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From Bean to Brew: The Coffee Supply Chain

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Coffee Supply Chain

What Does The Coffee Supply Chain Look Like?

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There’s a good chance your day started with a cappuccino, or a cold brew, and you aren’t alone. In fact, coffee is one of the most consumed drinks on the planet, and it’s also one of the most traded commodities.

According to the National Coffee Association, more than 150 million people drink coffee on a daily basis in the U.S. alone. Globally, consumption is estimated at over 2.25 billion cups per day.

But before it gets to your morning cup, coffee beans travel through a complex global supply chain. Today’s illustration from Dan Zettwoch breaks down this journey into 10 distinct steps.

Coffee From Plant to Factory

There are two types of tropical plants that produce coffee, both preferring high altitudes and with production primarily based in South America, Asia, and Africa.

  • Coffea arabica is the more plentiful bean, with a more complex flavor and less caffeine. It’s used in most specialty and “high quality” drinks as Arabica coffee.
  • Coffea canephora, meanwhile, has stronger and more bitter flavors. It’s also easier to grow, and is most frequently used in espressos and instant blends as Robusta coffee.

However, both types of beans undergo the same journey:

  1. Growing
    Plants take anywhere from 4-7 years to produce their first harvest, and grow fruit for around 25 years.
  2. Picking
    The fruit of the coffea plant is the coffee berry, containing two beans within. Ripened berries are harvested either by hand or machine.
  3. Processing
    Coffee berries are then processed either in a traditional “dry” method using the sun or “wet” method using water and machinery. This removes the outer fruit encasing the sought-after green beans.
  4. Milling
    The green coffee beans are hulled, cleaned, sorted, and (optionally) graded.

From Factory to Transport

Once the coffee berry is stripped down to green beans, it’s shipped from producing countries through a global supply network.

Green coffee beans are exported and shipped around the world. In 2018 alone, 7.2 million tonnes of green coffee beans were exported, valued at $19.2 billion.

Arriving primarily in the U.S. and Europe, the beans are now prepared for consumption:

  1. Roasting
    Green beans are industrially roasted, becoming darker, oilier, and tasty. Different temperatures and heat duration impact the final color and flavor, with some preferring light roasts to dark roasts.
  2. Packaging
    Any imperfect or somehow ruined beans are discarded, and the remaining roasted beans are packaged together by type.
  3. Shipping
    Roasted beans are shipped both domestically and internationally. Bulk shipments go to retailers, coffee shops, and in some cases, direct to consumer.

Straight to Your Cup

Roasted coffee beans are almost ready for consumption, and by this stage the remaining steps can happen anywhere.

For example, many factories don’t ship roasted beans until they grind it themselves. Meanwhile, cafes will grind their own beans on-site before preparing drinks. The rapid growth of coffee chains made Starbucks the second-highest-earning U.S. fast food venue.

Regardless of where it happens, the final steps bring coffee straight to your cup:

  1. Grinding
    Roasted beans are ground up in order to better extract their flavors, either by machine or by hand. The preferred fineness depends on the darkness of the roast and the brewing method.
  2. Brewing
    Water is added to the coffee grounds in a variety of methods. Some involve water being passed or pressured through the grounds (espresso, drip) while others mix the water and grounds (French press, Turkish coffee).
  3. Drinking
    Liquid coffee is ready to be enjoyed! One average cup takes 70 roasted beans to make.

The world’s choice of caffeine pick-me-up is made possible by this structured and complex supply chain. Coffee isn’t just a drink, after all, it’s a business.

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12 Ways to Get Smarter in One Infographic

Highlighting and breaking down the 12 most useful and universal mental models that will make you smarter and more productive.

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12 Ways to Get Smarter in One Infographic

View the high resolution version of today’s graphic by clicking here.

The level of a person’s raw intelligence, as measured by aptitude tests such as IQ scores, is generally stable for most people during the course of their adulthood.

While it’s true that there are things you can do to fine tune your natural capabilities, such as doing brain exercises, solving puzzles, and getting optimal sleep—the amount of raw brainpower you have is difficult to increase in any meaningful or permanent way.

For those of us who constantly strive to be high-performers in our fields, this seems like bad news. If we can’t increase our processing power, then how can we solve life’s bigger problems as we move up the ladder?

The Key: Mental Models

The good news is that while raw cognitive abilities matter, it’s how you use and harness those abilities that really makes the difference.

The world’s most successful people, from Ray Dalio to Warren Buffett, are not necessarily leagues above the rest of us in raw intelligence—instead, they simply develop and learn to apply better mental models of how the world works, and they use these principles to filter their thoughts, decisions, strategies, and execution.

This infographic comes from best-selling author and entrepreneur Michael Simmons, who has collected over 650 mental models through his work. The infographic, in a similar style to one we previously published on cognitive biases, synthesizes these models down to the most useful and universal mental models that people should learn to master first.

Concepts such as the 80/20 rule (Pareto’s principle), compound interest, and network building are summarized in the visualization, and their major components are broken down further within the circle.

Mental Model Examples

Example #1: Pareto’s Principle (80/20 Rule for Prioritization)

In a recent Medium post by Simmons, he highlights a well-known mental model that is the perfect bread crumb to start with.

