Caleb Benoit, Founder, Connect Roasters
Company: Connect Roasters
Location: Geneva, Illinois, U.S.A.
Sector: Coffee Roasting, Green Purchasing & Wholesaling
tLBCC: What makes you choose to buy coffee from one farmer or importer over another? What do they do or can they do to earn your trust?
Caleb Benoit: One of the things that all of our farmer and importer relationships have in common is their open-door policy. They’re super accessible, and they’re willing to pull back the curtain as far as we’d like. For an importer, that can mean cupping invitations or introductions to the producers they’re sourcing from. For a producer, that can mean open invitations to come visit them at origin. Honestly, I get more invitations to go to origin than I can take advantage of.
That level of transparency builds trust, and it’s certainly one of the things we look for in our relationships. Information is currency, and it helps ensure that’s we’re sourcing—and then selling—quality coffee.
tLBCC: What steps do you take to build trust with your wholesale partners. How do you ensure they can rely on you and your product?
Caleb Benoit: In a lot of respects, building trust with wholesale customers in coffee isn’t different than other industries. It comes over time, after months and years of meetings and phone calls and emails, exchanging contracts and spreadsheets, spending time together talking shop, delivering high-quality product and service week in and week out. And just like our coffee producers and importers who pull back the curtain on their operations for us, we do the same for our customers with things like visits to the roastery, cuppings, etc.
But we recognize that our partners have a choice when it comes to the coffee brew and sell, so we do everything we can to add as much value to their business as possible. For example, we have a wholesale client for whom we source a specific coffee, one we don’t use for anything else. And we’ve gone to origin with them to meet the producers of this coffee. We’ve walked side-by-side through the nursery, in the fields, visited the wet mill, the drying tables. I think when you’re willing to go that far with a customer, that’s the type of thing that builds loyalty and trust.
tLBCC: Do you have any other thoughts on building trust along the coffee supply chain?
Caleb Benoit: Nothing builds trust more than meeting customer expectations. I’ll give you a practical example: A cafe client says, “We’d like a coffee tastes like (fill in the blank).” Let’s say it’s a fruit bomb that they want. So I say, we’re not roasting anything like that right now but let me talk to our importers. I reach out to one I’ve worked with and tell them what I’m looking for. They say they have an Ethiopian natural that fits that description, so they send samples and sure enough, it’s a fruit bomb. Exactly what I’m looking for. So the next time I need something, guess who I’m going to turn to? And the fact that I can deliver to my customer exactly what they’re looking for, that strengthens their trust in me, too.