Sustainable Coffee Horizons: An Interview with Aaron Marshall, General Manager of ROR Coffee Solutions

Dubai, April 1, 2024 (QW) :Embarking on a deep exploration into the world of sustainable coffee and innovative leadership, we meet Mr. Aaron Marshall, the General Manager of ROR Coffee Solutions. From his professional journey to the pioneering initiatives of the company, Marshall shares insightful perspectives on ROR’s commitment to excellence, sustainability, and ethical responsibility. Join us as we delve into the impact of ROR Coffee Solutions on the coffee world as a whole.

As the General Manager at ROR Coffee Solutions, could you share some highlights of your professional journey and how you arrived at your current role?

With over a decade of experience in the coffee industry, my inquisitive nature in procurement and supply chain deepened my expertise and passion for the field. The opportunity to learn and grow fueled my excitement for the dynamic coffee world. There’s always something new to learn in the constantly evolving world of coffee, which is what inspired me to delve deeper into coffee and keep my curiosity constantly energized. Coffee for me is more than just a beverage; it’s a world of discovery. The turning point in my career arrived when the owners and I found ourselves sharing a mutual interest, ironically over a cup of coffee, in exploring and growing within the $100 billion dollar coffee industry. Our strategic vision extended beyond establishing ourselves as the leading roastery in the Middle East; our ambition is to emerge as the largest coffee brand on a global scale. The passion to transform the sector, to do things sustainably and ethically, is what brought ROR Coffee Solutions to life back in 2023. That shared strategy and ambition led me to my current role at ROR Coffee Solutions.

You mentioned being a down-to-earth yet imaginative and ambitious person. How do these qualities reflect in your approach to managing and leading teams within ROR Coffee Solutions?

Having a down-to-earth nature and an imaginative ambition are two core styles of how I lead and manage teams at ROR Coffee Solutions. I am always ready to roll up my sleeves and get hands-on when needed due to my “never say no” attitude. My strong belief in this approach encourages teams to create a more collaborative environment and set a tone where team members are not afraid to tackle challenges head-on. Additionally, supporting the professional growth of every team member is a core focus of mine. I understand the importance of continuous learning and development, which is why my hands-on approach allows me to fulfill this commitment by providing the necessary support and resources to ensure everyone has the opportunity to thrive in their roles. I believe it is essential for everyone to be informed about the company’s vision. By promoting a culture where everyone is heard, communication is transparent, and keeping everyone informed, I am able to successfully align the goals of the company with that of the team members to create a harmonious working environment. In essence, it boils down to nurturing a team that’s not only productive but also feels a sense of ownership and pride in what we’re building together at ROR Coffee Solutions.

ROR Coffee Solutions is making waves in the GCC as a one-stop-shop for all coffee solutions. What sets the company apart, not just in terms of products but also in its overall business philosophy?

To set ourselves apart in the highly competitive coffee industry and have a significant presence in the GCC, ROR Coffee Solutions is beyond just its products. At ROR Coffee Solutions, our aim is to foster a culture of excellence, innovation, and sustainability as part of our mission to create an impact. By carefully building an after-sales service program, we are able to exceed expectations and provide added value to our customers and stand out. At ROR Coffee Solutions, we want to ensure that every customer experience is nothing short of exceptional, and we achieve it by strongly believing that we are not just a coffee supplier; but a partner committed to excellence going above and beyond to deliver on promises for our customers. In the coffee business, while upholding sustainability, it is important to keep things fresh and constantly innovate in order to stay on top. We recently launched aluminum and compostable capsules along with our office solutions at the World Coffee Dubai 2024 summit, not only displaying our dedication to innovate and staying at the forefront of the industry but also reflecting our unwavering commitment to sustainability. More importantly, our ethical stance sets us apart. As part of our mission, we have committed to entering into fair trade agreements with coffee farms across various regions, including Kenya, Brazil, Costa Rica, Yemen, and Colombia. We’re all about making sure that we support economic stability, ensure farmers get fair pay, and build a positive coffee supply chain.

The company has recently launched the first phase of its sustainability program, aiming to reduce carbon emissions by 20% by 2025. Could you elaborate on the strategies and initiatives being implemented to achieve this ambitious goal?

