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Portland’s Sustainable Harvest Turns ‘Relationship Coffee’ Into Revenue

Portland’s Sustainable Harvest Coffee Importers — which assists coffee growers and supplies beans to roasters — more than doubled its annual revenue last year despite escalating coffee prices.

According to a Sustainable Business Oregon report, the company’s revenue spiked from $33.9 million in 2010 to $78.2 million in 2011.

“The secret of Sustainable Harvest’s success is that we invest in training our suppliers and building transparent relationships with supply chain partners,” David Griswold, Sustainable Harvest’s founder and president, told the magazine. “That way we are able to reliably bring a large volume of quality coffee to our roaster customers.”

Sustainable Business Oregon writer Lee van der Doo described the company’s model in this way:

The company is not a coffee broker, but rather acts as a financial intermediary between roasters and growers while importing beans. Sustainable Harvest secures contracts for products and oversees delivery and tracking for roasters. The company’s strength lies in facilitating short-term financing for growers, enabling coffee co-ops, primarily in Latin America and Africa, to pay farmers during harvest, making the supply chain less vulnerable to one-time poachers toting cash and other economic forces that compromise stability among tight margins.

According to the report, Sustainable Harvest — which describes its model as “relationship coffee” now works with a network of more than 205,000 coffee growers worldwide.

“It is, I think, more to do with the way the company operates and how it is attracting both the suppliers that work with us and sell us their coffee, and the roasters that buy coffee from us,” Laura Tilghman, communications director for Sustainable Harvest, said of the company’s economic success.

The full story: Sustainable Business Oregon