• Español – América Latina
  • Português – Brasil

Costa Coffee: Helping consumers find their closest cup

Costa Coffee logo

About Costa Coffee

Founded in London in 1971, Costa Coffee is now the UK’s largest coffee store chain and the world’s second largest, with 4,000+ stores in 31 countries. Its latest digital innovation is ordering via the Costa Coffee and delivery partner apps.

Tell us your challenge. We're here to help.

Snowdrop Solutions logo

About Snowdrop Solutions

A Google Cloud Premier Partner, Snowdrop Solutions delivers location intelligence for big brands.

Costa Coffee navigates consumers to their most convenient eat-in, takeaway, drive-thru, partner stores and delivery platforms.

  • Ensures click-and-collect requests are made to the correct Costa Coffee store, saving time and costs by preventing mistakes
  • Provides accurate information on store opening times and locations, cutting down on waiting time for consumers
  • Helps store team members to prepare for demand by combining navigation tools with online ordering

Costa app helps consumers find their nearest Costa location

When you can count the number of stores you have on one hand, it’s easy to list their addresses on a website and show your consumers how to reach them. With more than 4,000 coffee stores spread across 31 countries, Costa Coffee recognized it needed a sophisticated location intelligence solution to intuitively direct its consumers to their nearest Costa Coffee and highlight which services are available where and when.

Since it was founded in 1971, technology has played a crucial role in taking Costa Coffee from a single roastery on London’s Fenchurch Street to a brand found on highstreets, grocery stores, and store cupboards in homes across the world. In 2020, when the coffee store brand wanted to ensure that its consumers were able to continue enjoying their cup of Costa Coffee amidst COVID-19 travel restrictions, the company once again turned to technology to bring new ideas and services to life.

Costa Coffee location

The company wanted to make consumers aware that Costa Express machines remained operating in petrol stations and forecourts up and down the country, even when Costa Coffee stores closed. It also wanted consumers to know that their nearest store offered the facility to order and pay online (and complete a minimal contact collection), and that local stores offered delivery services via partners. Costa Coffee recognized that accurate location data was required to keep consumers informed and safe during an unusual year.

When Covid hit, the company focussed on rolling out more ways to order to more locations. Having used Google Maps Platform in its website and mobile app for years, it knew it could be the solution.

Making it as easy as possible for consumers to get what they need

When Costa Coffee launched its mobile app in 2017, it wanted to provide location intelligence features that would make its consumers’ journeys quicker and easier. When a customer imputed their location in the app, for example, it would pop up the address of their nearest store and its opening hours. But Costa Coffee wanted more. How about an interactive element that gave consumers the option to order online and show up when their order was ready for collection? These ideas would decrease waiting times, which in 2020, due to COVID-19 safety measures, was a matter of security and precaution, in addition to convenience.

To bring these ideas to life, Costa Coffee turned to its long-standing Google Cloud Premier Partner, Snowdrop Solutions . "We decided to leverage more Google Maps Platform capabilities because our developers find it easy to work with, and it supports all the functionalities we need, from routes that assist consumers to our stores to services such as click and collect," explains Gordon Lucas, Global Head of Digital Engineering at Costa Coffee.

"We decided to leverage more Google Maps Platform capabilities because our developers find it easy to work with, and it supports all the functionalities we need, from routes that assist consumers to our stores to services such as click and collect."

In app searching appears on the map to identify the precise location for orders

With a small web development team based in its UK headquarters, it was also important for Costa Coffee to be able to build in functionality that can be seamlessly rolled out across its multiple territories around the world. To that end, Costa Coffee embedded Google Maps Platform within its mobile app and international website, using the Geocoding API to create visual place markers illustrating Costa Coffee locations on its maps.

To save users time, they also leveraged Place Autocomplete to predict addresses and check their accuracy when consumers are making an online order. "The Places API powers our click-and-serve feature, where baristas bring orders to consumers’ cars. Now consumers can see how long their drive to the nearest service is," explains Lucas.

Relying on accurate location data to deliver services safely during COVID-19

When the pandemic and lockdowns forced stores to adapt in 2020, the new Google Maps Platform solutions employed by Costa Coffee online became even more invaluable for the business and its consumers. "Our Store Locator became crucial during lockdown, when opening times changed and restrictions looked different depending on where stores are based, each complying with their local lockdown measures," explains Lucas. "Having our Google Maps Platform solutions in place then meant that we were always able to show our consumers which stores or drive-thrus near them were open and safely serving great coffee during a time when, more than ever, they sought comfort in their favourite Costa Coffee beverage. That’s why our Store Locator quickly became the most visited page on our website."

"The Places API powers our click-and-serve feature, where baristas bring orders to consumers’ cars. Now consumers can see how long their drive to the nearest service is."

Although not part of the development specification, Google Maps Platform quickly became a vital part of Costa Coffee’s internal COVID-19 hygiene initiative too. While hundreds of its stores were forced to temporarily close, Costa Coffee’s 9,000 Express machines in grocery stores and petrol stations were working overtime when they were some of the few places selling cups of coffee. "Our mobile ordering system lets you find an Express machine, scan your order request, and pick up your drink without touching the screen," says Lucas.

Location details appear within the app

The hands-free order-and-collect system was adapted for standalone stores too, allowing users to find and select a store, place an order, avoid queues, and pay and collect products, speeding up the transaction process and minimizing the risk of transmission between consumers and baristas.

"At the end of the first lockdown, for example, we saw huge consumption numbers on our mapping technology as people were trying to find their nearest Costa Coffee and eager to enjoy the experience of buying a coffee or snack, something that was normal pre-lockdown but had by then become a ‘treat’," says Lucas.

Location intelligence is also used to improve the experience of consumers from when they first order a cappuccino and cake, to when they arrive at a Costa Coffee store to enjoy it.

"Google Maps Platform is now a key part of our digital operations. It helps us to make our communications more relevant to consumers and boost sales by ensuring that consumers always know where and when to get their cup of Costa Coffee."

Bringing consumers around the world closer to Costa Coffee

Costa Coffee has not changed its Mocha Italia Signature Blend in 50 years, but it is continually using the latest technology to improve its distribution, accessibility, and customer service. In its latest development, it is trialling robotic coffee bars in the US, and Google Maps Platform will be integral to raising users' awareness of their whereabouts too.

