Mars Drinks Associates Travel to Coffee Farms in Kenya for an Enlightening, Hands-on Experience.
It’s easy to take a cup of coffee for granted. You can brew a pot at home, snag a cup at your local gas station or push a few buttons on your office Flavia machine for a quick pick-me-up. For most of us, it is simple to get your daily caffeine fix.
But the process that goes into making your cup ‘o joe isn’t so instant. In fact, as our Mars Associates learned on their recent trip to Kenya as part of the Mars Ambassador Program (MAP), making quality coffee is incredibly labor intensive and requires serious attention to detail.
In late 2012, seven Mars Drinks Associates traveled from all over the globe and met in Kenya for what turned out to be a life-changing experience. Their objective was to learn about the coffee farming process and about how Mars Drinks supports and improves the farming business through a partnership with Sustainable Management Services (SMS). During their week-long trip, that objective was met, and the experience became much more than a simple learning opportunity.
“The quality of coffee in Kenya is staggering. We joked about how many different times in the process it is sorted. It made me realize I would never again complain about the cost of a cup of coffee, nor let anyone else,” said Maxine Harvey, Distributor Executive based in Ontario. “It also made me so proud of who we are as a Drinks business; we care about empowering the farmers we work with and striving to make our partners stronger and better equipped through their relationship with us.”
Since 2009, Mars Drinks has partnered with SMS to help increase the productivity of coffee and the vibrancy of the farming business in Kenya. The cooperative farmers receive training from SMS to educate them on how to increase the quality, marketability, and volume of their product by following the guidelines of Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs) and Rainforest Alliance (RA) certification.
“I realized that selling or buying coffee in Europe can have great repercussions in third world countries,” said Frédéric Finot, Direct Sales Representative, based in France. “Sustainability is not just a marketing operation but is a way of living and needs to be sponsored by everyone.”
Daniela Roesler, Team Leader for Customer Care based in Germany, hoped that her visit to Kenya showed the farmers how far their work reaches. “To me, it was important to show the farmers that someone like me, with long blond hair and light skin, who probably looks like an alien to them, genuinely cares about the coffee they produce in Kenya,” said Daniela.
For Ruth Pratt, European Single Serve Finance Manager based in the UK, the experience gave her a larger sense of her own job function. “My role in the company is within finance. It is rare that the finance team gets exposure like this to the realities of the supply chain and the work and commitment that delivers the products. The MAP experience has given me a deeper understanding and consideration of the impact of our decisions,” said Ruth.
“I now know how much work is involved in producing the best coffee beans and how passionate and dedicated you need to be to achieve this,” said Andy Strokosz, Flavia Lead Operator based in Basingstoke. “I really enjoyed the pride the farmers had for their coffee farms and their willingness to learn. Even though they have been growing coffee trees for generations, they are still willing to improve the quality and reach the certifications.”
During their visit, Mars Drinks Associates touched every process of coffee production—from planting coffee trees, to hulling and polishing, to cupping and tasting. While in Kenya, the Associates also had a chance to explore the landscape and meet the people. From slums to schools, they spoke with many local people about environmental and social challenges existing in Kenya today. Despite the conditions, the people they met were welcoming, happy, and inspiring. At the end of the trip, each ambassador noted a feeling of overwhelming gratitude toward the business for granting this opportunity, and a desire to be more mindful in all aspects of their lives.
For Ashley Singer, Recycle Your Freshpacks Program Administrator for North America, the opportunity to travel to Kenya with Mars made her even more proud to be a part of Mars Drinks. “It has been a privilege to travel to Kenya to focus on how our business can be more responsible,” she said. “I am so grateful to be able to do the work that I do for such a wonderful company. These values are instilled in me, even in my personal life.”
From bean to brew, – and so much more – the MAP trip inspired a new passion for Drinks, and for life.