Exporting coffee to the Netherlands
The Netherlands is a medium-size coffee market in Europe and plays a major role in European coffee trade. Similar to coffee cultures in other European countries, the Dutch are becoming more interested in convenient and high-quality fresh coffee. This offers opportunities to coffee bars, small roasters with exclusive coffees and suppliers of green coffee beans with unique qualities. In addition, production sustainability and trade sustainability are important to gain access to the Dutch market. Small importers as well as large importers require certified products.
Contents of this page
- Product description
- What makes the Netherlands an interesting market for coffee?
- What requirements should coffee comply with to be allowed on the Dutch market?
- What competition will you be facing on the Dutch coffee market?
- Which channels can you use to put coffee on the Dutch market?
- What are the end-market prices for coffee?
There are two main types of green coffee beans:
- Coffea arabica: Plantations are generally at altitudes over 1000 metres, and it is referred to as highland coffee. The average length of coffee beans of this variety is around 9 mm. Their colour is greenish to bluegreen. The coffee beans have a strong, full flavour. Arabica beans have a caffeine content of approximately 1.2%.
- Coffea robusta: Robusta coffee can be considered a lowland coffee, with plantations below 1000 metres. Robusta beans are small, round and generally brownish to yellowy green. Their beans have a higher water content than Arabica coffee. They generally have a less powerful flavour. Robusta beans have a caffeine content of approximately 2.3%.
Codes used in customs & international trade
In Europe, the Combined Nomenclature (CN) uses Harmonised System (HS) codes to classify products that are traded. The HS codes for green coffee beans are given below. The available data do not distinguish between conventional and specialty coffees.
Specialty coffee is defined by the Speciality Coffee Association of Europe (SCAE, integrated into the Specialty Coffee Association (SCA) in 2017) as the art of manufacturing a quality cup of coffee, which is judged by the consumer to have a unique quality, characteristic taste and personality, superior to the common beverages on offer. This beverage consists of coffee beans grown at a designated location and which have been processed under the highest quality standards for raw processing, roasting, storing, and finally the preparation into a beverage.
Coffee, not roasted, decaffeinated
Coffee, not roasted, not decaffeinated
The Netherlands is a medium-sized coffee market in Europe
The Netherlands, with over 17 million inhabitants, accounted for approximately 4% of total European Union consumption of green coffee in 2015. It consumed around 90 thousand tonnes of green coffee (1.5 million 60 kg bags).
The Netherlands’ per capita coffee consumption is close to the European average of 5.41 kg per year. Consumers in the Netherlands consumed 5.3 kg of coffee per person in 2015 (see Figure 1).
Consumer preferences in the Netherlands
The Dutch drink (espresso) blends of Arabica and Robusta. Arabica coffee is most popular and accounts for approximately 60% of the market. Roasting in the Netherlands is “medium”, darker than Scandinavia, slightly darker than Germany, but lighter than in France. More than half of the coffee consumption in the Netherlands consists of filter coffee. Almost one-third is coffee pods, the other 15% is evenly split between whole coffee beans and instant coffee. The share of coffee pods market is decreasing, while beans, cups and filters are on the rise.
- Although the Netherlands is not one of the leading coffee markets in Europe, it offers plenty of opportunities for suppliers of coffee beans.
The Netherlands imports most coffee beans from neighbouring countries
The Netherlands is the sixth largest importer of green coffee beans in Europe, with a share of 6%. Its total imports reached 190 thousand tonnes in 2017. Imports between 2013 and 2017 increased at a high annual average rate of 26%, which is much higher than the average increase in Europe of +1% annually.
- Explore opportunities to work together with Dutch importers, whether they are traders or roasters. Check out the member list of the Royal Dutch Association for Coffee and Tea, which consists of over 50 member companies.
- See our Tips for Doing Business with European Coffee Buyers and Finding Buyers for Coffee for more information on market entry strategies. A wide variety of coffee and/or company characteristics can attract smaller roasters, particularly those who are looking to buy from the original source.
- Approach traders (use internet, use LinkedIn), communicate correctly and respond to emails. Set realistic expectations and act as you say. Send corresponding samples & batches. For more tips, see our Tips for Doing Business with European Coffee Buyers.
