“Barista was started in September 2006 with the intention of being a new kind of coffee shop –nerdy coffees and organic products, knowledgeable and lively staff, and a transparent value chain with Fair Trade and a cooperation with the UN”, says Björn Almér, one of the founders of Barista.
“Together with Nina Forsberg and Maria Andersson, we created a vision for a sustainable business model as an alternative to the global fast food chains in the industry. We invest more than SEK 2 million in every coffee shop in order to reach the quality level we want to stand for and pay our employees relatively high wages. Goods purchases are more expensive than normal because most of it is Fairtrade and / or organic. To work, every coffee shop needs net sales of about SEK 5 million, which requires on the order of 300 customers a day. Thus, we need locations with high customer traffic”, adds Almér.
Organic coffee geek
Ethiopians have been drinking coffee for thousands of years. In the 1600s, coffee reached Europe. During the 1800s, large coffee plantations sprouted up in Africa and South America, and nowadays are producing in the order of 8 million tons of coffee beans per year. For some reason, the Swedes and Finns are heavy consumers of coffee. In Sweden, the annual consumption of roasted coffee is about 10 kg per person. Interest in how coffee is grown has increased in recent years and the Fair Trade label (Fairtrade) is an example of an initiative with the goal of creating the conditions for farmers and workers to improve working and living conditions.
“Fair trade coffee in Sweden accounts for only two percent of consumption, but at Barista only Fairtrade coffees are brewed. Obviously, we are coffee geeks and we roast our coffees at Sweden’s best and nerdiest roasters, Johan & Nyström. Small batches are roasted every week to offer the freshest and best coffee. We are actually the first in Sweden to offer one hundred percent Arabica beans in our coffee cups. The Barista’s business model is to take into account large and small sustainability issues. Let me give a few examples”, says Almér:
- We have a board seat on the Swedish UN Foundation and are the main partner for the UN in Sweden. As part of the collaboration, we give a discount to Barista loyalty card members, while providing an additional discount of two crowns as a contribution to school meals in Ethiopia. In practice, this means that more than 1,200 children are fed every day. So far, we have subsidized more than 900,000 school meals.
- We only buy environmentally certified electricity.
- Our napkins are made from one hundred percent recycled fibers and the cups are made of corn.
- The textiles on our premises are flame retardant with the help of the world’s first bromine-free flame retardant.
- We recycle coffee grounds, and customers can take them home to use as plant nutrients. There are ready-made bags for this at the exits.
- Loyalty cards are made of wood coated with corn.
- We try to offer Fair Trade and organic products throughout our whole range. We were, for example, first world with Fairtrade Cola (Ubuntu Cola). Other examples include tea, chocolate, bananas and cashews. Our goal is for everything to be organic within two years.
Barista has been recognized for its sustainability performance and captured the prestigious Änglamark Prize as Scandinavia’s first ethical coffee chain. Other awards include the Coffee Shop Golden Cow 2012 for “Best Environmental Work.” At the World Fair Trade Day 2014, Barista received the best “Fairtrade progress award in Lund”.
Expansion and a more professional company
Barista has raised new capital and expanded its ownership group. The latest investment in Barista was SEK 22 million in 2014 that will primarily be used for further expansion in metropolitan Gothenburg and Stockholm. Furthermore, the money will be used to develop the company’s governance and organization.
“So far we have done a lot of the administrative work manually and have had many of the details in our heads. Now we will be even more systematic and effective in our work. Our ethical coffee chain is growing fast – something that requires professionalism”, says Almén.
This article was published in August 2014