Fair Trade Facts: From crop to cup

Importers and roasters

Maxwell House

Maxwell House, owned by Kraft, is
one of the most popular brands of
coffee sold in the United States.
Maxwell House coffee is typically
roasted by one of 1,200 roasters,
who buy coffee from importers.

The coyotes usually sell the coffee beans to established exporters, who then sell the crop to importers. Only importers who work in the specialty coffee market buy directly from the small farmer. Importers sell to roasters who do not have the capital resources to buy coffee directly from exporters.

Many roasters rely on the service provided by importers, who yield a great deal of influence over the types of coffee sold in the United States. Most roasters buy coffee from importers in small, frequent purchases.

There are about 1,200 roasters in the United States. Large roasters usually have one recipe and sell to large retailers like Kraft (which owns Maxwell House and Sanka), Procter & Gamble (which owns Folgers and Millstone) and Nestle. Large roasters maintain more than 60 percent of the total green coffee bean volume in the United States.

Microroasters, those who roast up to 500 bags of coffee a year, typically provide specialty coffee products. Roasters have the highest profit margin in the chain from farmer to consumer.

© 2006 by Mesa Johnson
E-mail me at mmjohnson2@stthomas.edu