The Netherlands re-exports coffee to other Europe countries
The Netherlands is an important trade hub in Europe that re-exports many different products, including significant amounts of coffee. In 2017, the Netherlands was the fourth largest re-exporter of green coffee beans in Europe. Total Dutch re-exports amounted to over 21 thousand tonnes (almost €67 million).
In 2017, the main destinations for the Netherlands’ green coffee re-exports were Germany and Italy. Re-exports to both countries boomed between 2013 and 2017. Re-exports to Germany increased by 217% annually in terms of volume and re-exports to Italy increased by 48% annually. This increase indicates the growing importance of the Netherlands as a trading hub for coffee within Europe. Rotterdam is chosen as port of entry more often than earlier by some major traders.
- Consider the Netherlands as a possible entry point to reach markets such as neighbouring Germany, and more distant markets, such as Italy, Ukraine and Portugal. Read more about these countries in the CBI Market Intelligence – Coffee platform and refer to sector associations such as the European Coffee Federation and the International Coffee Organisation.
- See our study on trade statistics for coffee for more information on Europe’s coffee trade dynamics. Or explore databases such as Eurostat and Trade Map from International Trade Centre to gain a better understanding of trade flows between European countries and your own country.
Market dualism in the Netherlands
Coffees in the cheap bulk segment are very popular in the Netherlands. The leading brand in this segment is “Roodmerk”. Roodmerk is a brand of Douwe Egberts (D.E.) Master Blenders (now part of the Jacobs Douwe Egberts group). Roodmerk coffee comprises 40% Robusta and 60% Arabica. Private label brands such as Perla of leading retail chain Albert Heijn are also strong competitors in the cheap bulk segment.
At the same time, demand for premium coffee is increasing rapidly in the Netherlands. The emergence of specialty coffee in the Dutch market follows developments in the trendsetting markets of the United Kingdom and Scandinavian countries. More educated consumers are willing to pay higher prices for higher quality and demand for specialty coffee is growing.
The rise in out-of-home consumption and proliferation of coffee bars, small roasters, small local brands and baristas illustrate the development of the coffee culture in the Netherlands. Consumers are becoming more interested in the story behind their cup of coffee. Their interest focuses on the origin of the bean and production circumstances. Authenticity is key and consumers like the (regional) uniqueness of their cup of coffee.
Micro roasters, such as Sampietro, Fascino and Sprso, are popping up to meet demand for specialty coffee. These micro roasters play an important role in development of the specialty coffee market. With their blogs and direct marketing, they educate consumers and baristas about specialty coffee. They use their personal visits to coffee suppliers to develop authentic stories about the origin of their coffee beans to tell their customers.
- Are you interested in exporting high quality coffee? Learn more about cupping scores at the website of the Specialty Coffee Association (SCA). You can also consider getting a Q-grader certificate to be able to cup and score your Arabica coffee through small and taste according to international standards. If you also produce and/or export Robusta coffees, it’s also possible to become an R-grader
- Build a strong story to promote your company. When based on substantiated facts, a good story can help a supplier in gaining trust of a (potential) buyer and in creating a longterm trade relationship.
- Learn more about the profile of smaller roasters in the Netherlands, such as Bocca, Espresso Fabriek and Brand Meesters.
Sustainability becomes mainstream
In 2010, various stakeholders in the coffee supply chain in the Netherlands signed a declaration of intent concerning sustainability; since then, the share of sustainably-sourced coffee has increased steadily in the country. Collaborations between companies, sector organisations, civil society and the Dutch government (playing a supporting role) were reportedly crucial in this process. 2016 data from the coffee sector association Koffie & Thee Nederland show that 41% of the Dutch coffee market is certified according to sustainability schemes. This means the original target of 75% certified coffee has been abandoned.
Sustainably-sourced / certified coffees are mainly sold through the traditional retail channels, like supermarkets (examples: Ahold Delhaize and Jumbo), but also through organic retailers and specialty shops. Penetration is also high in the out-of-home segment, in chains such as Starbucks and Coffee Company.
- Learn more about sustainability standards in the Netherlands under the sections below: Sustainable Sourcing and Niche Sustainability Concepts.
- Consult the website of the Global Coffee Platform to learn more about global sustainability efforts, as well as the website of the Dutch Sustainable Trade Initiative to learn more about the role of the Netherlands in these efforts.
