit: The Promise Behind Our Coffee.

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