"Google Maps Platform is now a key part of our digital operations. It helps us to make our communications more relevant to consumers and boost sales by ensuring that consumers always know where and when to get their cup of Costa Coffee," says Lucas. "That’s why Costa Coffee continues to innovate and experiment with Google Maps Platform to ensure that wherever our consumers are in the world, they are never far from a Costa Coffee Americano or classic Latte."

Academia.edu no longer supports Internet Explorer.

To browse Academia.edu and the wider internet faster and more securely, please take a few seconds to  upgrade your browser .

Enter the email address you signed up with and we'll email you a reset link.

  • We're Hiring!
  • Help Center

paper cover thumbnail

Costa coffee case analysis report final

Profile image of Abdikariim Ibraahim

2019, costa coffee management case analysis report

Costa coffee business management case analysis report 2019 was my postgraduate assignment works

Related Papers

Rajiv Sabherwal

Numerous case examples demonstrate that information technology (lT) can be used for business process reengineering (Davenport, 1993; Hammer, 1990; Hall, Rosenthal, and Wade, 1993) or business process redesign (Davenport and Short, 1990; Teng, Grover, and Fiedler, 1994). Information systems (ISs) can fundamentally transform the very nature of an organization's business processes.

costa coffee case study pdf

Sevinj Omarli

One of the most important functions of management is decision-making. Major of decisions is made by the management department in organizations. Although it is misleading to see decisions as single and isolated, it reflects past behavior and future outcomes. In this case, it is necessary to see decision-making as a process consisting of various stages. A manager is the last decision maker in the process. When managers make decision, they have to consider the purpose of business so it has a high impact on all the company's plans of activities and results. Aims of this article are to give an overview of the current status of the research on the managerial decision-making process and find which factors have an impact on this process and to make integrated framework. The article which related to decision-making process was examined as a result of the literature review was conducted. In conclusion of the literature research, factors which affect the process of the managerial decision-making are classified as three dimensions; personal, psychological and environmental factor.

Asian journal of management sciences & education

mohammad abazid

The re-engineering of business processes is critical for institutions across sectors worldwide to achieve performance improvement and competitive advantage. Competition within higher education forces higher education institutions, towards management, approaches such as business process re-engineering to improve effectiveness and efficiency. It is imperative that higher education institutions should priorities the strategic alignment and re-engineering of business processes that provide stakeholder satisfaction to create competitive advantage and survival. Considering higher education institutions operate as an open system, the proposed framework is based on the systems approach to management. Given the dynamic nature of the higher education sector, the proposed framework promotes a business process re-engineering methodology. The aim of this paper is to pinpoint the latest researches, focusing the factors that form the points of BPR implementation in the practical ground of higher education.

iaeme iaeme

Bokolo Anthony Jnr. , Noraini Pa

Decision making (DM) is one of the main phases in risk mitigation for software management. DM is undeniably an essential phase in risk mitigation. Every decision has a different level of influence or impact in software management. In order to come up with the best choices, it’s necessary to go through the decision making process and adopt an optimal decision making model or tool to aid risk decisions in risk mitigation. Many studies have been accompanied for viewing the issues from different aspects based on a systematic method which is called Systematic Literature Review (SLR). This review identifies the process, factors, frameworks, models of DM of risk mitigation in software management. The findings of this review indicate that DM is one of the complications in mitigating risk in software management.


  •   We're Hiring!
  •   Help Center
  • Find new research papers in:
  • Health Sciences
  • Earth Sciences
  • Cognitive Science
  • Mathematics
  • Computer Science
  • Academia ©2024

Costa Coffee case study: prioritising people and productivity post-pandemic

costa coffee case study pdf

As the impact and fallout of the global pandemic continues to effect the day-to-day operations of many businesses, managing and supporting your people has never been more important.

While we all want to jumpstart the economy by welcoming employees back to the workplace, employers have a huge responsibility to provide a safe, healthy, and equitable working environment.

As businesses evaluate their future working models, some may conclude that employees can continue work from home permanently.  Others who intend to reopen workplaces need a plan to do so intelligently and with sensitivity, preparing for a new normal of face masks and physical distancing.

There is mounting pressure for HR and people leaders to deliver strategically on top of baseline delivery.

Join experts from Costa Coffee and Ceridian as they discuss how technology has underpinned people strategy before and during the global pandemic, as well as how it will form part of the recovery.

This webinar will help you address the key challenges of:

  • Employee wellbeing and how it impacts on productivity
  • How company culture can really make a difference on retention of staff and the bottom line
  • Managing a rapidly changing workforce including possible redundancies and changes to roles within the organisation
  • Managing a remote workforce and how to get the best out of your people
  • The challenges of getting back to the office (or not)

It provides real life examples of how Costa Coffee and Ceridian worked with the latest HCM technology to smooth the journey through the global pandemic up to today and future-proofed themselves against the challenges of the future.


costa coffee case study pdf

With more than two decades in various leadership positions in HR, in high profile organizations such as easyJet, McAfee and Microsoft, Andy has demonstrable leadership expertise within high volume HR Operations and shared services from both a creation of and ongoing service delivery perspective.

In April 2019, Andy joined Costa Coffee which had just been divested from Whitbread and acquired by Coca Cola. As the UK’s largest and favourite high street coffee shop, Andy’s first assignment was to modernise and consolidate the numerous legacy HR and payroll systems within an accelerated timeframe. In March of this year, Andy’s team successfully deployed and went live with Ceridian’s Payroll and Workforce management technology, Dayforce, which has been adopted by 13,000 of Costa’s UK team members.

costa coffee case study pdf

Wendy is responsible and accountable for the commercial and strategic growth of Ceridian Europe. Having spent most of her career working with organisations undertaking Global HCM and Payroll transformation, she has a wealth of industry experience. 

As a strong advocate for identifying value through shared insights, Wendy is cultivating a collaborative culture within Ceridian which is delivering tangible benefits to her team and customers alike. 

costa coffee case study pdf


  • Infographics
  • White Papers


  • SSON Impact Awards
  • Advertise with us
  • Become a Member Today
  • Cookie Policy
  • User Agreement
  • The SSON App
  • CPE Credit Policy


Reach thought-leading professionals through cost-effective marketing opportunities to deliver your message, position yourself as a thought leader, and introduce new products, techniques and strategies to the market.


