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Blaser Trading: «Here is how we stay independent in the era of global competition»

Blaser's Cupping Room, from right to left: Rocco Spitale, Marieluise Millemaci, Thomas Quinche, Regula Heiniger, Sergio Prete

MILAN – The history of the Blaser family in the coffee business began almost a century ago, in 1922. Seventy years later, in 1992, the company was split into two separate companies – Blaser Café for roast coffee and on the other side, Blaser Trading for the coffee.

What are the reasons of this division?

The history of the Blaser family in the world of coffee began almost a century ago. In 1922. At first as a roaster, in Zurich, then moved to Bern (where the family originally came from), and in the 30s began to import directly from the producing countries for the Swiss market.

Two activities, roasting and trading under one roof, Walter Blaser’s Erben (in English: the Heirs of Walter Blaser).

As the trading sector continued to grow and not only in the Swiss market, it was decided to split the company. Blaser Café AG, which deals with roasted coffee, and Blaser Trading AG for all green coffee trading operations were founded. Logically, the two companies continued to develop important synergies between them and remain the total property of the Blaser family, where actually the 4th generation is integrated and working for both companies.

How is structured the trading of the company?

We have structured our company to be agile and in step with the times.
We work with six traders who are responsible for sales and purchases of green coffee, assisted by a traffic office that takes care of all our transports (sea and land), a quality department that daily checks all our samples of pre-shipment and arrival-samples, our colleagues in the administration are responsible for the management of contracts and of our stock of abt.

150 to 200 thousand bags in different locations which is known to the market always have been one of the strengths of our company. Logically the department “futures” is now indispensable in a trading company to avoid the risks in value terms by hedging of all international operations.

For the future you’d like to stay an independent familiar company: how can you do that, playing on a global scale?

Our slogan at some of our latest trade shows stated: “Coffee. Our passion since 1922”.
It was and still is today for all our employees and for the Blaser family, which continues to give us the economic and financial means to compete on a global scale. As long as we can show our customers that we continue to work with passion and above all discipline, seriousness and competence, I think that even if we are in competition (which I always define as “healthy and friendly”) with much larger realities than we are, we will be able to be appreciated as a purveyor of green coffee.

Nowadays the certification are essential for the consumers: which have you obtained since now?

We were certainly one of the first to receive an import license for FAIR TRADE in the early 1990s. In those years, we together with some Italian roasting friends were among the first to believe in “Specialty” coffees and as a trading company we contributed to the founding of CSC (Certified Specialty Coffees) which was the first association that understood the importance of traceability of the entire production chain of quality coffee (from green coffee to roasted product).

We organized for the BSCA (Brazil Specialty Coffee Association) the first specialty event in Imola well back in 1993, we were among the founding members of the SCAE (Specialty Coffee Association of Europe) and consequently, we work with various certified like RFA (Rain Forest Alliance), UTZ and Organic coffees. In short: – we are usually there when it comes to quality.

What about the new line Selection?

A few years ago, we launched this line to meet the demands of some customers and the new market for micro-lots. We were excited about this new trend as we considered this would raise popularity to our product and bring the new generations closer to it. We had focused on the highest quality micro-lots and the prices were just as good.

We realized that we received a lot of appreciation for the result in the cup and the organoleptic qualities of the product, but in the end when it came to price customers would turn up their noses:
-very good, but (too) expensive!

We continued to believe in quality, but since then we have a bit ‘re-diminished’ our enthusiasm and are now working to review our strategies on selection of micro-lots, buying and selling to be more competitive in this market.

Currently, we always have a dozen micro-lots available in our warehouses and if one of them runs out, it is replaced by a new arrival. We still believe in this project and it will continue with new vigor.

What kind of services do you offer to you clients?

Like large companies, we can say that we are able to cover the entire supply chain: – from production (even if we are not the owners of the plantations) to the final distribution. This may sound provocative to you, but I can assure you that it is not.

The transparency we have with our regular and long-standing, even historical customers is absolute! They know from whom we are buying, together we regularly visit our producers and choose the qualities that best suit their blends, we take charge of quality control before and after shipment (if the customer so requests), we organize transport, we insure and finance the goods, we store them in Europe to deliver them when they need them.

In practice, we have specialized in providing a “Taylor Made” service, and in order to keep up with the times and to follow the new slogans and trends that are appearing on the market, perhaps I should tell you that we do Direct Trade for at least 60% of our sales volumes!

Blaser Trading have substained a sustainability project “Pyrolysis plants in the origin of coffee”: can you tell more about it?

The Blaser family is very attentive to sustainability. A few years ago we were requested to support the birth of the project “Mobile Pyrolysis”, but it was not the only one, more have been added.

One of the great problems of coffee production is the disposal of cherry pulp. The damage it can do to the environment if you do not pay attention is devastating. For example, methane gas from the wild fermentation of the remains and pollution of the aquifers.

Pyrolysis is a thermal process of treatment of organic materials. In other words, these are large thermal plants that are also suitable, for example, for the treatment of waste

The idea of the Ecological Centre (named Ökozentrum) was to design a miniature plant, a mobile unit, that going from plantation to plantation could help to dispose of the pulp of the cherries to obtain energy and organic coal.

The energy produced during the heat treatment of the pulp could be recovered to dry the coffee while the coal becomes a biological fertilizer with the additional property that mixed with the soil would help combat the problem of erosion very present in Peru in the regions of production.

Thanks to the financial support received from various bodies, including the Swiss Office for Development and Cooperation, we are proud to be among those who have contributed to its implementation.

With an eye to environmental issues, at the end of 2018 we started supporting a 3-year project to reforest 102 hectares in two Fazendas of the Cerrado Mineiro in Brazil … But perhaps we could tell more in the coming months when we will receive the final documentation about the survival rate of the plants almost two years after planting the trees.