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Can coffee get any better?

7th July 2016

An engineer has found a way of utilizing coffee cherries – the tiny fruits which hold coffee beans that have traditionally been discarded as soon as the coffee bean is harvested – by milling them and making flour. Coffee flour. In Dan Belliveau’s former job with Starbucks, he looked at eliminating waste in manufacturing. A job that eventually led to his idea of turning discarded coffee bean pulp into gluten-free flour. Belliveau was running a coffee supply chain firm and when visiting a customer on a coffee farm he was made aware of the issue with ‘rotting coffee pulp everywhere’.

Belliveau developed a new process that stabilises the fruit, which starts to decay just hours after the bean has been removed. The engineer found that when the fruit was dried, it became very stable, which enabled his company CoffeeFlour to mill these fruits into a fine, gluten-free flour that can be used in cookies, pasta and other foods. Its fruity taste makes the flour a worthy substitute for other ingredients, such as sugar. It also has more iron than spinach, more fiber than whole wheat and more potassium than bananas, gram for gram.

But the benefits of Belliveau’s product don’t stop there. CoffeeFlour currently works with coffee farmers in Hawaii, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Mexico and Vietnam where the coffee flour industry creates jobs for women. The fruit is light enough for women to easily move bags around in a processing center. Also, Belliveau points out, it creates one more stream of income for farmers who are able to boost their income by as much as US$0.03/lb on top of the US$0.8/lb they make by selling their coffee beans. And according to Belliveau small amounts make a big difference to farmers and he is not afraid to dream big: instead of aiming to sell 100m lbs for US$10/lb, he wants to sell 1bn lbs for US$1/lb. This way, the impact is far greater.

Coffee flour ticks many boxes, it reduces waste, add to the income for farmers in developing regions and offers a highly nutritious, gluten-free alternative to flour – it deserves to be a sustainable success story!