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Coffee Mates

Sleepy attendees that want a jolt of caffeine this morning, and hear ways to perk up their store-brand coffee business may want to stop by Booth 2937.

That’s home to Coffee Bean International, a Portland, Ore., company that works with independent farmers in the San Ignacio region of Peru. In a process called direct trade, it pays the farmers a fair, minimum price for their beans, plus more when the coffee quality goes up.

Yes, it sounds a lot like fair trade. The main difference is that in fair trade, buyers don't pay more for coffee when the quality improves, according to Coffee Bean International.

The benefit of direct trade is that farmers have an incentive to improve the quality of their beans, and consumers get the absolute highest quality coffee, officials at Coffee Bean say.

Target Corp., Minneapolis, and The Fresh Market, Greensboro, N.C., have both introduced direct-trade, private-label coffee from Coffee Bean International.

At a time when powerful national brands have caused an uphill battle for store-brand coffee, the direct-trade model offers retailers a way to differentiate their brand in the crowded coffee section.