Digital Coffee: Upgrading Opportunities for Coffee Producers in Brazil

Julia Sofie Hüttmann

Student thesis: Master thesis


Rapid technological advances in light of the prominent term “Industry 4.0” are heralded to significantly transform the current setting of Global Value Chains (GVC) through increased virtual connectedness and sophisticated technologies that illuminate a shift into an era of “hyper-transparency”. These evolvements are proclaimed to have promising effects on coffee producers, as part of a coffee GVC that is driven by multinational roasting companies and attributed to be in a crisis for decades. While coffee consumption and profits in consuming countries steadily increase, coffee producers encounter low commodity prices and cost reductions - while coffee remains dependent on numerous farmers worldwide. The study explores how these dynamics may reshape the value creation and distribution in the coffee GVC. Particular interest has the examination of three technological advances: Internet and Communication Technologies, Blockchain and Smart Farming, and how these impact upgrading prospects for local coffee producers in Brazil. Through primary fieldwork in Brazil and a sum of 20 interviews with a range of actors in the coffee GVC, the study finds that digital platforms reshape the roles and activities of various actors in the coffee chain. However, power inequalities and the prevailing form of governance remain unchanged. Leading roasters capture superior value through innovative platforms that give rise to a “data-driven supplier squeeze” in the digital age

EducationsMSocSc in Organisational Innovation and Entrepreneurship , (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2020
Number of pages101
SupervisorsStefano Ponte