I have a good friend who owns several independent coffee houses in a city here on the East Coast. He started out small and has since expanded to three shops. He buys his pastries and bagels locally and serves fairly-traded coffee. And the business is very successful. I hope it stays that way.
He mentioned that one aspect of Starbuck’s marketing strategy is to research where independent coffee houses are doing well because that means that there is a good customer base in the area. Then it moves in across the street and drives the small shop out of business.
As for fair trade? On their website, Starbucks claims to be committed to the idea, purchasing 18 million pounds of fair trade certified coffee in 2006. Sounds like a lot, huh? The company purchased a total of 300 million pounds in 2006, so fair trade accounted for about 6 percent. In other words, not much.
So your latte may be nice, warm and cheap, but it comes with a price not reflected on the pretty board above your head. The ingredients include sugar, caffeine, cream, poor wages, bad labor conditions, independent coffee shop deaths, and a big dose of monopoly.
So drink up. But consider voting for coffee that gives life to independent shop owners and coffee growers. Let your money do something more than provide you with a quick buzz.