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An Affair to Remember

NCA took its annual convention west this year, visiting San Francisco for the first time. Momentum was in the air, with excitement and enthusiasm that rivaled the city’s legendary hills.

More than 700 people descended on the Palace Hotel in the downtown South of Market neighborhood for NCA’s 102nd convention and surrounding events. Convention registrations surpassed the record numbers of NCA’s 2011 Centennial convention in New Orleans, setting a new record stretching back over 20 years.

New this year, NCA kicked off the convention’s educational offerings with a pre-program symposium, Coffee at the Crossroads of Science and Law, to address a growing industry need. The last few years have seen a spate of legal and regulatory challenges that hinge on scientific knowledge and technical know-how. NCA brought together prominent litigation and regulatory attorneys and industry scientists to explore three pressing issues that call for both legal and scientific expertise to unravel – Proposition 65 lawsuits in California, the federal Food Safety Modernization Act, and health claims on food labels. About fifty participants took advantage of this half-day event.

The convention experience continued with the NCA tradition of giving back to its convention host city. This year, NCA Day of Service participants partnered with the Salvation Army at three sites in the city to help the organization with its multifaceted efforts to help provide food, shelter and clothing to the city’s needy. The Day of Service volunteers made sandwiches to be distributed to the homeless, sorted donated goods for distribution to low-income families and restocked clothing whose proceeds help support the organization’s drug and alcohol recovery program participants. A popular convention feature, the event attracted the maximum number of participants, “selling out” weeks before the event.

The Convention’s educational program covered the breadth of industry topics and concerns, with a special emphasis on sustainability. Topics covered the field, with relevance to all links in the coffee supply chain. Among them, sessions covered the single-serve format phenomenon, differential coffee contracts for single-origin coffees, certifications, climate change, legal and regulatory devlopments, top-line results of NCA market research, and consumption promotion. Three sessions were devoted exclusively to sustainability with distinct perspectives, covering agricultural initiatives, leadership practices and differentiated coffee supplies.

The table-top exhibition, an important feature of the NCA convention introduced in 2003, was the largest ever, with nearly 40 display tables featuring products ranging from single-origin coffees to equipment and packaging manufacturers to certification and sustainability organizations. Essentially an executive trade show, the exhibition is designed to bring exhibitors into contact with the senior coffee executives who attend the NCA convention. The exhibition has grown by 20% over each of the last two years and by 179% since 2010.

The 2013 NCA Convention was clearly an affair to remember for many in the coffee industry. Attendee responses to the convention were exceedingly positive, and the momentum is likely to keep climbing. Will NCA see you at next year’s convention in New Orleans?

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