“Era of We” is an autological term – it is what it implies, a new era of coffee, ignited by Löfbergs as the first roaster, but to be an inclusive yet performance-driven community.
It’s tempting to release a news story quickly and be the first to break it, but after seeing Löfbergs press release, I wanted to discover more about the background to share with our readers.
So, I contacted the company and received a quick reply. Soon after, a phone call was arranged with Martin Löfberg, the founder and chairman of Era of We. Martin comes across as calm but authoritative and is passionate about the industry. During our conversation, which lasted over an hour, I noticed that Martin never once used the time to promote his company. Instead, he spent the time talking about his travels around the world to different coffee farms and what he had learned during these visits.
Löfberg’s own experiences travelling around coffee farms since 2008 and his observations of how the industry works have clearly helped form the DNA for the new initiative. One of his goals for the project is to make coffee more attractive and thus more valuable to the new generation.
There isn’t a single silver bullet solution that will transform the welfare of coffee farmers, but a combination of changes that are needed to improve the value chain, make it fairer for producers and ultimately create a more sustainable business model for everyone in the industry
About halfway through the conversation, I felt I was beginning to understand Martin and Löfberg’s ambitions for this project. If you look at their website and see how much thought they have already put into it and the considerations they have made at every stage of the process, it is quite an achievement. They knew that this would be a closed and proprietary platform that would not have the broad support it needs to be successful. That is why Era of We has been an open system from the beginning, available to all, including their competitors.
Martin explained that Era of We is built on transparency and, in that sense, is an independent, innovation platform for like-minded. Instead of a walled garden, Martin hopes to welcome even more participants on board. He explained that by bringing together all the stakeholders who are connected by chemistry and a common purpose, the coffee industry as a whole would win, as will all the players within it.
To understand what to do, one must first understand the reasons for the problem. For example, language barriers can make it difficult for independent roasters to deal directly with producers. People Martin referred to as filters, or we could call them intermediaries, are also present in the value chain, but not all of them contribute to the value creation. Therefore, some disintermediation is possible, but not always; as Martin says, farmers may rely on others for milling or processing activities, or they may not be conversant with the export process.
But Löfberg explains that by following the evolution of the wine industry, value can be added by creating a brand around the estate.
“We do see the wine industry has been starting by enabling the estates to actually create an identity and a brand.”Martin Löfberg
Producers can sign up to the platform for free and benefit from the extra exposure. If they wish, they can also use the tools and additional resources provided by the platform to develop a unique story and brand identity.
For a producer, who does not have a direct connection to their customers, Era of We has the potential to change the way they think about selling coffee. For example, farmers can sign up for the cupping service and get professional feedback on their coffee. Consumers can also buy coffee on the platform (currently this only works in Sweden &Denmark).
When I looked at the shopping experience of a potential customer, I found that although the platform is still in its infancy, it works well. A QR code is placed prominently on the screen and allows you to scan the coffee you are looking at with your phone and load a page with quite detailed information about its origin.
There was a lot of thought put into it and you can see the direction it’s going in, but there were still some areas that looked like they needed more time to develop. I would like to see more depth in the history of each farm, a video of the harvesting and processing and maybe even a map showing the journey of the coffee from the producer to your cup.
Era of We is described as an end-to-end platform, and indeed it offers some functionality for every role in the chain, including the intermediaries or middlemen who might, for example, work with 300 farms to facilitate exports in a single shipment.
Roasters may also struggle with a direct relationship with a producer. Era of We intends to facilitate this through direct chat and real-time language conversion, as well as access to other support services.
“And you mentioned a few times it’s an open platform. So does that mean? Löfbergs doesn’t own Era of We?… What’s the legal structure of it?”
Very interesting question because that’s important for us today. It’s outside of the coffee roaster Löfbergs. So, it’s still within the Löfberg group because we have an investment company that is taking care of investment outside of the industry or operational part of the business …and it is one of the major shareholders today. But yes, the ambition is to have it independent
Löfberg goes on to talk about the project’s goals when he addresses climate change as a real challenge for the industry. But the second challenge, he says, is where the next generation of coffee producers will come from.
The industry needs to be made more profitable for producers if we are to attract the next generation to participate. For Era of We to make a difference, Löfberg says, it is not enough for there to be one roaster or even one of the big multinationals. No one can do it alone, and collaboration is the way forward.