Nespresso reinvigorates Congolese coffee economy with new organic offering

 by Benjamin Ferrer | Food Ingredients First

Nespresso’s first organic coffee within its philanthropic Reviving Origins range has hit the US market. Kahawa ya Congo is sourced from rain-rich volcanic soils along the shore of Lake Kivu in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The coffee giant aims to provide improved access to clean water and health services to growers of the crop, while also helping guide farmers through sustainable practices.

This launch is spearheaded by a collaboration with Eastern Congo Initiative (ECI), TechnoServe and Olam (through Virunga Coffee Company).

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“Through our Reviving Origins program, we are inviting the Nespresso community to participate with us and see the direct impact – whether it be donating trees in Puerto Rico, building wet mills in Uganda or providing technical training and access to agronomists,” says Alfonso Gonzalez Loeschen, CEO of Nespresso North America.

The Lake Kivu region of the Democratic Republic of Congo is an area pegged by Nespresso as having the potential to be among the “world’s great coffee regions,” despite facing extremely challenging conditions recently.

While decades of conflict have led to many farmers fleeing their homes and abandoning their crops, coffee agriculture is not the only challenge. Today, Nespresso flags that 58 percent of households in the Democratic Republic of Congo lack access to clean water systems, and 15 percent of children do not reach their fifth birthday, with preventable and treatable diseases such as water-borne illnesses, acute respiratory infections and malaria among the leading causes of death.

“The coffee farmers we are working with have overcome incredible challenges over the years, and are determined to improve their coffee and in so doing, improve their lives,” says William Warshauer, President and CEO of TechnoServe. “Through better agronomic and processing techniques, and the engagement of a reliable buyer like Nespresso, these farmers are already increasing their incomes and starting to build a better future for their families.”

The Lake Kivu region of the Democratic Republic of Congo is an area pegged by Nespresso as having the potential to be among the “world’s great coffee regions.”
In 1980, coffee was the second most important export for the Democratic Republic of Congo and was ranked among the world’s finest, Nespresso reports. However, it declined in the early 2000’s due to years of conflict and economic instability that had a devastating impact on the industry. Volumes have since dropped tenfold.

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Nespresso’s Reviving Origins program ties into the maturing demand for F&B products backed by a compelling story, as Innova Market Insights’ top trend for 2020 “Storytelling: Winning with Words” summarizes. Next to sustainability, provenance platforms are leveraged to convey a whole range of messages to the consumer, including taste, processing methods, cultural and traditional backgrounds of ingredient producers – which ultimately helps to elevate a product’s market appeal.

Within Nespresso’s Reviving Origins range are single-origin coffees from Eastern Zimbabwe and Caquetá, Colombia. “These exquisite and rare coffees are virtually unknown, and have been slowly disappearing for decades,” the company notes.

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Reviving impacted coffee industries
Established in 2019, the Reviving Origins program aims to restore coffee production in regions where it is under threat, bringing back some of the rarest coffees. Nespresso has invested CHF10 million (US$11 million) to help revive the coffee industries in selected countries with the aim of encouraging rural economic development. This comes as part of the coffee giant’s overall commitment to invest CHF500 million (US$548 million) from 2014 to 2020 in its sustainability program The Positive Cup.

As part of its Reviving Origins program, Nespresso and its partners have started to implement its AAA Sustainable Quality Program in the Kivu provinces in 2019, through training and technical support, to improve coffee quality and productivity, in addition to establishing sustainable farming practices and increasing farmer income. The company’s overarching ambition is to increase the number of Congolese farmers participating in the program from 450 today to over 5,000 by 2024.

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