Nestlé – WBC 2011 Sponsor

Posted:  June 12th, 2011 by:  wolfram comments:  10

Many things are in my mind after the WBC 2011 in Bogota, which was truly a great event. Feedback from a competitors view is one such thing, which I will write about shortly. For now I would like to address one thing, that caused a lot of discussion during the WBC online as well as in Bogota itself: having Nespresso (Nestlé) as a sponsor for the event.

From the speciality coffee perspective, I truly have no sympathies for Nestlé, since the coffee they produce is way apart of where speciality coffee sees itself. The WBC is an event of the speciality coffee industry. The SCAA and the SCAE have been created because they wanted to bring together people having a mission: making coffee better, showcasing how great coffee can be. Having Nespresso as a sponsor devalues the effort that is spent by competitiors for up to a year to get to the WBC, since quality assumptions on coffee couldn’t be more different. Nevertheless, previous sponsors – e.g. producers of syrups – were part of the game from the beginning and they can not be covered by the “speciality umbrella” as well. On the oposite side sponsors are vital to get an event like this running, so where is the border which – in my opinion – should not be crossed? Is it good or is it bad to have Nestlé as a sponsor for the WBC?

It is always easy to blame companies like Nestlé, since such huge companies must be worse, right? To be honest, I just didn’t know for sure, I only had this common sense about Nestlé being evil. As you should know by reading my articels, I always like to back-up the stuff I say. So I did some research on the internet for several days. What I came up with is a huge hisotry of violations done by Nestlé around the world. May it be the destruction of rain forest, controling water availability, creating dependencies on baby food, child labour and of course controling coffee prices.

You can find a lot of information if you follow the links listed below. Each page contains more links that forward you to a heap of further information.

Talking about coffee quality is not the issue since it might be clear that Nespresso is nowhere near where we are now and where we want to be in the future. The major discrepancy lies within the ethic values, that are very strong in the speciality coffee industry. In the speciality coffee industry we are working actively to pay a fair value to the farmers, create better living conditions, helping in education and – which is a huge signal – creating true relationships.

Nestlé is so far apart to anything we want to be associated with. This brings me to the only conclusion possible: having Nespresso as a sponsor for the WBC is a really bad thing! It would be nice, if more people would speak up and if we could avoid having sponsors like this in the future.


Posted By: Steffen On: June 12, 2011 At: 10:08 pm

Wolfram, you took the word right out of my mind. I could not have expressed my feelings about Nestle’ sponsoring the event better than you did in your blog post.

Posted By: cr On: June 12, 2011 At: 10:12 pm

if Nestle is sooooo evil don’t let yourself be used by such an evil competition.
But no, you’re telling us mission-lyrics, you don’t care if it’s for your own benefit.

You’re just the same kind of Marketing mechanism…

Posted By: Nespresso und die Barista Weltmeisterschaften auf Twitter » twitter, Nespresso » Kaffi Schopp Blog On: June 12, 2011 At: 11:45 pm

[…] an den Weltmeisterschaften in Bogota nimmt auf seinem Wolfredo Blog ebenfalls Stellung zum Thema Sponsoring durch Nestlé. […]

Posted By: Matthias On: June 13, 2011 At: 1:41 am

I think having a syrup producer as a sponsor is not as bad as having an industrial coffee producer simply because they do not produce coffee and therefore their business practices do not collide as much with the ideas of the speciality coffee movement.

Nespresso is the complete opposite of the speciality coffee movement. They celebrate an automated way of making coffee which is contrary to handcrafting in every possible step of the coffee production process.

I also had some talks about that and wondered if it was Nestlé’s fault or if we as the speciality coffee community have been financially too weak to be in their place or whatever reason there might have been for this happening.

I think if I had been confronted with the danger of Nespresso being the Premium Sponsor for the WBC and someone had asked me for a donation for an organised campaign which was trying to raise the $60.000 in order to prevent that I would readily have done so.

So why not try to make a fund which acts as a WBC Premium Sponsor under the condition that “bad companies” are kept out? Of course this would raise the question on how to judge who is evil and who is good. How about some sort of ethical committee within the SCAE?