The 80/20 rule (Pareto’s principle) is named after Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto, who was likely the first person to note the 80/20 connection in an 1896 paper.

In short, it shows that 20% of inputs (work, time, effort) often leads to 80% of outputs (performance, sales, revenue, etc.), creating an extremely vivid mental framework for making prioritization decisions.

80-20 law Pareto's principle

The 80/20 rule represents a power law distribution that has been empirically shown to exist throughout nature, and it also has huge implications on business.

If you focus your effort on these 20% of tasks first, and get the most out of them, you will be able to drive results much more efficiently than wasting time on the 80% “long-tail” shown below.

Power law distribution

Example #2: Metcalfe’s Law (Network Building)

Metcalfe’s Law is one of network effects, stating that a network’s value is proportional to the square of the number of nodes in the network.

From a mental model perspective, this is a useful way to understand how certain types of technology-driven businesses derive value.

If you have a smart grid that is only connected to one power source, that’s alright—but one connected to many different energy sources and potential consumers is much more useful for everyone on the grid. Each additional node provides value for the rest of the connections.

Metcalfe's Law illustrated

This mental model can be applied outside of strict technology or business terms as well.

For example, if you build a personal network of connections, each additional relationship can provide more value to the other people in your network. It’s the same principle that Harvard or other prestigious universities operate on: the more value a student can get from the alumni network, the higher price they can charge for tuition.

It’s hard to compete with a fully formed network at scale, as they create massive economic moats for the owner. Modern social networks and messaging apps like Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, TikTok, WhatsApp, and Snapchat all operate with this in mind.

The Power of Mental Models

These are just two examples of how powerful mental models can be effective in making you think clearer and work smarter.

If you want to be a top performer, it’s worth looking into other mental models out there as well. They can help you better frame reality, so that you can harness your intelligence and effort in the most effective way possible—and it’ll allow you to deliver results along the way.

This post was first published in 2018. We have since updated it, adding in new content for 2021.

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Ranked: The Reputation of 100 Major Brands in the U.S.

What comes to mind when you think of a good or bad brand? This poll ranks the brand reputation of 100 major companies in America.

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Ranked: The Reputation of 100 Major Brands in the U.S.

Whether you’re a country or a company, brand reputation is crucial. For corporations trying to stand out amongst an array of competitors, name recognition can be make or break.

The Axios Harris Poll polled a nationally representative sample of nearly 43,000 Americans to find out which 100 companies emerge as top of mind—for better or for worse.

How is Brand Reputation Measured?

The polling process started by asking respondents which two companies they felt excelled or faltered in the U.S.—in other words, which companies were the most “visible” in their eyes.

The top 100 brands that emerged from this framework were then judged by poll respondents across seven dimensions, over three key pillars:

  • Character
    Includes a company’s culture, ethics, and citizenship (whether a consumer shares a company’s values or the company supports good causes)
  • Trajectory
    Includes a company’s growth prospects, vision for the future, and product and service offerings (whether they are innovative, and of high quality)
  • Trust
    Does a consumer trust the brand in the first place?

Once these dimensions are taken into account, the final scores portray how these “visible brands” rank in terms of their reputation among a representative sample of Americans:

  • Score range: 80.0 and above
    Reputation: Excellent
  • Score range: 75.0-79.9
    Reputation: Very Good
  • Score range: 70.0-74.9
    Reputation: Good
  • Score range: 65.0-69.9
    Reputation: Fair
  • Score range: 64.9 and below
    Reputation: Poor

Companies with a Very Poor reputation (a score below 50) didn’t make it into the list. Here’s how the 100 most visible companies stack up in terms of brand reputation:

2021 RankCompany2021 ScoreOverall Reputation
#1Patagonia82.7Excellent
#2Honda Motor Company81.6Excellent
#3Moderna81.3Excellent
#4Chick-fil-A81.1Excellent
#5SpaceX81.1Excellent
#6Chewy80.9Excellent
#7Pfizer80.2Excellent
#8Tesla Motors80.2Excellent
#9Costco80.1Excellent
#10Amazon.com80.0Excellent
#11REI79.9Very Good
#12USAA79.2Very Good
#13Wegmans79.2Very Good
#14Subaru79.2Very Good
#15Unilever79.2Very Good
#16Apple79.1Very Good
#17In-n-Out Burger78.7Very Good
#18Toyota Motor Corporation78.7Very Good
#19UPS78.6Very Good
#20PepsiCo78.5Very Good
#21IKEA78.4Very Good
#22Lowe's78.3Very Good
#23Publix Supermarkets78.2Very Good
#24CVS (CVS Health)78.2Very Good
#253M Company78.1Very Good
#26HP, Inc.78.1Very Good
#27Berkshire Hathaway78.0Very Good
#28Hulu77.9Very Good
#29Nestle77.7Very Good
#30The Kroger Company77.5Very Good
#31Samsung77.5Very Good
#32Paypal77.5Very Good
#33FedEx Corporation77.4Very Good
#34Sony77.3Very Good
#35Procter & Gamble Co.77.0Very Good
#36Microsoft76.8Very Good
#37The Walt Disney Company76.7Very Good
#38Netflix76.4Very Good
#39IBM76.3Very Good
#40General Electric76.1Very Good
#41Target76.0Very Good
#42Wayfair75.8Very Good
#43Citigroup75.7Very Good
#44American Express75.6Very Good
#45The Home Depot75.4Very Good
#46Walgreens75.3Very Good
#47Kaiser Permanente75.3Very Good
#48Best Buy75.2Very Good
#49Adidas75.1Very Good
#50Ford Motor Company75.1Very Good
#51Electronic Arts, Inc.74.7Good
#52State Farm Insurance74.7Good
#53Hobby Lobby74.5Good
#54JPMorgan Chase & Co.74.5Good
#55Kohl's74.4Good
#56T-Mobile74.3Good
#57Domino's Pizza73.7Good
#58The Coca-Cola Company73.7Good
#59Goya73.5Good
#60Google73.3Good
#61Verizon Communications73.2Good
#62Nike72.8Good
#63Nordstrom72.8Good
#64Macy's72.3Good
#65Starbucks Corporation72.3Good
#66eBay72.1Good
#67Wendy's72.1Good
#68General Motors72.0Good
#69Royal Dutch Shell71.6Good
#70Yum! Brands71.5Good
#71Dollar General71.4Good
#72Johnson & Johnson71.4Good
#73McDonald's71.1Good
#74Dollar Tree71.1Good
#75Fiat Chrysler Automobiles70.8Good
#76Chipotle70.8Good
#77Bank of America70.5Good
#78Reddit70.4Good
#79Robinhood70.4Good
#80ExxonMobil70.4Good
#81Delta Air Lines70.4Good
#82GameStop69.7Fair
#83Walmart69.7Fair
#84Burger King69.4Fair
#85BP68.2Fair
#86AT&T67.6Fair
#87United Airlines67.4Fair
#88Huawei Technologies67.1Fair
#89JCPenney66.3Fair
#90Uber66.2Fair
#91My Pillow66.0Fair
#92Comcast65.8Fair
#93Twitter63.4Poor
#94TikTok63.0Poor
#95Wells Fargo & Company63.0Poor
#96Sears Holdings Corporation61.2Poor
#97Wish.com60.7Poor
#98Facebook60.0Poor
#99Fox Corporation59.2Poor
#100The Trump Organization56.9Poor

While the ranking itself highlights well-respected and poorly-viewed brands overall, another perspective is to look at which brands shot up in the list, and which ones plummeted.

Fastest Risers in Brand Reputation

Unwavering and bold commitments to the environment has helped Patagonia to top the charts as the #1 brand, rising 31 ranks since 2020. From funneling 1% of sales into environmental donations to ensuring ethical supply chains, Patagonia’s culture, ethics, and citizenship all align with its business model in consumers’ eyes.

With over 33 million COVID-19 vaccine doses administered daily around the world, Pfizer’s contribution to the ongoing immunization progress is undeniable. As a result, its overall ranking has swelled by 54 places since 2020.

Rank in 2021Brand2021 ScoreChange
#7Pfizer80.2+54
#1Patagonia82.7+31
#15Unilever79.2+20
#71Dollar General71.4+19
#43Citigroup75.7+17
#2Honda Motor Company81.6+14
#24CVS (CVS Health)78.2+13
#27Berkshire Hathaway78+13
#50Ford Motor Company75.1+13
#56T-Mobile74.3+13

Dollar General might seem like a surprising addition to this table, but in terms of sheer growth, discount stores are thriving. Across America, dollar stores are opening at a rate of three per day, faster than any Starbucks or McDonalds.

There’s a crucial reason for this: in many rural areas, millions rely on dollar stores for food and other essentials, as the nearest grocery store can be nearly an hour’s drive away.

Biggest Decliners in Brand Reputation

Despite steady revenue growth, Google is among a handful of Big Tech companies whose reputations are backsliding, dropping 36 places in the past year. The outsize power and influence these companies hold is increasingly coming under regulatory scrutiny.

Rank in 2021Brand2021 ScoreChange
#60Google73.3-36
#35Procter & Gamble Co.77-27
#81Delta Air Lines70.4-24
#30The Kroger Company77.5-21
#38Netflix76.4-21
#70Yum! Brands71.5-21
#23Publix Supermarkets78.2-19
#36Microsoft76.8-17
#58The Coca-Cola Company73.7-17
#67Wendy's72.1-17

Although Netflix pioneered the world of streaming, it is now facing stiff competition from emerging subscription services. Amazon’s latest acquisition of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM Studios) will especially bolster the content catalog available on Prime Video.

Building a Brand Reputation Doesn’t Come Easy

Near the bottom of the 100 companies leaderboard, the struggles of mainstream media and modern information dissemination are strongly reflected. Despite their diverse audiences and established histories, brand reputations of both Facebook and Fox News have eroded in recent years.

This example highlights how the nature of a brand’s reputation can evolve over time. Building a strong and reputable brand may be subjective, but its effects on consumer loyalty are powerful.

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