Join SSON today and interact with a vibrant network of thought-leading professionals, keeping up to date with the industry by accessing our wealth of articles, videos, live conferences and more.

iqpc logo

SSON, a division of IQPC

Careers With IQPC | Contact Us | About Us | Cookie Policy

Become a Member today!


Already an IQPC Community Member? Sign in Here or Forgot Password Sign up now and get FREE access to our extensive library of reports, infographics, whitepapers, webinars and online events from the world’s foremost thought leaders.

We respect your privacy, by clicking 'Subscribe' you will receive our e-newsletter, including information on Podcasts, Webinars, event discounts, online learning opportunities and agree to our User Agreement. You have the right to object. For further information on how we process and monitor your personal data click here . You can unsubscribe at any time.


Issue Cover

  • Previous Article
  • Next Article


Case examination, conclusions, case study questions, author contributions, acknowledgments, competing interests, supplemental material, transformation toward sustainability on a costa rican coffee farm : environmental, socioeconomic, and psychological perspectives.

  • Split-Screen
  • Article contents
  • Figures & tables
  • Supplementary Data
  • Peer Review
  • Open the PDF for in another window
  • Guest Access
  • Get Permissions
  • Cite Icon Cite
  • Search Site

Achim Häger , Mary Little , Elise Amel , Gabriel Calderón; Transformation Toward Sustainability on a Costa Rican Coffee Farm : Environmental, Socioeconomic, and Psychological Perspectives . Case Studies in the Environment 5 February 2021; 5 (1): 1227777. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/cse.2021.1227777

Download citation file:

  • Ris (Zotero)
  • Reference Manager

This case study examines how smallholder coffee producers can overcome the economic and environmental challenges from dominant production structures of agrochemical application and the sale of unprocessed beans at low, market-determined prices. This study is guided by the questions posed by local coffee farmers themselves: How can one successfully shift away from wasteful and harmful practices to those that support the health of the family, community, and environment? We track how El Toledo Coffee Farm in Costa Rica has harnessed natural systems and knowledge sharing, facilitated by international travel to transform challenges into opportunities. Here, we highlight how this family-run coffee farm has (1) implemented agroecological methods, (2) harnessed economic benefits of processing organic coffee and developing innovative products from coffee fruits, and (3) examine psychological factors that have made these transformations possible. By examining the development of integrated coffee production from three distinct academic perspectives, we found that mental flexibility and receptiveness to new ideas, combined with an appreciation of sustainable, traditional practices and values, have spawned various beneficial agroecological practices. These ideas and practices were often initiated by interactions with visitors to the farm, supporting the idea that globalization can foster sustainable food systems and promote collective ecological action through knowledge transfer and shared concern for local environments and communities. The mentality of embracing challenges as opportunities to invest in healthy soils and agroforestry and expand their business model by offering tours and varied products replicates ecological resilience attained through diversity.

Globally, agriculture is a driver of habitat loss and species extinctions [ 1 ], although, unlike other industries, agriculture has enormous potential to contribute to biodiversity conservation [ 1 , 2 ]. Sustainable alternatives include agroecological practices, agroforestry, and organic management [ 1 ]. Family farms are essential for adopting sustainable and inclusive agricultural systems, especially in developing countries [ 3 ].

Costa Rica is a tropical country renowned for harboring 5% of global biodiversity and protecting approximately a quarter of its land [ 4 ]. During the twentieth century, cash crops and cattle were drivers of both economic growth and rapid deforestation. Since 2000, Costa Rica has reversed deforestation, although land area dedicated to agriculture has stabilized around 35%. Coffee remains the dominant crop in terms of area [ 5 , 6 ]. Today, agriculture contributes only 5% to Costa Rica’s gross domestic product, whereas tourism accounts for over 10% [ 5 , 7 ].

Governments increasingly recognize the value of cultivating “particularity of place” [ 8 ] to capture a share of the US$8.8 trillion generated globally through tourism [ 7 ]. The Costa Rican government has cultivated geographic particularity by marketing its biodiversity and promoting nature tourism. There is some concern that tourism dilutes local “sense of place,” due to inauthentic presentations of local culture to meet tourists’ expectations [ 9 ]. In practice, sense of place links cultural identity and capital and contributes to unique visitor experiences while providing economic benefits to local communities. Equally disconcerting to some is that “death of distance” through globalization and technology may destroy the significance of cultural difference by making all knowledge and experience accessible online, which may also reduce interest in tourism. This concern has proved unfounded in terms of travel as evidenced by growing interest in rural, locally operated tours [ 10 ]. The more homogenized daily life throughout the world, the more tourists seek out “authentic” local experiences. Local foods in particular capture the “typical” nature of a place [ 11 , 12 ]. Consequently, local food products sold directly to tourists and at farmers’ markets can potentially boost the sustainability of traditional farming communities [ 13 , 14 ].

Despite Costa Rica’s “green” image, less than 2% of agricultural land is under organic cultivation [ 15 ]. Furthermore, government assistance for both organic agriculture and small-scale sustainable tourism has been mostly unavailable or ineffective. While the Ministry of Agriculture does promote some sustainable practices, support is inconsistent and extension services often depend on the knowledge and interest of local field officers [ 16 ]. In addition, government incentives and tax breaks for sustainable agriculture are usually not suitable for small producers (Gerardo Calderón, personal communication). Thus, agroecological farmers have been working individually or in small collectives to extricate themselves from agro-industrial systems. El Toledo Coffee Farm has successfully achieved the transition from conventional coffee farming to agroecological practices and, despite various setbacks, especially reduced yields, has maintained sustainable management for over 20 years.

The initial motivation to adopt organic practices was to ensure the economic survival of the farm during the “coffee crisis” in the early 2000s. During this period, export prices for unroasted coffee hit an all-time low of less than $0.5 per pound [ 17 ] and entering a niche market by promising a price premium appeared as a possible solution. Additionally, the owners were increasingly concerned about the health of their family and the environment. Many innovative strategies, including long-term production goals, direct sales, product diversification, and authentic tours, have contributed to their economic viability. El Toledo is successfully deploying a diversified, place-based business model that captures local resources, capacities, and opportunities to create sustainable value ( table 1 ). This expanded concept of success distinguished the owners of El Toledo from other farmers in the area who continued conventional agriculture, failed to maintain agroecological practices over a longer period, or gave up coffee production altogether due to falling revenues and younger generations pursuing different opportunities. The experiences from this family farm can expand our own conceptualization of how to improve agricultural production in an age of global interconnectedness and environmental disruptions.

