Oro Verde is cooperative founded on December 7, 1999 by 56 coffee producers from different communities. This cooperative, based in the province of Lamas, San Martín, is focused on coffee and cacao production. As of 2020, Oro Verde has 1,203 members dispersed throughout four different provinces in San Martin. Oro Verde holds the following certifications: Just (Fair Trade), Organic for the European Union (EU), organic for the United States of America (NOP / USDA), Canada (COR), Biossuise, and Symbol of Small Producers (SPP).
In 2019, Oro Verde forecasted the implementation of “7C” (green coffee, cacao, chocolate, roasted coffee, cafeteria, carbon stock and conservation) to highlight the different areas at Oro Verde facilities. 7C is Oro Verde’s business strategy; a combination of products and services that guarantee the co-op’s economic success. This strategy included the export of chocolate bars and other finished products to the international market, as well as a massive positioning of the Oro Verde brand in the national market.
Oro Verde Foods has been selling their retail products directly to customers. Thirty percent of their sales were done through their coffee shop located in Lamas, a small tourist town where the co-op is located, 30% of sales occurred in regional supermarkets and 40% purchased directly from the manufacturing facility. In 2020, due to the COVID-19 outbreak, the coffee shop was closed for five months, resulting in decreased income for the co-op. COVID-19 has highlighted the importance of transitioning from physical sale transactions to virtual platforms and Oro Verde would like to implement an e-commerce system to increase their sales and obtain a strong position in the national market.
E-commerce allows retailers to sell goods around the clock and access various markets. To support the cooperative, NCBA CLUSA’s USAID-funded Farmer-to-Farmer program connected Oro Verde with volunteers Oscar Leon and Emmanuel Saavedra to implement an e-commerce model according to the co-op’s needs. To do this, the assignment aimed to evaluate the current sales strategy of Oro Verde foods, analyze buying trends of the customer base (current and potential), determine which products can be sold online, propose an adequate e-commerce model (e.g., business to consumer (B2C), business to business (B2B)). Additionally, this assignment analyzed transactional relationships between Oro Verde Foods and their potential consumers (access to the platform, pricing, loyalty).
The international volunteer, Oscar, has professional experience with the Inter-American Development Bank, Technoserve, Aspen Institute and other non-profits. He is passionate about capacity building and development through education, business and sports. The local volunteer, Emmanuel, is an executive manager leading international logistic operations, e-commerce and IT in retail and wholesale platforms. As the manager of e-commerce and new business for Plumas a retail company in Peru, Emmanuel has extensive experience to offer in e-commerce. Together, Oscar and Emmanuel provided trainings and workshops to co-op members at Oro Verde.
One of the coffee shop managers, Mariluz, worked closely with the volunteers and learned a lot. She expressed,
It was an invaluable experience to have Enmanuel and Oscar working with us. They helped to recognize our weaknesses and gave us practical tips to improve Oro Verde Foods. We knew we had to improve but were not sure how to do it. Thanks to this assignment, we learned new skills and now we are ready to apply these recommendations.
The knowledge Emmanuel and Oscar passed on to Oro Verde members will be critical in increasing digital marketing and improving customer service, allowing the cooperative to be more competitive in the market. By the end of the assignment, the training participants knew how to promote their e-commerce platform and attract customers.
As we continue to adapt during the COVID-19 pandemic, Oro Verde has developed new strategies to collect coffee and cacao from their members farms. They also implemented a biosecurity system at Oro Verde’s facility and provide the members with a biosecurity kit, which contains hand sanitizer, face mask, and alcohol, among others. The Farmer-to-Farmer program is continuing to support co-ops and agricultural associations recover, overcome, and grow from this year’s unique challenges.
Oscar and Emmanuel shared their experiences, lessons learned and key takeaways as volunteers in a panel at the 2021 Cooperative IMPACT Conference during IMPACT+ programming. Their session took place on Tuesday, October 19 and is titled, “Farmer-to-Farmer: Cooperative Principles Amidst a Global Pandemic.” Catch the recording on the conference website and check out new Farmer-to-Farmer assignments here. There’s still time to register for IMPACT to access all the conference recordings throughout the month of October, register here.