Thursday, December 10, 2015

Specialty Coffee Expansion in Traditional Retail: Lessons from Non-Traditional Retailers

Alison Rosenblum, Portland, OR, defended her thesis, “Specialty Coffee Expansion in Traditional Retail: Lessons from Non-Traditional Retailers” on June 29, 2015. Rosenblum is an August graduate from Kansas State University with a Master of Agribusiness (MAB) degree.
The coffee industry has evolved over the last century from traditional canned coffee products such as Folgers and Maxwell House to Starbucks to custom roasts. Traditional retailers sometimes have a hard time quickly adjusting their in-store promotions, placement and pricing to stay current with the new coffee trends.
“Because of their large role in the retail business, traditional retailers cannot be ignored by any player seeking to be successful. This implies that with each shift in the coffee industry, it is important for the participants to find ways of enabling the traditional retailer to make the necessary transformation – at least with their products – so that they can secure their market share and continuing success,” Rosenblum said.
She researched the methods non-traditional retailers such as Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s and Target have used to be successful in the changing coffee environment.  From the case studies she developed, there are a number of strategies that may be beneficial to traditional retailers: offering a broad assortment of products at different price points; create a store-within-a-store for coffee similar to a specialty section for wines and cheeses; and hosting events featuring coffees at the stores.
Dr. Vincent Amanor-Boadu, Professor of Agricultural Economics and Rosenblum’s thesis advisor, said, “This codifies the strategies that firms such as Peat’s Coffee have been pursuing. We can now assess their strategies with tools such as those espoused in Blue Ocean Strategy by W. Chan Kim by creating new market spaces ripe for growth.”

The full thesis publication can be found online on Kansas State University’s Research Exchange at

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Income and Bean Consumption Patterns in Zambia

Winnie Pele, Lusaka, Zambia, defended her thesis, “Income and Bean Consumption Patterns in Zambia” on May 12, 2015. She is an Agriculture Client Solution Consultant for Barclays Bank Zambia. Pele is a spring graduate from Kansas State University with a Master of Agribusiness (MAB) degree.
In its commitment to reduce poverty and increase nutrition, the Government of the Republic of Zambia has been exploring policies that would improve consumption of nutritious food products, such as beans and other legumes and pulses. Beans offer a variety of potential benefits to diets and incomes of smallholder producers. It has a high protein content of about 40% in addition to being a profitable cash crop.
“The purpose of this thesis was to identify the effect of income on expenditure share allocations among different food groups. The study was particularly interested in how changes in incomes affect the share of bean expenditures,” Pele said. “It is important to recognize that because beans are perceived as a poor man’s meat, its consumption may not be very attractive to those whose incomes are increasing. I expected that as incomes increase, people will reduce the share of their income devoted to bean consumption as they increase their consumption of animal products.”
Her research shows that Zambians allocate about 40% of their food expenditure to cereals compared to 5% to pulses and only 3.5% to beans. A higher proportion of their food expenditure is allocated to fruits and vegetables than to beans and/or pulses, providing further confirmation that legumes are low on the food hierarchy in Zambia.
The results suggest that if the long-term objective is to reap the nutritional benefits of beans, there may be value in focusing on two principal policy variables: education and income enhancement. Investing in increasing education, especially for females who make family meal decisions, is found to increase bean consumption. Using outreach and other initiatives to enhance consumer awareness about the nutritional value of beans could contribute to improving its share of food expenditure.    
Dr. Vincent Amanor-Boadu, Professor of Agricultural Economics and Pele’s thesis advisor, said, “Winnie’s thesis fills a gap in our knowledge about the position of beans in the food hierarchy effect of income on bean consumption in Zambia. It shows that for beans to overcome this traditional location on the food hierarchy, a lot more has to be done through outreach and public education to change the image of beans as ‘a poor man’s meat.’”

The full thesis publication can be found online on Kansas State University’s Research Exchange at

Life as a turkey farmer, banker and world traveler

An Alumni Spotlight on MAB Class of 2009 Grad Clair Doan

A lifelong resident of Norwich, Ontario, Clair Doan grew up on a dairy and cash crop farm. Agriculture has been a mainstay in his life.

He graduated from the University of Guelph in 2001 with a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture and completed the K-State Master of Agribusiness program in 2009. He and wife, Kathryn, purchased their first farm in 2006, and then established a turkey production unit in 2009.

“An appealing aspect of turkey farming is the planned aspect of production, we place and brood birds four times per year, which tend to be the busiest weeks of growing the birds. They are very sensitive to their environment so we must ensure they get a good start. These placement dates are scheduled months in advance, and I set my work schedule around these dates,” Doan said.