Sustainable Environmental and Socioeconomic Practices Implemented at El Toledo Coffee Farm and Their Associated Benefits.

Sense of place has been explored from geographical, sociological, psychological, and ecological perspectives [ 18 , 19 ]. We aim to advance this approach by analyzing how farming can become socially, economically, and environmentally sustainable, within the context of globalized markets, by deploying a place-based business model. This article is guided by the essential question posed by the farmers themselves: How to successfully shift from wasteful and harmful production practices to those that support communities and environment, making family farming possible for future generations? Specifically, we analyze what motivated sustainable transitions at El Toledo, barriers that have emerged, and innovative perspectives and practices facilitating their success as small-scale organic coffee producers.

Agroecological Principles

El Toledo Farm is approximately 2.5 ha in size and is located 990 m above sea level in the Aguacate Mountains, near Atenas, in Costa Rica’s Central Valley. Atenas remains a semirural town, where agricultural activities play a vital role in local culture and livelihoods. The landscape surrounding El Toledo is dominated by smallholder coffee farms, pastures, and forest fragments, although urban development has accelerated recently. The area experiences a dry season from December to mid-May. Most of the coffee is shade-grown in agroforestry systems (AFS) that range from shaded monocultures, where coffee is intercropped with heavily pruned, nitrogen-fixing trees of a single species, often from the genus Erythrina , to traditional multilayered systems. Traditional AFS may include nitrogen-fixing legumes, timber species, living fences, fruiting trees, and large native trees [ 20 ] ( figure 1 ).

Examples of a shaded monoculture (a) and a more traditional, multilayered coffee agroforestry system (b) in the Central Valley of Costa Rica.

Examples of a shaded monoculture (a) and a more traditional, multilayered coffee agroforestry system (b) in the Central Valley of Costa Rica.

El Toledo exemplifies the traditional AFS, harboring a woody plant diversity of more than 30 species per hectare ( figure 2b ). Of these, 89 percent are native species, and more than half have arrived through natural seed dispersal [ 21 ]. These numbers clearly illustrate the potential of tropical AFS for biodiversity conservation (Supplementary Material).

Comparison of mean number of trees per hectare (a), species per hectare (b), topsoil (25 cm) organic carbon content (c), and coffee yield (d) between seven conventional (CON) and seven certified organic (ORG) coffee farms in Atenas, Costa Rica. Black dots mark data points from El Toledo Farm. Data were collected between 2008 and 2011. Coffee yield refers to the average during the last 5 years. Yield information was obtained from structured interviews in 2012. Error bars show standard deviations.

Comparison of mean number of trees per hectare (a), species per hectare (b), topsoil (25 cm) organic carbon content (c), and coffee yield (d) between seven conventional (CON) and seven certified organic (ORG) coffee farms in Atenas, Costa Rica. Black dots mark data points from El Toledo Farm. Data were collected between 2008 and 2011. Coffee yield refers to the average during the last 5 years. Yield information was obtained from structured interviews in 2012. Error bars show standard deviations.

For farmers, the integration of trees implies multiple trade-offs. During past decades, short-term coffee production has been maximized by removing shade trees and applying synthetic fertilizers in many parts of Latin America, to the detriment of biological diversity in agricultural landscapes [ 22 , 23 ]. However, some coffee producers choose to follow the traditional approach of integrating shade trees because it offers significant long-term benefits.

The steep Aguacate Mountains receive approximately 2,500 mm of rainfall annually [ 24 ]. In the rainy season, rainstorms cause landslides and erosion, and during the dry season, the area endures several months without precipitation. Under these conditions, trees become essential. During the dry season, a shade canopy will moderate harsh daily variations of temperature and humidity, and in the wet season, trees help to control erosion. When selecting shade trees, farmers usually favor nitrogen-fixing legumes that tolerate pruning. Pruning adjusts the amount of cover to varying light requirements of coffee plants throughout their productive annual cycle. Legume trees dominate at El Toledo, with Erythrina spp. and Inga spp. accounting for almost 40% of all woody plants (Supplementary Material). However, personal preferences play a role, too. Gerardo Calderón, the owner of El Toledo, maintains more trees on his farm than most of his neighbors ( figures 2a and 2b ). “I have always been fascinated by trees and like observing how they interact with our soils and coffee plants. In another life I may have been a biologist, but this way I still get to work with plants of all types,” he explains. Gerardo collects and grows trees from seeds, experimenting with different shade tree species.

These practices have given El Toledo an advantage for organic farming. Trees provide nutrients through organic material, reducing the need for external fertilizer inputs [ 21 ]. Organic matter also improves the capacity of soils to hold water and increases cation exchange capacity, meaning that more nutrients are present in a plant-available form [ 25 ]. In comparison to most farms in the area, El Toledo has relatively high carbon content in the topsoil, which reflects the accumulation of organic matter ( figure 2c ). This is also a result of soil conservation measures. These include stacking pruned materials behind coffee plants, planting rows of vegetation barriers (mostly Dracaena fragrans ), and numerous ditches that trap leaf litter and reduce runoff in the rainy season.

Trees are also a fundamental component of food webs. They sustain beneficial organisms from birds to fungi, which support pest control, crop pollination, and soil fertility [ 26 , 27 , 28 , 29 , 30 , 31 ]. During tours with student groups, Gerardo Calderón often picks up clumps of moist leaf litter, showing the dense network of white fungal mycelia among the decomposing material, to illustrate how healthy soils recycle nutrients and provide coffee plants with essential minerals. He also points out that many pests, such as coffee borer beetles and fungal diseases, are present at the farm but that they are kept at tolerable levels by a balanced, self-sustaining system.

Science supports Gerardo’s preference for high tree diversity. Species with varying functional traits, such as wood densities or growth rates, often complement each other. These complementarity effects enhance productivity by using resources more effectively. A diverse farm may also include species that benefit the entire system by fixing nitrogen (facilitation) and providing redundant traits, such as the presence of several nitrogen-fixing species, which will stabilize ecosystem functioning in the face of environmental change (insurance hypothesis). Trees that compete with coffee are eliminated, others are planted or tolerated. Gerardo explains how citrus trees were initially planted to provide fruit. Today they have mostly been eliminated because they competed with coffee plants, due to their low shrubby shape. “And the leaves just don’t help the soil at all,” he adds. Purposeful intercropping in multilayered AFS takes advantage of complementarity by intentionally creating more productive and resilient systems that provide important ecosystem services, although coffee yields may decline compared to farms with less dense shade canopies [ 32 , 33 , 34 , 35 ].