- See our study on buyer requirements for the coffee sector to learn more about certification schemes.
- Try to combine audits in case you have more than one certification. In this way, you can save time and money. Also investigate the possibilities for group certification with other producers and exporters in your region.
- Promote sustainable and ethical aspects of your production process. Support claims with certification. See our study on doing business with European buyers of coffee for more tips on marketing and promotional aspects of your coffee.
Buyers in the Netherlands have strict requirements for coffee, just like other European Union buyers. You can only export your product to Europe Unions countries if you comply with these requirements. In our study on buyer requirements for coffee you can find a detailed analysis of these requirements.
You must follow the European Union legal requirements applicable to coffee. These mainly deal with food safety. Traceability and hygiene are the most important themes. Special attention should be given to specific sources of contamination. Pesticides, mycotoxins and Salmonella (though coffee is considered low-risk) are the most common for green coffee beans. The Netherlands applies the same legal requirements as other European Union countries.
Quality criteria for coffee
Green coffee beans can be classified using two methods:
- the Specialty Coffee Association (SCA) green coffee grading protocols
- the Brazilian/New York green coffee classification (applicable to Brazilian coffee only).
Grading is usually based on the following criteria:
- Altitude and/or region
- Botanical variety
- Preparation (wet or dry process, washed or natural)
- Bean size (screen size), sometimes also bean shape and colour
- Number of defects (imperfections)
- Roast appearance and cup quality (flavour, characteristics, cleanliness)
- Density of the beans.
Higher quality coffee (specialty coffee) is graded according to a cupping score. Fragrance, flavour, aftertaste, balance, acidity, sweetness, uniformity and cleanliness are important topics in the grading process (see below for more information).
The definition of specialty coffee has not been formally established within the coffee industry. A cupping score below 80 is considered standard quality and not specialty. This is in line with the Coffee Quality Institute, which states that coffees graded and cupped with scores above 80 are considered specialty coffees. The cupping protocols of the Specialty Coffee Association also consider a score of 80 as being below specialty quality. However, the exact minimum scores defining specialty coffee differ per country and buyer. Some buyers consider 80 as too low and demand a cupping score of 85 or higher.
- See the website of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) for more information about grading coffee.
- Do you sell specialty coffee? It is important for buyers to know what the cupping score of your coffee is. It is not obliged, but it could be relevant to add to the documentation for the coffee you are exporting.
Labels of coffee exported to the Netherlands should contain the following information in order to ensure traceability of individual batches:
- Product name
- International Coffee Organisation (ICO) identification code
- Country of origin
- Net weight in kg
- Certified coffee: name/code of the inspection body and certification number.
Use the English language for labelling, unless your buyer has indicated otherwise.
Photo: Example of labelling
Green coffee beans are sensitive to water absorption. Therefore they are transported in woven bags made from natural fibre (jute or hessian). These allows free air circulation.
Most green coffee beans of standard quality imported into the Netherlands are packed in container-sized bulk flexi-bags. These hold roughly 20 tonnes of green coffee beans. The rest of the green coffee is transported in traditional 60 kg jute sacks, which will result in containers of a net volume of around 17–19 tonnes of coffee.
Materials such as Grainpro or other innovative materials can be used to pack specialty coffees.
- Check the website of the International Jute Study Group (IJSG) for manufacturing specifications of jute bags for the food industry (IJO Standard 98/01). Take these specifications into account when exporting to Europe.
- Learn how to calculate the cupping score of your coffee at the website of the Specialty Coffee Association (SCA).
- Ensure preservation of the coffee quality. Thoroughly clean and fumigate containers before loading the beans. Protect the cargo from moisture during loading, to avoid mould. Ensure appropriate temperature, humidity/moisture and ventilation conditions during processing and transportation. Protect the cargo from pests such as beetles and moths. Prevent contamination of beans by foreign materials (such as dust) by keeping facilities and equipment clean.
Certified food safety management
Some coffee buyers might also require exporters to have a quality or food safety management system in place. These systems are based on hazard analysis and critical control points (HACCP). Examples of more demanding food safety management systems are ISO 22000, International Featured Standards: Food (IFS) or British Retail Consortium (BRC). Adherence to these standards is however more commonly required for exporters of roasted coffee beans.