One major challenge Doan and other poultry farmers faced this past year was the highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) H5 outbreak in North America. Turkey flocks were primarily affected by H5N2 strain of the virus. By July 2016, more than 48 million birds had been affected in the U.S. (USDA 2015).

“Our farm was very fortunate to have not been affected by avian influenza. Three farms in our county of Oxford were infected with the disease.

However, we remained outside the quarantine zone. We increased biosecurity on our farm and minimized any additional traffic on farm.  All feed and supply trucks on the farm were subject to additional biosecurity including being cleaned, having tires disinfected, and ensuring they travelled through safe zones,” Doan said. “These outbreaks devastated farms and have created the new reality of ensuring our farm will always have a heightened sense of biosecurity.”

In addition to the farm, he also maintains a full-time job as the Associate Vice President Agriculture, Ontario for the National Bank of Canada. Doan manages the Ag Banking team in Ontario with teams located in London, Kitchener, Barrie and Casselman, and he assists in market development, supports strategy development and execution in agriculture markets.

Managing responsibilities at National Bank and his family farm requires a lot planning and a little help from his family.

“Farming and banking both have their own demands. Through planning and working as a team with Kathryn, we have enjoyed growing our own business, yet sustaining rewarding careers. Kathryn and I value raising our three daughters Carmyn, Sophia and Charlotte, surrounded by agriculture—they keep me grounded no matter how busy things get,” he said. “Needless to say, a lot of farming is done in evenings and weekends.”

“We are fortunate to live near my family, and I rely on my brothers to monitor the birds if we are away, as well as work as custom operators for our corn, soybeans and wheat fields. Our farm is a family business, and we appreciate that our children will be raised on a farm working along with us, which we value as learning about life’s lessons,” Doan said.

Strategic planning is an important theme in Doan’s career and was a major factor in his Master of Agribusiness thesis. When he began his MAB thesis project, his goal was to have a research project that was meaningful, credible and he wanted the research to make a difference in his life and that of his clients at National Bank. Doan became fascinated with gaining a better understanding of business planning and how his clients at the bank created, then executed plans. This idea was the topic of his thesis, Strategic Planning as a Differentiating Factor in Performance.

“I had clients that seemed to do limited business planning and those that paid for high priced plans, but they didn’t have any accountability to these plans, both seemed troubling to me. By formulating a question that suggested business planning could both be formal and informal, I surveyed my client base through a questionnaire to investigate the types of business planning on their farm,” he said. “I then took the survey results and compared it to their financial results and drew conclusions. My take away was that businesses do plan, both in terms of written and updated business plans. However, for the vast majority of farmers, their planning is much less formal, but the outcomes are similar.”

Completing the MAB program gave Doan a sense of personal accomplishment and he recommends all professionals create a professional development plan to learn new skills.

“Through hard work, I was fortunate to take on a leadership role at National Bank. No doubt my MAB played a role in that promotion. I have a huge sense of personal accomplishment about completing my MAB. Nobody can take this away from me no matter where I go in the future,” he said. “Times change and evolve, but I have an expectation that all members on my team have a professional development plan. It doesn’t always need to be a formal master’s degree such as the MAB program, but people need to continually build and improve skills to meet our changing work and economic conditions.”

His passion for agriculture and drive to continue learning recently earned him a new opportunity.

“As my career continues to progress at National Bank, I was spending less time focused on agriculture issues and more time invested in people, process, and product management; thus I had a desire to refocus energy on agriculture issues, so I applied for a Nuffield Farm Scholars program,” Doan said.

The international Nuffield organization provides scholarships to agricultural leaders to expand their knowledge, network with individuals around the world, and to promote the advancement and leadership in agriculture. In recognition of his love of agriculture, Doan was rewarded with a Nuffield Canada scholarship.

“I have been awarded one of three 2016 Nuffield Canada Scholars, part of Nuffield International’s global program that has participating countries in the UK, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, Brazil, Netherlands, and France.  In total, approximately 75 scholars participate in the program,” Doan said. “My Nuffield project will focus on how Canada’s supply managed sectors, particularly poultry farmers, can manage during times of uncertainty with increased political and global market pressures.”

As part of the program, he will travel to Ireland in February 2016 to meet with other scholars from around the world for one week of tours, workshops, speakers and networking. He will also travel for an additional 10+ weeks to other countries to continue studying. Doan seeks to gain a thorough understanding of production and marketing models abroad. His focus is to ensure the industry remains relevant and competitive while seeking market opportunities.

The Nuffield Scholarship is another step in the continuing journey in his life as a turkey farmer, banker and world traveler.

“A big part of the Nuffield Scholarship is taking the experience and knowledge that I learn and sharing with those that have invested with me, as well as work colleagues, clients, and farmers committed to Canadian agriculture,” he said.