Ankole Coffee Producers Cooperative Union (ACPCU) is a Ugandan coffee cooperative created in 2006. Today, the organisation brings together 8,500 coffee farmers from the high plateaus in south-western Uganda. The rich volcanic soil on which the coffee grows boosts the quality and taste of their fair and organic Robusta coffee.
Meanwhile, ACPCU has become a successful organisation. In 2016, it sold 136 containers, or more than 2 million kilos of coffee! Half of their sales are traded under fair trade conditions, mainly to European clients. The cooperative has a modern sorting unit. It used to outsource this work, but orders were often filled late because of outsourcing. Since they started doing this themselves, they pride themselves in delivering orders on time and being a reliable partner for their clients. The cooperative also has a big warehouse and a modern lab where coffee is professionally tested through ‘cupping’. The cooperative has also launched youth projects in schools to teach youngsters how to grow coffee. The goal is to raise the interest of the younger generation for the coffee business. ACPCU also targets other activities to give farmers other sources of income and to allow them to work and live under healthy conditions: organic fertiliser, bananas, honey, fisheries and biogas.
We value coffee excellence
In 2016, the TDC decided to provide marketing coaching to ACPCU. Since ACPCU already produces large volumes of high-quality coffee, the marketing plan focuses on commercialising and promoting the coffee and on communication. Where can new clients be found? How can we sell more to existing clients? What is the best way to present ourselves?
The positioning of the product is an area of attention. The professionalism at ACPCU and the unique taste of its coffee are huge assets that need to be put in the spotlight. The old baseline “We strive for excellence” was replaced by “We value coffee excellence”. The logo was adapted and new communication materials were developed, including a sales presentation that met the demands of the top salespeople, posters to use at fairs, etc.
But ACPCU is even more ambitious. In addition to the ‘regular’ coffee that they put on the market now, the cooperative experiments with specialty coffee which uses only the best perfectly ripe beans to achieve an exceptional taste. Cuppers describe it as ‘wonderful with no bitterness’. With the marketing coach a strategy is laid out to put the specialty coffee on the market.
Currently, ACPCU is negotiating with the importer to store coffee in a European port. The goal is to provide a better service to clients who want to purchase small quantities from producers. A first? It is definitely an interesting and ambitious plan!
John Nuwagaba, ACPCU’s general manager, confirms they are confident about the future: “We now apply what we have learned through coaching. I like to compare our contacts with traders with a door. The door used to remain closed. Now, we knock on the door and push it open a little, because – unless it is locked – we might get through! Coaching has boosted our self-confidence: We now know how to deal with potential clients and to tell our story.”