In addition to implementing agroforestry, the owners of El Toledo have only applied methods and substances allowed in organic agriculture [ 36 , 37 ] continuously since the mid-1990s. The farm maintained an organic certification between 2002 and 2016, and organic practices continue today, which implies both advantages and challenges. While intensified conventional coffee production increases short-term productivity, it commonly leads to soil degradation [ 38 ]. For example, removal of ground cover vegetation with herbicides may increase soil erosion [ 28 ], and fungicides can inhibit beneficial fungi, decreasing soil fertility [ 39 , 40 ]. However, if agrochemicals are simply withdrawn during the transition to organic management, coffee production can decline dramatically. In the case of El Toledo, yields of dried, green coffee beans dropped by nearly 50% during the first years of transition ( figure 2d and figure 3 ).

Changes in production of dried, green coffee beans at the Toledo Farm due to the transition to organic management and a subsequent coffee rust (Hemileia vastatrix) epidemic.

Changes in production of dried, green coffee beans at the Toledo Farm due to the transition to organic management and a subsequent coffee rust ( Hemileia vastatrix ) epidemic.

Other organic farms near El Toledo even suffered losses of around 75% during the same period ( figure 2d ). As a result, nine of the 11 farmers who had been certified organic reverted to conventional management after a few years ( figure 4 ). It appears that the diverse and resilient agroecosystem present at El Toledo has helped to buffer declining yields, which are inevitable when agrochemical use is discontinued. In addition, the farmers apply over 10,000 kg of organic fertilizer (dried manure and coffee pulp) per hectare and year. Other organic farmers in the area only applied between 0 and 800 kg per year [ 28 ]. Gerardo Calderón explains, “I’ve always written down all management activities in a notebook. So, over time I could see what works and what doesn’t. This habit also helped with the certification process, which requires a lot of documentation.”

Historical dynamics of prices paid to Costa Rican growers for exported green coffee, and history of a small association of organic coffee growers, APROCAFE, in Atenas, Costa Rica. Data on coffee prices from the International Coffee Organization [15].

Historical dynamics of prices paid to Costa Rican growers for exported green coffee, and history of a small association of organic coffee growers, APROCAFE, in Atenas, Costa Rica. Data on coffee prices from the International Coffee Organization [ 15 ].

More recently, El Toledo has faced an existential threat due to the coffee rust crisis. In Mexico and Central America, an unprecedented outbreak of this disease, caused by the fungus Hemileia vastatrix , reduced harvests by nearly a quarter in 2013/2014 [ 41 ]. Depending on climate and elevation, the impact on individual coffee farms in the region was anywhere from marginal to devastating. El Toledo replaced their nearly 40-year-old coffee plants with more resistant varieties and removed a third of the shade trees, mostly Erythrina spp., to provide sunlight for the new plants to grow. Production had still not recovered from this event 5 years later ( figure 3 ). In comparison, the total amount of coffee produced in Costa Rica had nearly fully recovered by 2017, although the area planted decreased by approximately 10% [ 6 ], reflecting that many smallholders abandoned farming during the epidemic.

Gerardo Calderón emphasizes that most benefits of agroecological practices only become evident in the long term. The integration of trees, application of organic fertilizers, and soil conservation will eventually pay off, he believes. The accumulation of organic material and return of soil organisms will improve nutrient cycling and physical soil properties and lead to increased production after a few years [ 31 ] ( figure 2 ). Under a moderate shade canopy, plants may produce less coffee, but they tend to be healthier. As a result, they are “stumped” less frequently. Stumping involves pruning coffee plants to about knee height. This practice is usually repeated every 5 years on conventional farms to maintain higher production levels [ 28 ]. As Gerardo Calderón explains: “Our plants may produce less but perform quite evenly over the years. We only prune every 10 years, which reduces losses that occur during the first year after the plants are chopped, and in the long run compensates somewhat for the lower yield of the plants. Our plants are strong, healthy marathon runners. Plants on conventional coffee farms are heavily doped sprinters!” Furthermore, stumped plots are planted with beans during the first year, when coffee regrowth is still short. As legumes, beans fix nitrogen, and Gerardo can sell them at local markets.

Socioeconomic Principles and Practices

“We’ve come from traditional practices, moved away and then returned to doing things the old way. Taking care of nature is what works in the long term,” shared Gabriel Calderón. The initial decision to return to “traditional practices” was a response to pesticide poisoning, suffered by his father Gerado Calderón who realized that agrochemicals were harming his family and the environment. Market price volatility was another key motivation for adopting sustainable practices. Organic coffee production gained some momentum in Costa Rica during the “coffee crisis” in the early 2000s, when prices plummeted due to global oversupply. This movement was promoted by the government, academic institutions, and regional certifying agencies. Yet, the difficulties that farmers keep facing are evidenced by the low adoption of organic management. Over the past decade, no more than 3% of agricultural land has been under organic management in Costa Rica with 1.6% in 2017 [ 42 ].

These difficulties are observable at a local scale as well. In 2001, Gerado Calderón founded a small cooperative, Aprocafé, with 10 other organic producers, motivated by the opportunity of obtaining a premium. The group became certified in 2002 and shared the certification costs of approximately US$2,700. However, it was difficult to absorb the costs of reduced yields during the 3-year transition period, when farmers must comply with organic standards but are not yet certified, and thus cannot receive a price premium. This period coincided with the height of the crisis. After that, export prices went up again and the premium between conventional and organic coffee narrowed. Consequently, members of Aprocafé started returning to conventional production methods, and eventually the group was dissolved ( figure 4 ). The coffee rust epidemic of 2013/2014 was another severe setback for the entire industry. At El Toledo, costs for replanting coffee totaled about $10,000. As an organic farm, their recovery was slower compared to the coffee sector as a whole [ 6 ]. Today, only two producers from the original group remain certified. El Toledo is not among them.

The lived experiences of the Aprocafé members align with studies analyzing the adoption of organic certifications to bolster falling coffee prices. Although certification initially appeared to be a viable strategy to cope with the coffee crisis in Central America, the combined impact of declining price premiums, increased labor costs, lower yields, and certification costs undermine the success of these schemes in the long run. The sector needs more integrated strategies that improve product quality, productivity, and export conditions [ 43 , 44 ].