Also we have to become more widely recognised which means that the competitions have to be accessible to everybody even those that do not have anything to do with coffee because it’s those that we have to get in touch with in order to make them join our journey. We have to take the competitions from the middle to the end of the commodity chain and tell the end what’s happening at the beginning and show them what we do and how it differs from the others. That way we will see more speciality coffee being served and stronger companies within the speciality coffee scene.

Posted By: Sebastian On: June 13, 2011 At: 1:54 am

For sure I know too little about the efforts that have been done in organising the WBC, but here these would be my thoughts:
Probably for many reasons participants as well as observers, perhaps even organizers, might not have considered Nestle to be the best of sponsors. However, I wonder which other sponsors were addressed and perhaps chose not to give their money or what other companies might be available and have the capacity to ramp up the sums (and perhaps commitment) to run a competition like this? Probably nobody will disagree with what you said.
For as long as there is no other sponsors, it is a question of WBC or no WBC. I currently am willing to accept Nestle and be thankful for the money, knowing that a) there are certain discrepancies in ethical values, b) I compromise for spreading knowledge of what good/better coffee is through publications and competitions like the WBC and c) appreciate the respect Nestle has towards the specialty coffee scene, because for sure they know that our perception of good coffee and the values we share are vastly different.
How would you decide if next year only Nestle would be available as a sponsor? Take the bitter pill or cancel?

How about crowdsourcing some funding? Do you think that might work? What’s a reasonable guess of how much money is needed?


Posted By: wolfram On: June 13, 2011 At: 9:21 am

Hi Sebastian,

I think there has to be some tolerance according to sponsoships, which has be done already by accepting sysrup producers. Nevertheless, throughout the year, the SCAE and SCAA spend huge efforts to tell the customer the differences between commodity and speciality. Those efforts are completely useless if you join in with someone once a year to whom you want to be different throughout the year.

As a competitior it is always funny if a sponsor (and this happened in Germany several years ago) gives you bags of preground coffee as a present for winning. WTF? We are spending a lot of energy to do something to showcase the opposite, great coffee.

For Nestlé it is more than just the difference in coffee. I think the border is crossed where ethical values come into play as well. If we define ourselves (the speciality industry) to be different and we are working to promote just this, it is wrong, to allow companies like Nespresso be associated with us.

I don’t think that the WBC would not have been possible if Nespresso wouldn’t have sponsored it. This year we were organizing the nationals with way less money than the years before but getting out an event that was even greater. Sometimes you just have to be forced to be flexible and find new ways and as we figured out: this can be a good thing.

Again, a clear statement on this would be nice just to set the stage. Maybe the WBC should officially declare under what conditions it accepts partnerships.

Posted By: James Hoffmann On: June 13, 2011 At: 10:55 am

A couple of things – I am perhaps either too old or too tired these days to achieve any sort of anger or indignation.

To be honest I was not paritcularly upset to see Nespresso sponsor the event. I would likely consider it a spectacular waste of money for them, but if they are going to waste money and in doing so benefit their competitors – fine by me.

I would have been upset if I thought that their sponsorship had driven people to their products – but I can’t imagine who (either at the event or online) watched and then went out and bought a capsule system.

All the baristas and audience members, and coffee people know what Nespresso is.

Some might argue that Nespresso gain some sort of credibility through the WBC. But to whom? Nespresso has a ridiculously strong, successful global brand. Their unlikely to start flaunting the WBC logo and bragging about being involved with baristas because the vast majority have absolutely no idea competitions even exist. Maybe they will – but I would bet that it would be one of their least successful advertising campaigns.

Yes, Nestle are an unusual kind of evil. Nespresso are a subsidiary but before you write them off completely you may want to check how the buying policies and prices are different within Nespresso compared to big brother. Those I’ve spoken to who encountered their buyers report that they pay excellent sustainable prices and are sourcing in a very different way to those shopping for crap to stick into Nescafe Gold Blend.

