A coffee roasters introduction to international shipping and export

Esther Gibbs
July 10, 2023
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As a roaster, one of the most exciting stages of your business is receiving your first inquiry for shipping coffee abroad. It shows people want to invest time, energy, and money in your product. Furthermore, it indicates your brand reputation and packaging aesthetic is appealing on a global scale.

Customers know buying coffee internationally will be more expensive than purchasing locally. This means they’re likely to expect stellar customer service and a premium product – particularly if they are cafe owners ordering for their business.

As a roaster, you must understand the logistics of shipping coffee abroad to meet consumer expectations. I spoke to Georgie Thomas, the co-owner of Sibling, a cafe and wine bar in Cardiff, about her experiences with international coffee orders.

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What are the benefits of sending coffee abroad?

When exporting your roast coffee, it is important to consider your avenues of sale. For instance, when a retail order of a 250g coffee bag is placed through your website, the customer is likely to be charged an international shipping fee.

Essentially, there is little benefit to you when overseas customers buy a single bag of coffee. The profit is small and the shipping costs may be expensive. Furthermore, import fees will have to be paid by the consumer, as your profits from a single bag are unlikely to cover. This could range from 0% to 6%, depending on the country.

It is important to note as the customer is going through a lot of effort and cost for a single bag of coffee, they are likely to expect a high level of customer service for their dedication. If this is something you cannot commit to as a roaster, then it may be worth putting minimum orders in place.

When it comes to wholesale orders, there are two categories to consider. One is for retail coffee bags sold to cafes or used in subscription boxes. Cafes that choose to order from you believe their brand will benefit from associating with yours. They may want to use your reputation to draw people in or offer something exciting and ‘exclusive’ to the customers.

When using a wholesale avenue, it is important to remember that retailers still need to make a profit. However, this still may be a cheaper and more convenient option for the customer than ordering a single bag online. 

“We order coffees from local and international roasters quite regularly,” says Georgie, who is also a wine expert and former chef. She explains that Sibling adds the same markup on the coffees regardless, which is reflected in the cost of the product. Buying coffee from local roasters often costs between £9 and £13, while international roasters are around £13 and £25 for a 250g bag.

A cafe that intends to use the beans in a guest coffee slot is likely to order in kilograms. They can make a greater profit selling cups of “guest coffee”, which they are likely to charge more for. However, to keep customers interested and to justify the increased costs, cafes will change guest roasters regularly. As a result, orders are likely to be placed on a rotation or ad-hoc basis. 

An image of coffee packaged for shipping, coffee for export, exporting coffee, shipping coffee abroad, in kraft paper coffee bags, sustainable coffee packaging, in a coffee roasters introduction to international shipping and export

How can you incentivise coffee orders abroad?

Implementing a minimum order quantity can help your business determine exactly what it can offer consumers. It allows you to select an amount of bags that will ensure you make a profit while being able to offer free shipping. 

“Several roasters are popular with our customers, so I usually have to order from quite a few,” Georgie explains. “As I’ve built strong relationships with them, they often offer different incentives. For instance, we recently ordered from DAK Coffee Roasters for the first time. While it was expensive, they offered a discount if we ordered again within an allocated period.”

Offering discounts on repeat purchases can help build customer loyalty and encourage them to place another order quickly. Good customer service and clear communication throughout the order and delivery process can also encourage repeat orders. 

As a roaster, it is also important to include promotional materials cafes and businesses can use to advertise the collaboration. Additionally, be sure to engage with your collaborators through social media, as this can help drive local customers to your establishment. 

An image of a coffee roaster packaging coffee for export, shipping coffee, exporting coffee, shipping coffee abroad, in a coffee roasters introduction to international shipping and export

What issues do I need to consider?

When shipping coffee overseas, you should expect issues such as lost and damaged packages, late delivery, unexpected customs charges, or incorrect details regarding the order or the delivery address. Therefore, it is important to partner with a reliable courier company. Ensure the courier allows you to fill in all customs information before shipping to make the process as smooth as possible. 

Additionally, you should research the country you are delivering to. It is worth investigating what the customs charges could be and communicating these to the customer in advance. Be open with the customer about the options available for shipping, including insurance and the expected delivery date. Ineffective communication throughout the order process can lead to difficulties when shipments go wrong. 

More so, it is important to choose the option with insurance that covers the cost of the coffee you’re sending. While many of the above issues are unlikely, there is always a risk when sending large quantities of coffee abroad. 

Consider protecting yourself with an international shipping protocol online, outlining who is responsible for each part of the delivery. Coffea Circular based in Sweden is a great example of this with its thorough run-through of shipping costs, instructions and liabilities. The brand explains shipping costs lie with customers unless otherwise stated. Furthermore, it explicitly states the customer is responsible for any import fees, upper threshold limits in their country, incorrect addresses, and reshipment charges.

Providing this information upfront, and having wholesale customers sign a contract, can protect your business from any disputes with shipping abroad. Layer this insurance and you can mitigate any loss of business or profits on orders.

Finally, it is essential that the coffee packaging is suitable for overseas shipments. It is important to remember coffee needs to degas and is likely to be transported by aeroplane, making it subject to changes in air pressure. MTPak Coffee can help you prepare for international orders with bespoke coffee packaging that is suitable for flights. Our coffee bags can be fitted with recyclable degassing valves and can be packaged efficiently to maximise packaging space. 

Furthermore, our personalised paper tubes for coffee are sturdy, strong and able to withstand the rigours of shipping and storage. This makes them an ideal choice for your coffee packaging needs.

For more information on coffee packaging suitable for overseas shipping, contact our team. 

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