commoditization squared

June 17, 2006 – 1:27 am

deeply unsettling notion: “wal-mart” and “fair trade coffee.” talk about a simple business proposition with the potential to turn coffee sourcing on its head. it’s no secret that the demands of wally world for computer software, for example, have been called the single biggest determinant of which products reach the general market. in other words, what wal-mart wants, wal-mart gets … and then the rest of the world follows suit.

which could have some truly profound ramifications on the basics of coffee sourcing, no? the money grafs:

Now [coffee company Bom Dia's] strategy is “to optimize our relationship with Wal-Mart globally,” Alcantara said. … Wal-Mart’s code of conduct for suppliers is posted at the entrance. … If Bom Dia expands from hundreds of Sam’s Clubs to thousands of Wal-Mart stores, Alcantara estimated, sales could easily double.


If Wal-Mart has a change of heart — if Bom Dia goes the way of Millstone — the effect could be devastating. Wal-Mart acknowledges that.

“I think whether you say it or not, you’re putting all of your eggs in one basket,” Mark Hoffman said.

which is enough to make you wince a bit for any brazilian farmer who is currently thanking the company-with-larger-profits-than-the-GDP-of-most-countries for a “new house with tile floors and a spacious kitchen.”

p.s. the notoriously press-shy wal-mart executive suite provides a startling amount of quasi-candid, on-the-record quotes for this piece. wouldn’t that seem to denote its genesis as part of the positive-spin p.r. effort to steal some of rival tar-JZAY’s cachet among socially conscious shoppers? i think it does! kudos to the washington post reporter for parlaying the access into a balanced culture piece.