- Familiarise yourself with food safety and quality management systems (QMS). Read more about HACCP and health control at the Trade Helpdesk and on the website of the European Commission. Read more about how to manage HACCP for coffee on the website of International Trade Centre: Coffee Guide.
- Coffee exporters might also find it useful to refer to the website of SGS, the world’s leading inspection, verification, testing and certification company, for further information on HACCP and other food safety standards.
- Read more on the different Food Safety Management Systems at the ITC Standards Map.
Dutch buyers may expect you to comply with their supplier codes of conduct regarding social responsibility. These are often based on the ILO labour standards. Importers can have their own code of conduct or a code of conduct as a part of an initiative in which the importer is participating. The adoption of those standards is most common among large-scale importers, roasters, manufacturers and retailers, such as Starbucks and Nespresso.
- Look for sector or joint company initiatives to further understand the sustainability strategies in the Netherlands. Search for initiatives that match your own core strategy and values.
- Check whether you can adhere to the guidelines laid down in the industry agreements. They can be a good starting point if you want to certify products. Consider participating or visiting roundtable meetings (via conference calls) or seminars to meet industry players and other interesting stakeholders.
The Netherlands is the leading coffee market for certified coffee. About half of the coffee sold in the Netherlands has a sustainability certification. Most companies have a sustainability strategy implemented in their supply chains, including Jacobs Douwe Egberts, Peeze and UCC Coffee Benelux.
Sustainability covers environmental, economic and social aspects, including health and safety issues. In the mainstream coffee market, the most relevant certification schemes and consumer labels for sustainable sourcing are:
- Rainforest Alliance: Sustainable Agriculture Network (merged with UTZ in 2017)
- 4C (the Common Code for the Coffee Community, which is a verification rather than certification scheme and which was acquired in 2018 by MEO Carbon Solutions)
- C.A.F.E. Practices
- Nespresso AAA.
UTZ Certified originated in the Netherlands in 1997 and merged with Rainforest Alliance in 2017. The certification schemes will continue under the name Rainforest Alliance. Rainforest Alliance addresses sustainability of the mainstream market and is by far the main label in terms of market share. Ahold Coffee Company and Jacobs Douwe Egberts, and most of the private label brands of the supermarket chains sell an increasing amount of Rainforest Alliance certified coffee.
- Before engaging in the aforementioned sustainable-sourcing schemes, verify with your buyer(s) or potential buyer(s) whether they are required and/or whether they will provide you with a competitive advantage over other suppliers to the Dutch market.
- See the list of UTZ registered coffee actors in the Netherlands to identify interesting players learn who is certified and thus qualified to buy your UTZ-certified coffee.
- Consult sustainability strategies of important coffee companies active in the Netherlands, as they dictate the certification market back to the level of the producer (see section below “Sustainability initiatives of individual companies”).
- Learn more about individual sustainable-sourcing schemes by referring to their individual websites, and/or to our Buyer Requirements for Coffee.
Requirements for niche markets
Compliance with certification standards focusing on strict and/or specific sustainability principles provides access to niche segments of the coffee market.
Organic certification is a non-legal requirement for coffee. However, marketing a product as “organic” in the Dutch market requires compliance with the European Union legislation for organic production and labelling.
The market for organic coffee is growing, but still accounts for a small share of the total coffee market in the Netherlands. This reflects the relatively low demand for organic food and beverages in the Netherlands when compared to Germany or Scandinavia.
- Implementing organic production and becoming certified can be expensive, especially for smallholders. In the current market the return on investment may not be high. On the other hand it can increase yields and improve quality. Consult your (potential) buyer in order to verify whether organic certification is required by them.
- There are several different organic labels. The labels that fall under umbrella organisation International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM) have been harmonised to a great extent.
- Consult the ITC Standards Map database for the different organic labels and standards.
- Search for a certification body whose standards are recognised by the European Union. This will ensure your organic certification is recognised. The European Commission’s Agriculture and Rural Development website provides a thorough explanation of import regulations and other related issues.
Dutch consumers appreciate corporate social responsibility (CSR) of coffee companies. Fair-trade certification is widely recognised as proof that a company is assuming social responsibility in the supply chain. After certification by an independent third party, you are allowed to use the logo of the respective fair-trade scheme on your product. In addition, you can benefit from a price premium and you are protected from price collapses through establishment of minimum prices by the independent scheme owner.
