As a large, influential faction of the European specialty coffee world flocks to Dublin, Ireland, this week for the annual SCAE World of Coffee Event, members of the group’s U.S.-based counterpart, the Specialty Coffee Association of America, have less than one week before voting begins on the proposed unification of the two groups.
The SCAE has already conducted its vote on unification, with an impressive 51 percent of members casting votes, and 86 percent of them voting in favor. The SCAA vote will run from Tuesday, July 5, through Friday, Aug. 5. (Note: The SCAA had previously scheduled the vote to run from June 27-July 27, but pushed back the dates, citing the UK’s vote to leave the European Union.)
Both groups have experienced double-digit revenue growth in recent years, and the governing boards of both voted unanimously in favor of proposing unification. Following across-the-pond collaboration in the jointly owned company World Coffee Events and after drawing inspiration from one another in certain programming or structural elements such as guild formations, SCAA and SCAE reps met for informal discussions in March 2014 regarding increased group-wide collaboration and unification. That was followed by the formation of unification working groups and the hiring of the consultancy Heart + Mind Strategies to lead a unification feasibility study in 2015.
The SCAA has since established an informational site designed to provide an overview of the unification timeline, and financial, programming and structural plans. Looking at the site objectively, much of the “voter information” presented is clearly leaning toward a “yes” vote. Published perspectives from individual SCAA board members and from SCAA Executive Director Ric Rhinehart espouse the potential advantages of the unification, and a “what your vote means” section is clearly stacked in favor of “yes.”
This follows April’s SCAA event in Atlanta in which the themes of international collaboration and unification in their broader senses were driven home in a promotional video played during the opening ceremonies and in a Re:co presentation by Rhinehart and SCAE Deputy Executive Director Yannis Apostolopoulos in which the perceived benefits and sometimes necessities of unification and mergers in private industry were presented as analogous to those in other sectors.
During an open meeting to discuss the plan with membership in Atlanta, SCAA board representatives provided an overview of the planning process, while driving home many of the perceived member benefits of unification, particularly as they relate to educational programming and access, networking on regional and international scales, and the potential for improved and increased international coffee standards that could benefit the industry, at large.
Despite its leanings, the voter information page also amply serves its primary purpose as a resource for membership by encouraging maximum participation, and by prominently providing contact information for questions and feedback.
There is also a series of ongoing webinars in which members have the opportunity to ask questions following presentations from SCAA representatives. Two of those are available on the unification site as videos, while more are scheduled for June 22, June 29 and July 6.
(editor’s note: Roast Magazine is an associate member of the SCAA)