The WBC this year was truly excellent – better than any other year (granted, I’ve only attended the WBC since 2005 – but I feel confident in this). All competitors benefitted from this. The longevity and relevance of the competition benefitted from this.

Would I rather that another company sponsored? Of course! I’d like to see more exposure for companies that are relevant to what we do. However, no others seemed to have the finances and need to sponsor which leaves the competition in a difficult position. Yes, money is boring and not something that we like to talk about – but if you want a professional competition with a healthy and staffed organisational structure then this costs money. Lots and lots of money.

I would also argue that a big brand sponsor makes future sponsorships easier – lifestyle brands have lots of money, but they wouldn’t recognise any of the other sponsors. Having a sponsorlike this , along with brands like Natvia, gives you credibility and I hope has many more benefits that any perceivable negatives.

One final detail – as far as I understand it the sponsor was technically the Colombian branch of Nespresso, not Nespresso global. Not sure that really matters though.

Flame away…..

Posted By: wolfram On: June 13, 2011 At: 2:57 pm

Hi James,

I struggled as well with having Nespresso as a sponsor and couldn’t define a clear opinion on this. I did not want to keep it that way, so I did the research to have a deeper insight.

Corporations like Nestlé require a massive outside pressure to stay on an ethical path that hits the “common sense”. Just because they started Nespresso (which might be doing different in some points) doesn’t mean they are becoming good, they just threw us a candy (and of course found a way gaining market share).

Maybe they are doing better for coffee farmers than just a few years ago (maybe, since working against trade unions and firing workers that are speaking up also has side-effects). Nevertheless, cacao farmers are still suffering, prices are kept low by child labour. If I am feeling bound to ethical values, I don’t stop just because the farmer I am talking about is harvesting cacao instead of coffee.

If Nespresso wants to play with us, they should do more. I am always a fan of keeping the door open, to develop new ideas together. Nestlé for sure has the power to change things significantly to a better direction. But again, there is a difference between a well done PR-campaign and really understanding and changing your own behaviour.


I don’t argue against the WBC or the event itself. This was for sure the best WBC I have seen so far. I just question if USD 60K are worth selling your beliefs.

Posted By: BM On: June 23, 2011 At: 10:34 am

Apple has survived in 1995 because of a deal with the “evil” Microsoft. In retrospect, it was one of Steve’s best decisions.

I am not a huge fan of Nespresso neither for the taste nor for the company. But it is still the best coffee in the capsule market because they are making huge investments in research.

If the SCAE can benefit from Nespresso – why not? As an example some of their cup tasters are competing at the swiss championship what is increasing the competition level. A good thing for both.

As Jim stated Nespresso has no focus on the speciality coffee market and they still advertise with George Clooney and not with baristas.

Regarding to this I have more problems with companies such as Tchibo which are labelling bulk coffee with attributes like “Barista” or “traditional roasting”. Therefore it will be more interesting which sponsors will be joining the WBC in Vienna.


Posted By: wolfram On: June 23, 2011 At: 11:42 am

You shouldn’t judge Nespresso by the “Espresso” only. Sure, the Nespresso capsule system works and there are loads of really worse coffees out there. The question is: can the SCAE/SCAA/WBC benefit from Nespresso? (as raised by you)

Again, Nespresso is not “speciality”. Speciality tries to separate itself from commodity and is spending huge efforts in educating and communicating to customers. Reaching a customer and really shifting his mind is a hard thing to achieve. If you join with Nespresso and thus the brand is associated with speciality (what happens), things become even harder. And customers compare this stuff: “Why should I buy a portafilter machine, a grinder and get coffee from a roastrery, if I can buy a Nespresso machine, having similar results?”

I think your argumentation standpoint is wrong. You expect the customer to already know about what good coffee is, so he is able to judge by himself. The thing is: the majority can’t! They just don’t know anything and are very vulnerable to these kinds of arguments. We are losing the chance to get the right message to these customers here.

Beside the quality issue and the understanding of what coffee should be, there is another – even bigger – issue that most of the time people forget about: ethics! Just read through the related information I have linked to and judge by yourself.

Leave a reply