Although agroecological methods reduced environmental risks, the elimination of agrochemicals introduced economic challenges. For instance, preparing and applying tons of organic fertilizer significantly increased labor costs. On the other hand, the increased year-around demand for labor resulted in hiring two full-time and two part-time employees, plus seasonal workers during the coffee harvest. Adding local employment generates social benefits, including more vibrant communities that purchase local goods, and repopulation of shrinking agricultural communities.

To sustain the farm during the transition to organic production, both father and son supplemented their income by working as mechanics and drivers. Gabriel’s work as a tour bus driver brought him to coffee tours that he, as a coffee farmer, found to be less than authentic or informative. “I didn’t see much connection between the tourists and real farmers. People weren’t learning about growing or processing coffee and definitely not about the lives of producers. I thought we could do something much more interesting.” In 2005, Gabriel started taking English classes, and during 2006, he worked in the United States, which allowed the family to purchase a coffee roaster. Local sales of roasted coffee can increase profits to producers 5- to 6-fold because they control the entire value chain and become independent from volatile export markets. Currently, 60% of El Toledo’s income is derived from selling roasted coffee at local markets, 25% comes from the tours, and the remainder from selling a variety of innovative coffee-derived products. For the Calderóns, this diversified business model has proven to be more viable than exporting certified organic, unroasted coffee beans.

The farm also provides opportunities for Gabriel’s mother and wife, as well as for women from the neighborhood, who pack coffee, make handicrafts, and prepare lunch during farm tours. Furthermore, they sell products to tourists and at the farmer’s market. Women continue to be the main childcare providers in the family. This diversified farm may also generate more attractive future opportunities for their children at a time when many young people find remaining on family farms unappealing or economically unviable.

The Aprocafé group faced another challenge when it came to processing their organic coffee. Sorting, washing, and drying are usually done by cooperatives, which pay commodity market prices. The local cooperative would not pay a premium for organic coffee because the produced quantity was too small to be separated from the conventional coffee cherries they received. Consequently, Aprocafé decided to start processing their own beans and selling directly to exporters or consumers. This decision involved considerations about water. Conventional processing in Costa Rica requires between 10 and 20 L of water per pound of green coffee beans [ 45 ], which adds up to enormous amounts for an area that frequently faces water shortages. So instead, the group invested in machinery that requires only 1% of the water used by conventional methods. After Aprocafé was dissolved, the Toledo Farm paid off their former partners and kept operating the machine on their property.

This low-water processing machinery also retains the coffee pulp instead of washing it away ( figure 5 ). This led Gabriel to appreciate the entire coffee cherry for the fruit that it is. “By wasting the coffee fruit, we were wasting opportunities” he reflected and began to experiment with innovative uses of the sweet berries. Today, El Toledo Farm sells coffee fruit flour, tea, baked goods, and dried fruits. Currently, the most profitable product is coffee wine sold at the local farmers’ market and to tourists visiting the farm. These direct sales allow them to retain all the earnings while building a customer base. Being younger than many coffee farmers, Gabriel recognized the importance of marketing coffee products and tours through social media platforms, which has allowed El Toledo to reach more potential clients and turn one-time visitors into long-term clients.

During tours, Gabriel Calderón demonstrates how their low-water processing machine extrudes green coffee beans to the left and deposits separated coffee pulp in front.

During tours, Gabriel Calderón demonstrates how their low-water processing machine extrudes green coffee beans to the left and deposits separated coffee pulp in front.

Examples throughout Mesoamerica confirm that livelihood diversification enables coffee farmers to maintain sustainable practices that initially reduce yields and increase labor costs. Depending on local characteristics, diversified livelihoods may include food products, agroecotourism, handicrafts, community forestry, nontimber forest products, or the increased involvement in value chains [ 43 ]. The ability to innovate products and business models has allowed El Toledo to successfully maintain sustainable production, if not organic certification, while other organic producers who relied solely on price premiums have failed.

Additionally, the Calderóns share their experiences during educational farm tours, where they raise difficult questions of sustainable farming in a globalized food system. Gabriel recommends buying locally sourced products when possible to increase local employment and spending. He also encourages visitors to evaluate the effectiveness of international certifications in ensuring social and environmental justice and to consider the impacts of consuming nonnecessities, including coffee.

The benefits of agrotourism run both ways. Knowledge transfer from tourists has boosted innovation, growth, and diversification at El Toledo. For instance, one professor who toured the farm connected the Calderóns with a coffee house in the United States that purchases their coffee at a premium price. Coffee roasting methods, wine production, and drying practices have been improved by visitor input. Gabriel enthusiastically notes “During every tour, people offer ideas and methods for products we can make with coffee fruits.” Rethinking the uses of coffee fruit pulp that was once discarded exemplifies the socioeconomic benefits of agroecological models.

Psychological Principles

Ecological and socioeconomic principles describe what the Calderón family is doing on their farm; however, they do not explain why , unlike most of their peers, they chose this direction. The farmers of El Toledo demonstrate several important psychological orientations that have been essential to their success: thinking in sync with natural systems, thinking for the long-term, perceiving changes as an opportunity rather than threat, and making invisible information visible.

Many contemporary farming practices (irrigation, synthetic fertilizers, and pesticides) circumvent rather than work within natural systems [ 46 ]. This has led to water shortages, aquatic dead zones, and the presence of carcinogens in our bodies. The worldviews that have encouraged these unsustainable practices are deeply embedded in our psyches due to centuries of social, political, religious, and economic activities [ 47 ]. Specific influences include Locke’s philosophy inspiring the notion that unused land is wasted land, Aristotle’s scala naturae that orders beings according to how close they are to God, with Man at the top and animals and plants at the bottom, and the commonly held philosophy that economic growth equates with human progress [ 48 ]. The modern industrial worldview has undoubtedly generated essential innovations such as life-saving medicine, fast transportation, and sanitation, which have ushered in unprecedented levels of health and comfort that helped humans achieve current levels of planetary dominance. The underlying assumptions of these worldviews, while adequate for many generations, are no longer compatible with planetary boundaries [ 49 ].

Gabriel and his family question these very roots of contemporary production and consumption to inspire better practices for production, processing, and generating income. To live and work sustainably, the Calderóns have bucked current trends, adopting and adapting a traditional, more ecological mindset to meet current market demands. An ecologically compatible worldview includes ideas such as the interconnectedness of all things, limited resources, circularity and no waste, and the importance of diversity for resilience [ 50 ].

