Friday, September 23, 2005

Right coffee, left coffee

Quick question: To which of the following two groups do you associate organic food, fair trade goods, farmers' markets, non-Starbucks coffee etc. with?

If Tom Kilroy has his way, you will soon be thinking twice before answering this question. He is the founder of Contra Cafe, a New Hampshire based coffee company which markets coffee produced by small-scale coffee farmers in Nicaragua. Contra Cafe pays the farmers $1.50 a pound which is more than fair-trade prices. In addition, 50% of the company's profits go back to the farmers. So what, you say? Why is it any different from the coffee you buy from your nearest Whole Foods? This is what is different - Kilroy claims that these coffee farmers were on the side on the contras during Reagan's infamous Iran contra scandal. Contra coffee is marketed to American conservatives as coffee grown by Nicaraguan "freedom fighters". 2% of the company's profits go to a conservative, charitable foundation called Freedom Alliance.

Contra cafe seems to be getting some decent airtime because of the association with the contras - Kilroy was interviewed on both NPR and BBC the last couple of days. Kilroy mentioned that they are doing a good amount of publicity in conservative sites which could be why I haven't seen them crop up anywhere else. While I think this is an interesting marketing strategy for differentiation, it seems like they are driving away a huge proportion of the coffee-drinking population. So I am quite skeptical as to whether they would be successful. Any thoughts?

Btw, Falstaff has a new coffeemaker. Here. And do check out some neat coffee poetry in the comments section.

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