I am happy to share the exciting details of our sustainability program at ROR Coffee Solutions, geared towards reducing carbon emissions by 20% in 2025. Firstly, we’ve taken a big leap towards environmental responsibility by launching fully compostable packaging for our coffee bags, capsules, and cups. This initiative aims to minimize waste and contribute to a more eco-friendly disposal process. By partnering with Forthing Friday EV, an extraordinary electric car that redefines performance and sustainability, we have strategically transitioned our traditional vehicle fleet to electric cars. This change has been implemented on our sales, QC, and technical fleets, aligning with our commitment to reduce carbon footprints and ensuring a cleaner and greener approach to our operations. Additionally, our most impactful initiative is the adoption of a robust electric coffee machine. This technological marvel not only makes our roasting process energy-efficient but also drastically eliminates emissions, bringing us closer to our goal of a more sustainable process in coffee production. These strategies collectively form the foundation of our sustainability program, reflecting our dedication to environmental stability, energy efficiency, and a greener future for the coffee industry. We’re not just brewing coffee; we’re brewing a sustainable legacy.

ROR Coffee Solutions has embraced an entire fleet of electric vehicles, making it the first coffee company in the UAE to do so. How has this move contributed to the company’s environmental responsibility, and what impact do you foresee within the industry?

The excitement cannot be contained. We are extremely proud of our strategic shift to electric vehicles at ROR Coffee Solutions. This move positions us at the front, being the first-ever coffee company in the UAE to go fully electric. The partnership with Forthing Friday EV has led us to strategically replace our traditional vehicles in the sales, quality control, and technical departments. Forthing Friday EV is an incredible electric car model that excels in both performance and sustainability, aligning with our sustainability goals and helping us gradually reduce our carbon footprint. Not only does this contribute to a cleaner and greener operational approach within our company, but it also sets a notable precedent within the industry and promotes a positive influence in the industry at large. Additionally, our move to electric vehicles inspires other companies in the coffee industry to implement similar eco-friendly practices.

How do you balance the need for efficiency with maintaining high-quality standards in the coffee industry?

Consistency in the coffee industry is the key reason for any roastery to have complete control over their brand reputation, maintain quality, enhance their customer experience, and optimize their operations. At ROR Coffee Solutions, we maintain efficiency while upholding high-quality standards as it is a top-priority for us. Firstly, we have our incredible Quality Control team who play an important role at ROR Coffee Solutions to help maintain high-quality standards. These guys are the backbone of our commitment to excellence. These rock-stars take it upon themselves to regularly visit clients, providing them with invaluable training and support to baristas, at no additional cost. We’re all about empowering our partners with knowledge and skills to produce top-notch quality and maintain consistency, which also streamlines operations for efficiency. Moreover, every single batch of ROR Coffee Solutions that we roast goes through a meticulous tasting process. Our expert head of coffee, personally samples and evaluates each batch to ensure it meets our standards before it leaves our factory. This thorough attention to detail guarantees that only the finest quality coffee reaches our customers. Additionally, with sustainability at the forefront of our operations, we use electric roasters by Stronghold to effectively reduce our carbon emissions, and dedicate ourselves to being more environmentally conscious. With Stronghold roasters, we can roast high-quality coffee in large batches of up to 8 kg per batch. Their machines, equipped with 4 halogen lamps, higher output, refined airflow control, and detailed data logging, enable us to consistently achieve the perfect roast for our coffee beans, ensuring the highest quality for our customers.

How does the company ensure sustainability throughout the entire supply chain, from bean cultivation to the final product?