The Calderóns recognized that their family’s health was directly connected to the chemicals they were applying to coffee crops. This sense of interconnectedness [ 51 ], what is good for the planet is good for us, completely changed their attitudes toward pesticide use. The farmers also understood that resources are limited. They demonstrated this in their commitment to minimizing water use and contamination, driving their choices about coffee processing machinery. In nature, waste from one process equals food for another [ 52 ]. This is consistent with Gabriel’s realization that coffee pulp should not be wasted but rather be transformed into additional, valuable products. Further, using organic fertilizers in the form of pulp from coffee production and nitrogen-fixing trees has created a more circular or closed-loop system that has become increasingly independent from external inputs. Although interconnectedness to the land is inherent to most farmers in the area, it commonly fails to motivate sustainable practices. “I think that 90% of farmers feel connected with their land,” argues Gabriel. “But many lack the education to understand the negative consequences of conventional agriculture. Everyone knows the consequences in theory. But they lack positive examples to convince them that other methods are feasible.”

Yet, another ecological worldview principle is that diversity and redundancy enhance system resilience [ 53 , 54 ]. This is true for both biological and economic systems where unique but overlapping roles of system components reduce the risk of failure. On El Toledo Farm, integrating biodiversity was crucial for surviving disease and the transition to organic. Similarly, economic diversity through a variety of income sources has supported El Toledo’s economic and environmental goals, helping the family withstand the yield losses and the unpredictability of commodity markets.

Sustainability is about the long view. Yet, human responses to immediate threats often disregard long-term consequences. This is not a problem if the short-term and long-term consequences are aligned, such as when Gerado Calderón’s health improved by eliminating pesticides on the farm. Often, however, immediate and future consequences do not correspond so neatly. For instance, farmers can maximize short-term profit by increasing agrochemical application and “wet processing” coffee fruit, which reduces the long-term regional availability of clean water. When faced with misalignment, humans tend to focus on their own near-term success to the detriment of long-term consequences, known as the Tragedy of the Commons [ 55 ]. Farmers must actively choose, often sacrificing short-term profit, to manage their farms for the long term. At El Toledo Coffee Farm, prudent measures have led to lower annual yields but greater resilience, that is, stable yields in the long run, so that plants act as "healthy marathoners" versus "doped sprinters."

An ecological mindset is an important step, yet it does not guarantee sustainable behavior [ 50 ]. There are still very real barriers such as time and costs. Changing behavior is hard even in supportive circumstances; it is especially difficult when you must work against giant systems and infrastructure that render your actions costly, dangerous, impossible, or meaningless [ 56 ]. For instance, global supply chains and national subsidies often favor large-scale monocropping operations and disadvantage smallholder farmers in tropical regions [ 57 ]. Working against large systems is cognitively punishing, requiring conscious intentions and deliberate actions, both of which use extensive cognitive resources [ 58 ]. Moreover, change is often perceived as threatening. One important difference between the Calderóns and other farmers is that they see change and innovation as opportunities rather than threats [ 59 ]. When asked how it felt to expand beyond the normal role of farming, Gabriel stated, “We were growers, not processors, so we had to learn a lot about coffee roasting, which was exciting and interesting .” It is difficult for humans to try new things, and we often feel a visceral “fight-or-flight” response when presented with change. We like to feel competent, which advantages well-learned knowledge and tasks above risk and novelty [ 60 ]. The Calderóns spend time identifying, understanding, and preparing manifestations of self-efficacy, or the belief in one’s ability to accomplish something, and self-control, both of which significantly reduce the threat involved in change [ 61 ].

While operating sustainably is the immediate goal, empowering others to join the cause is also important to these farmers. One reason why it is hard for people to act sustainably is that much of the modern human-made systems, such as global food networks, are invisible to us. This invisibility underlies our cherished sense of “convenience:” we can get what we want, when we want it, without thinking much about where it comes from, how it is made, by whom, and under what conditions, and where it goes after we are done with it. Because our elaborate systems are hidden from view, it is virtually impossible to understand our impact and be able to make sustainable choices. Thus, the more information is available to customers, the more they can control their impact.

The Calderóns have done an impressive job of making invisible information visible, a key to influencing others’ behavior. Providing transparency about business operations and being candid about their worldview provides a model for others to follow [ 62 ]. Opening their farm for educational tours allows people to learn about the whole production process. Gabriel ends the tours with an honest discussion about the risks and benefits associated with their farming practices. These conversations inspire reflection on each individual’s role in the food system and relationship to producers. The Calderóns tell their story on each bag of coffee, which helps customers remember that coffee is produced by real people, whose decisions have real impacts ( figure 6 ). People can decide for themselves whether purchasing El Toledo coffee products aligns with their own goals to leave a lighter footprint.

Bags of El Toledo Coffee feature a picture of family members to create a connection between consumers, production methods, and the land.

Bags of El Toledo Coffee feature a picture of family members to create a connection between consumers, production methods, and the land.

The implementation of agroecological practices at El Toledo has helped to build a more resilient farm. The “sweet spot,” where the benefits from diverse shade trees and organic fertilizing outweigh the costs of decreased yields, will depend on the local characteristics of the farm, the selected tree species, varieties of coffee, long-term changes in the environment, and numerous other variables. To successfully implement sustainable practices, farmers must be researchers who constantly experiment to acquire and reevaluate knowledge, allowing them to maintain a dynamic and resilient system, capable of responding to constant changes in the environment, markets, and society.

This case study also demonstrates that economic integration is as important as environmental integration for shifting from conventional to sustainable coffee production. The economic success of this farm is based on diversified sales methods and offerings that include informative tours and varied coffee products processed on the farm. Livelihood diversification parallels the move from monocrops to diverse agroecological production systems. Psychological underpinnings of this model include thinking in the long term and in sync with natural systems and perceiving changes as opportunities rather than threats.

The interconnectedness and knowledge sharing that local agrotourism can facilitate weigh against the negatives that globalization has fostered. The story of the Calderón family demonstrates that in an evermore integrated world, farmers and consumers can connect directly to actively support a sustainable future.

Given ecological worldview principles, what are the ways farmers can successfully shift away from wasteful and harmful production practices to those that support the community and environment, making family farming possible for future generations?

