Mavis Bank Coffee Factory's first shipment to Italy
Managing director and CEO of Mavis Bank Coffee Factory, Norman Grant points on a barrel of coffee beans destined for Genoa, Italy. (Photo: Garfield Robinson)

Mavis Bank Coffee Factory (MBCF) is in the process of preparing its maiden shipment of Jamaica Blue Mountain Coffee to Italy as the company seeks to make greater inroads into the European market.

The company last Wednesday trucked 200 barrels or 5,000 kilogrammes of coffee beans to the Coffee Industry Board for certification ahead of exporting the commodity in a 20-foot container to the Italian city of Genoa. Managing director and CEO of MBCF Norman Grant did not disclose the value of the export or the distributor.

"This is our first shipment and we're hoping that we can have over a 12-month period three or four shipments of this size. We think that that will go a far way. We're hoping we can get a thousand barrels, 500 of each sizes over the next 12-18 months," he told Jamaica Observer.

"It will open doors for us in Italy and the rest of Europe. We're focusing strongly on the MBCF brand for this strategic move because it is our 100th anniversary and we're very excited about it," he continued.

Assisting in the loading of 200 barrels of Jamaica Blue Mountain Coffee to be shipped to Genoa, Italy, managing director and CEO of Mavis Bank Coffee Factory Norman Grant (right) hands a barrel to extension clerk Shaquille Duffes, as machine operator Damion Mitchell steadies the hand truck. (Photo: Garfield Robinson)

The managing director disclosed that he anticipates that the shipment will land in Genoa by October 10, just ahead of Christmas and, more importantly, in time for the MBCF to showcase its specialty brews at a coffee trade show in Milan. Grant will capitalise on the first shipment to Genoa and the expo in Milan to court even more buyers in Italy, which he referred to as a "very sophisticated market".

Known for their love of pizza and pastas, Italians are also lovers of coffee, evidenced by the variety of coffee-based beverages with Italian names served in cafés the world over — espresso, cappuccino, macchiato, etc. A large portion of green coffee beans sourced by Italy comes from Brazil.

In 2023, however, exports from Brazil to Italy fell by almost 5 per cent with the latter receiving 2.986 million bags of the commodity, according to International Communicaffe.

Noting that both shipment of Jamaica Blue Mountain Coffee is not only groundbreaking but also "game-changing", Grant explained: "We're gonna use those coffees to target roasters and coffee shops in Italy. We're gonna engage the process in such a way that they know what great [Jamaica] Blue Mountain Coffee tastes like."

"So Mavis Bank's entry into the Italian market is something that is strategic, game-changing and what it's going to do is present Mavis Bank in this our 100th year into the Italian trade as one specialty coffee for consumers in that country," he added.

When asked how the relationship came about with the Italian buyer, Grant said that it was arranged through a customer in the United States. Moreover, he said that MBCF has also employed business development strategies to seal the deal.

Come September, Grant will also be travelling to Tokyo, Japan, for another trade show with the Jamaica Coffee Exporters Association and Jamaica Agricultural Commodities Regulatory Authority, and supported by the Embassy of Jamaica in Tokyo. The event will also serve as an opportunity for both organisations to negotiate contracts for the 2023/24 coffee crop with the Association of Japanese Importers of Jamaican Coffee.

Japan is the major importer of Jamaican coffee, especially the Blue Mountain variety, receiving about 70 per cent each year. Grant said the country now purchases US$25 million worth from Jamaica.

During the visit, MBCF will also host a luncheon for its customers to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the first shipment of three barrels of coffee to Japan in March 1953.

Pointing out that MBCF has penetrated Japan, strengthened its position in the US and China, the company now turns its attention to Europe, starting with Italy, Grant noted, adding that the move forms "part of the Mavis Bank Coffee Factory strategic vision in developing a global brand".

"What we're creating is Jablum as a global brand, so that everywhere we go into the world, everywhere you go in the Caribbean, we want to make sure that Jablum is accessible. Everywhere you go in the world, Jablum, Mavis Bank and Wallenford are accessible," he stated, listing three of the company's four brands.

The company also manufactures the True Brew brand — a blend of 70 per cent Jamaica Blue Mountain and 30 per cent of other species.

"We think that it is going to lead to further growth in the demand for JBM and in the demand for MBCF coffee," he said.

BY JOSIMAR SCOTT Senior reporter

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