- Fairtrade International is the leading certification scheme for fair trade. Products which carry the Fairtrade label indicate that producers are paid a Fairtrade Minimum Price. The current minimum prices and premiums for coffee, whether organic-certified or conventional, can be found in the Fairtrade Minimum Price and Fairtrade Premium Table.
- Other fair trade standards available are Fair Trade Ecocert and IMO’s Fair for Life.
Fairtrade is a niche market in the Netherlands with a single digit (3%) market share. Despite its small market share, Fairtrade has significant market recognition.
In addition to the organic and fair-trade certification schemes, there are multiple certification standards that focus on biodiversity:
- Demeter: a biodynamic certification label and regarded as the highest grade of organic farming in the world
- SMBC Bird Friendly certifications
- Forest Garden Products certification.
Above niche sustainability concepts are still in their infancy in the Netherlands; consumer recognition is very low.
- Before engaging in a fair-trade or other sustainability certification programme, make sure to check (in consultation with your potential buyer) that there is sufficient demand for this label in your target market and whether it will be cost-beneficial for your product.
- Besides certification, transparency of the supply chain is an asset in the specialty segment. Communicate a traceable and clear, direct link between producer and consumer.
Production problems in Vietnam offer opportunities for other suppliers
The Netherlands is geographically located between two large coffee ports, Antwerp (Belgium) and Hamburg (Germany). This explains the large share of Belgium (55%) and Germany (16%) in Dutch imports in 2017.
Between 2013 and 2017, Brazil consolidated its position as leading supplier to the Netherlands, supplying large volumes of both Robusta and Arabica varieties. Dutch imports from Brazil increased slightly at an annual average rate of 0.3% in volume and 4.6% in value since 2013, while supplies from Vietnam (mainly a supplier of Robusta coffee) and Honduras decreased at annual rates of -15% (Vietnam) and -9% (Honduras) between 2013 and 2017. Production in Vietnam dropped in 2016 and 2017 due to severe drought. In 2017, the coffee production consisted of 96% Robusta coffee and 4% Arabica.
Colombian coffee supplies increased at a high annual rate of 43% in volume and 53% in value between 2013 and 2017. The increase in coffee production and exports from Colombia was the driver behind the increase in Dutch coffee imports from Colombia. Read this article to learn more about the incentives given to Colombian farmers to boost the industry.
Supplies from Peru increased in recent years. Coffee producers in Peru are recovering from production problems such as leaf rust. This issue affected about 30–40% of the country’s coffee production since 2013. After years of struggling with these outbreaks, Peruvian production has recovered lately, although it is not yet back at its original capacity.
- Identify your potential competitors and learn from them in terms of marketing (website, social media, trade fair participation), product characteristics (origin, quality) and value addition (certifications and processing techniques). Wellstructured websites where you can learn from your competitors include O’Coffee (Brazil), Bourbon Specialty Coffees (Brazil) and La Meseta (Colombia).
- Define your unique selling points and what you have to offer to European buyers. This depends for a large part on the type and quality of your coffee as well on the quantities you have available for export.
About 70% of the coffee in the Netherlands is consumed at home (DeKoffieZaak.nl, 2016). The out-of-home market accounts for the other 30%. In this segment, offices, coffee bars and restaurants are the main buyers. Out-of-home coffee consumption is increasing. The growing number of coffee bars and quality coffee sold at establishments such as petrol stations is driving this increase.
Coffee for home consumption is mainly bought at supermarkets in the Netherlands. Here the mainstream market consists of “filter-ground” coffee. Jacobs Douwe Egberts is leader in the mainstream market. Prices for coffee in this retail channel have risen due to the increase in the single-serving segment and espresso coffee. In 2017, Jacobs Douwe Egberts introduced aluminium capsules (Nespresso compatible) to supermarkets. This may further increase prices of coffee in the retail market.
The food retail market is highly concentrated. The top three retailers (Albert Heijn, Superunie and Jumbo Groep) have a market share of around 80%. Albert Heijn has its own coffee roasting plant (Ahold Coffee Company). Fierce competition between these supermarkets leads to continued pressure on product prices, including the price of coffee.