How can agroecological practices potentially offset declines in yield when agrochemicals are discontinued on an organic farm?

What can help farmers to stick to sustainable practices despite falling yields and volatile world market prices?

This family has diversified revenue sources to offset the reduction in coffee production. Does this form of economic diversification benefit certain actors within the family or community? What are the barriers to this type of diversification for other coffee farmers and how can they be overcome?

In what other arenas can one’s psychological orientation be essential for the successful transition to sustainable production?

ML, EA, AH, and GC contributed to conceptualization and investigation. AH additionally contributed data and information from long-term investigation at the site. ML, EA, and AH wrote the article. GC provided critical reviews and commentaries during the writing process.

The authors would like to thank the School for Field Studies for providing key financial and logistical support and for bringing all authors together on a sponsored academic field visit to El Toledo Coffee Farm.

The authors declare that no competing interests exist.

No direct external funding was received for this project.

Table S1. Tree Species.xlsx.

Supplementary data

Recipient(s) will receive an email with a link to 'Transformation Toward Sustainability on a Costa Rican Coffee FarmEnvironmental, Socioeconomic, and Psychological Perspectives' and will not need an account to access the content.

Subject: Transformation Toward Sustainability on a Costa Rican Coffee FarmEnvironmental, Socioeconomic, and Psychological Perspectives

(Optional message may have a maximum of 1000 characters.)

Citing articles via

Email alerts, affiliations.

  • Recent Content
  • All Content
  • Special Collections
  • Info for Authors
  • Info for Reviewers
  • Info for Librarians
  • Editorial Team
  • Prize Competition
  • Online ISSN 2473-9510
  • Copyright © 2024

Stay Informed


  • Ancient World
  • Anthropology
  • Communication
  • Criminology & Criminal Justice
  • Film & Media Studies
  • Food & Wine
  • Browse All Disciplines
  • Browse All Courses
  • Book Authors
  • Booksellers
  • Instructions
  • Journal Authors
  • Journal Editors
  • Media & Journalists
  • Planned Giving

About UC Press

  • Press Releases
  • Seasonal Catalog
  • Acquisitions Editors
  • Customer Service
  • Exam/Desk Requests
  • Media Inquiries
  • Print-Disability
  • Rights & Permissions
  • UC Press Foundation
  • © Copyright 2024 by the Regents of the University of California. All rights reserved. Privacy policy    Accessibility

This Feature Is Available To Subscribers Only

Sign In or Create an Account


  1. Coca-Cola's Costa Coffee Case Study.docx

    costa coffee case study pdf

  2. Costa Coffee

    costa coffee case study pdf

  3. Costa Coffee case study

    costa coffee case study pdf

  4. Costa Coffee Case Study Pdf

    costa coffee case study pdf

  5. (PDF) Costa Coffee Case A

    costa coffee case study pdf

  6. Costa Coffee

    costa coffee case study pdf


  1. Costa Coffee Cappuccino

  2. Costa Coffee: Project Marlow 'Saving the World from Mediocre Coffee'

  3. The new Costa Coffee Club app

  4. Costa Coffee Machine

  5. Costa Coffee Old Paradise Street Limited Roast No. 3

  6. Costa Coffee Latte


  1. Costa Coffee Case Study | Google Cloud

    About Costa Coffee. Founded in London in 1971, Costa Coffee is now the UK’s largest coffee store chain and the world’s second largest, with 4,000+ stores in 31 countries. Its latest digital innovation is ordering via the Costa Coffee and delivery partner apps. Location: United Kingdom. Products: Google Maps Platform, Geocoding API, Google ...

  2. Costa coffee case analysis report final - Academia.edu

    This report presents the costa coffee management case analysis of the Costa coffee multinational business. The report is based on the normal reports structure including the introduction and main body the reports and conclusion. The main body consist of section headings covering analysis of the management theories and approaches that could fit ...

  3. Costa Coffee case 8 September 2013 for release to students

    Backed by Whitbread, Costa became the third largest coffee chain by 2005, and the largest chain by 2011 with 1,500 units to Starbucks’ 760 units and Caffè Nero’s 530 units. Information on Costa can be found in Exhibit 5. Of the 1,500 locations, 900 were corporate owned stores and the remainder were franchised stores.

  4. (PDF) Costa Coffee Global Expasion Approach INTERNATIONAL ...

    Costa Coffee has grown to 3,882 stores across 31 countries (Bostock and Lee, 2018) and is a leading coffeehouse chain in the European market with a total of 2,923 stores opened

  5. Costa Case Study - Billi UK

    Costa Coffee was founded in London in 1971 by the Costa family as a wholesale operation supplying roasted coffee to caterers and specialist Italian coffee shops. Their brand new coffee roastery in Basildon officially opened in March 2017, enabling them to produce more than 2 billion cups of the hot drinks a year. Europe’s biggest

  6. Ahmed Maamoun, University of Minnesota Duluth

    Coca-Cola paid £3.9 or $5.1 billion to buy the U.K.-based coffee company, Costa, giving Coke its entry into the hot drink market. The obvious objective is to tap into the coffee market – mostly with the aim of debuting new products, as sales of carbonated soft drinks (CSD) are down while coffee is up. Costa Coffee has almost 4,000 stores ...

  7. Costa Coffee case study: prioritising people and ... - SSON

    Join experts from Costa Coffee and Ceridian as they discuss how technology has underpinned people strategy before and during the global pandemic, as well as how it will form part of the recovery. This webinar will help you address the key challenges of: Employee wellbeing and how it impacts on productivity. How company culture can really make a ...

  8. Transformation Toward Sustainability on a Costa Rican Coffee ...

    This case study examines how smallholder coffee producers can overcome the economic and environmental challenges from dominant production structures of agrochemical application and the sale of unprocessed beans at low, market-determined prices. This study is guided by the questions posed by local coffee farmers themselves: How can one successfully shift away from wasteful and harmful practices ...

  9. Costa Coffee Case - Eden McCallum - Faster, deeper insight

    Costa Coffee Case - Eden McCallum - Faster, deeper insight


    the Flytech K775 KDS, which were specially modified to Costa Coffee’s specification to enable swift interlock with their in-store systems. OUTCOME Mobile ordering is now available at over 500 Costa Coffee stores nationwide – a hundred more stores than originally targeted. Using the Costa Coffee app, customers are now able