The Remarkable Supply Chain of the Coffee Bean

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For so many people, coffee is a staple of their everyday routine. And its popularity is apparent in the global market — global coffee production reached 158.6 million 60-kilogram bags in 2018, up from 148.6 million 60-kilogram bags in 2015. In fact, the average per capita consumption stands at 1.0 kg in 2019. Within each cup of coffee, there are approximately 70 coffee beans. But where do all these beans come from to fuel this highly-valued commodity? The journey of a coffee bean is quite substantial from beginning to end. Let’s take a look at how the coffee bean makes its way through the supply chain.

A Lengthy Supply Chain

The supply chain of coffee beans is a lengthy process that involves growing the beans, harvesting, hulling, drying, packing, bulking, blending and finally roasting. In between this process, the beans go through international transporters, export sellers and retailers like grocery stores, cafes and specialty shops.

The majority of the world’s coffee beans are grown in Brazil, Vietnam, Peru and Colombia, but can also be grown in other favourable, humid climates.

  • Learn how Unleashed helps coffee businesses with their coffee software needs 

Growing and harvesting

A coffee tree can take four to seven years before it yields its first crop of beans. The harvesting process is a very labour intensive exercise. Not all the red cherries that hold the coffee beans are ripe at the same time. Therefore, workers must continually check trees again and again for ripe cherries. Parts of the cherry must be removed in order to access the beans and need to be laid out to dry.

Once the beans are dried, they are packaged into large sacks and passed onto the exporters. From there, they are distributed to big companies in the coffee business who take these beans and put them in industrial roasting and distribution centres.


The inventory stock from the roasting and distributing centres must be passed onwards to retailers. Through a web of transport, these coffee beans are delivered to thousands of roasters, cafes, restaurants, grocery stores and large chain retailers.

The Demand for Coffee

To no surprise, the demand for coffee is year-round, but the market is expected to grow annually by 5.8%. Planning for demand and ensuring the business has good inventory management practices in place makes it so much easier to cope with the increased demand.

Find out how award-winning coffee business Volcano Coffee Works scaled with better inventory management.

The supply chain for coffee is an elaborate and integrated process that involves many players. Next time you reach for your morning coffee, think of the supply chain journey and people who helped get it to your mug!

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Melanie - Unleashed Software

Article by Melanie Chan in collaboration with our team of Unleashed Software inventory and business specialists. Melanie has been writing about inventory management for the past three years. When not writing about inventory management, you can find her eating her way through Auckland.

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