One of the most important steps that we have taken while establishing ROR Coffee Solutions is entering into a fair trade agreement with coffee farms. A fair trade agreement offers better prices, decent working conditions, and stability to farmers from developing nations and protects them from an unpredictable coffee market. By entering into a Fair Trade Agreement with farms situated in Kenya, Brazil, Costa Rica, Yemen, and Colombia we, at ROR Coffee Solutions, are enabling fair compensation for farmers. Additionally, we are also proud to announce our partnership with a women’s farm from the Nyarguru province of Rwanda. The aim of this partnership is to secure a brighter future for these women and their communities. We do this by not only sourcing coffee beans from them but also proudly giving back a percentage of our sales from each product to support these hardworking women and their families. Moreover, with the assistance of Sustainable Growers, these women farmers are adopting the best agricultural practices to cultivate their coffee beans, promoting ethics and sustainability. Our sustainability practices do not just stop there. We at ROR Coffee Solutions have upped our roasting game by utilizing an electric roaster that is energy-efficient and eliminates carbon emissions, bringing us closer to our goal of a more sustainable process in coffee production. Furthermore, our partnership with Frothing Friday EV is also another prime example of the eco-friendly vibe that we are boasting here at ROR. By strategically swapping out all our traditional vehicles in the sales, quality control, and technical departments for electric ones, we are gradually reducing our carbon footprint. We have also taken a big leap towards environmental responsibility by launching fully compostable packaging for our coffee bags, capsules, and cups. Which aims to minimize waste and contribute to a more eco-friendly disposal process. To sum it up, when you grab a cup of coffee from us, you’re not grabbing a regular cup of joe; you’re supporting farmers, their communities, and the planet all while drinking out of a compostable cup. In short, that one cup of joe that you’re holding has been through a sustainable journey, making you a proud supporter of farmers and our environment when you purchase it from ROR.

How do you believe ROR Coffee Solutions’ focus on sustainability and environmental responsibility is influencing consumer perception and behavior?

As the General Manager of ROR Coffee Solutions, I’m thrilled to share how our commitment to sustainability and environmental responsibility is shaping the way consumers view and interact with our brand. Picture this: with every sip of our coffee, our customers aren’t just indulging in a delicious brew; they’re embarking on a journey towards a better world. When you choose ROR Coffee Solutions, you’re not just buying coffee; you’re joining a movement. It’s like being part of a secret society of coffee lovers who care about more than just a caffeine fix—we’re in it for the greater good! From the moment our beans are sourced ethically to the last drop enjoyed in our compostable cups, sustainability is at the heart of everything we do. We’re not just brewing coffee; we’re brewing change. And let’s not forget the feel-good factor. With every cup of our coffee, customers can pat themselves on the back for making a difference. It’s like a little high-five to Mother Nature with every sip. So, why settle for a regular cup of joe when you can join the ROR Coffee Solutions revolution? Let’s sip our way to a greener, more sustainable future—one delicious cup at a time.

Are there any collaborative efforts or partnerships ROR Coffee Solutions is engaged in to encourage broader industry-wide impact?

One of our biggest collaborative efforts was the caffeinated event that we had hosted on March 8, 2024, in honor of International Women’s Day at our headquarters in Al Quoz, Dubai, UAE. The aim of the event was to announce the partnership between ROR Coffee Solutions and a Rwandan women’s farm. At the event, we proudly hosted Esther Mukangango, a remarkable and resilient women farmer, who traveled all the way from her province of Nyarguru in Rwanda to share her riveting story with the audience. At this event, Esther Mukangango shared her compelling journey with us. She told us how 125 women came together to form the Nyampinga union, aiming to beat poverty through cooperative savings and lending. Esther explained the profound meaning of the word Nyampinga – which translates to “beautiful women in and out,” and shed light on how their skilled management got them noticed globally. Banks both local and international, stepped in to support their coffee farming efforts. Esther also shared her own story, from a time when women like her couldn’t even access coffee, to now proudly owning it and exporting it to the world. I firmly believe that this partnership is a game-changer for women throughout the coffee industry, while shedding light on the difficult challenges they encounter due to lack of government support in their country. This collaboration helps by sending their children to school, paying for insurance coverage, and contributing to a pension scheme for the elderly, and also on top of that, they will receive a cut from every product that we sell here at ROR Coffee Solutions. It’s a win-win for everyone involved! More on the partnership front, as mentioned previously, we have teamed up with Forthing Friday EV to shift to electric vehicles so that we help reduce our carbon emissions. While this move does align with our sustainability goals and contributes to a cleaner and greener operational approach within our company, it also sets a notable precedent within the industry and promotes a positive influence in the industry at large. Additionally, our move to electric vehicles inspires other companies in the coffee industry to implement similar eco-friendly practices.

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