Besides supermarkets, the Dutch retail channel for coffee consists of smaller supermarket chains, independent grocery stores and specialist coffee (and tea) sellers who may also sell online.
- Consider which entry channel is most suitable for your company: directly to coffee roasters or manufacturers, through an importer or trader, or through an agent or broker.
Figure 4: Market channels for coffee in the Netherlands
While the volume of green coffee imports remains relatively stable, there has been a steady decrease of green coffee importers in the Netherlands. This development has two main reasons: 1) larger multinational traders merging (e.g. Jacobs Douwe Egberts group) or buying smaller traders; 2) more and more roasters sourcing directly from origin, particularly in the premium and specialty segment.
Are you an exporter of green coffee beans? And can you offer higher volumes of 10 containers or more? You should look into entering the Dutch market through large importing companies. Several large coffee importers are based in the Netherlands:
These importers cover a wide range of qualities, varieties and certifications. Some focus exclusively on specialty green coffee beans (thus requiring high-quality beans).
The Netherlands also has importers who specialise in ethical products, including coffee. Normally these focus on specific organic and fair-trade markets. Examples of specialised Dutch importers are:
If you offer bulk green coffee beans of standard quality you can also explore supplying large roasting companies directly. The largest coffee roaster is Jacobs Douwe Egberts. Other large roasters are:
- Ahold Delhaize Coffee Company (leading supermarket chain with own roasting company)
- Pelican Rouge Coffee Roasters
- Neuteboom (focusing on private label with a production capacity of 10 thousand tonnes)
- Simon Lévelt (coffee importer, roaster and retail chain)
Targeting smaller roasters directly is also a possibility. The number of specialty roasters sourcing in the countries of origin is increasing. Smaller specialty roasters normally focus on higher quality green coffee beans. They pay special attention to long-term partnerships. Examples of specialised Dutch roasters that import directly include:
Is your experience with entering new markets limited? You have the option of selling your coffee beans to an agent. Such agents function as an intermediary between you and the importer or roaster.
- Consider which entry channel is most suitable for your company: directly to coffee roasters, through an importer or trader, or through an agent or broker.
- Target specific market segments depending on the quality of your green coffee and your volume capacities. If you have very high-quality micro-lots, consider the possibilities to link up with high-end small roasters. If you work with bulk coffees, discuss certification and linkages to larger roasters operating in the mainstream market.
- Be consistent, punctual and reliable. This is essential when doing business in the Netherlands. Reply in time to enquiries by possible buyers (within 48 hours). Be open and realistic, and do not make promises that you cannot keep. See our tips on doing business with European coffee buyers for more information.
- Use our tips on how to find buyers on the European coffee market to get into contact with Dutch buyers.
- See the website of the Netherlands’ national chapter in the Specialty Coffee Association (SCA) to learn more about events and publications about the Netherlands’ specialty coffee market. You can also use the website to get into contact with importers and roasters focusing on this segment.
The end-market prices for coffee vary depending on which segment of the market is targeted. Our study on channels and segments in the European coffee sector provides an overview of the upper-end, middle range and lower-end in the coffee retail market and their main characteristics. Typically, export prices of green coffee only account for around 5–25% of the end-market prices, depending on the coffee quality, the size of the lot and the supplier’s relationship with the buyer.
These are price ranges for the Dutch coffee market:
- Upper-end: €39.00 per kg (Bocca Biloya Ethiopië – single origin in 250 gram packaging); €36.60 per kg (Sidamo Ethiopië Biologisch – single origin in 250 gram packaging);
- Middle range: €14.58 per kg (Douwe Egberts Excellent – roasted beans in 500 gram packaging); €14.38 per kg (Perla Biologisch Aroma – organic certified roasted beans in 500 gram packaging); €10.68 per kg (Fair Trade Original Espresso Bonen – Fairtrade certified roasted beans in 500 gram packaging); €16.02 per kg (Café Intención Eko mild – organic and Fairtrade certified roasted beans in 500 gram packaging); €24.50 per kg (Espresso Manetti “Oro” – 1 kg packaging); €33.20 per kg (Espresso Campionissimo – 250 gram packaging);
- Lower-end: €6.98 per kg (AH BASIC Arome – filter coffee in 500 gram packaging); €6.29 per kg (Bellarom Rood – 90% Arabica beans and 10% Robusta)
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