Meet Rebekah: The Q Grader taking coffee to new heights

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We caught up with Rebekah Kettrick, Category & Sourcing Manager for Coffee & Tea at Treatt.

What does a Category & Sourcing Manager do?

As a Category Manager, I am responsible for the end-to-end delivery of the coffee and tea portfolios here at Treatt. This encapsulates understanding consumer trends and what NPD is
driving the beverage market to sourcing raw materials - and everything in between.

I get to follow the whole journey throughout the business from purchase to consumer. With my role also being the Sourcing Manager for coffee, I am responsible for buying beans from different origins, ensuring we hit the quality required and managing price risk on the commodities markets.

I collaborate closely with every aspect of our business that is involved in the coffee process.

Starting with procurement, to working with manufacturing and operational teams to enhance procedures. I work with insights and innovation on new product development for our portfolio and creating bespoke solutions for our customers, as well as exploring future innovations within the industry. It's then great to engage with commercial and marketing teams to communicate with our customers about our exceptional category offerings.

How did you become a Category Manager?

I originally joined Treatt as a Strategic Sourcing Manager in the procurement team.

With more than a decade of experience in the coffee industry, my journey began at a coffee roastery where I started as a Trainee Taster and Buyer, ultimately heading up the team of people responsible for the buying, quality and product development for renowned coffee brands within the UK.

There have been so many changes in trends and consumer preferences in the world of coffee and I have loved being in the thick of it, developing coffee products with major brands in the US, UK and Europe, as well as on a global scale. Through my involvement in purchasing, quality control, new product development, and strategic implementation, my cross-functional experience has proven invaluable, so I think now being a Category Manager is a perfect fit.

What makes you an expert in the tea and coffee industries?

I trained towards being an expert taster and Q Grader, which is the coffee industries version of being a sommelier and a globally accredited scheme run by the Coffee Quality Institute.

In 2014, I accomplished becoming a Q Arabica grader, and became the youngest woman in the country to have this certification. I went on to enhance my credentials by attaining the Q Robusta grader certification, joining an exclusive group of only three individuals at the time in the UK who had achieved this distinction. Being a Q Grader professionally recognises a thorough understanding of the range of coffee qualities, being able to objectively assess them and having a shared common language across the industry from coffee producers at origin or a product developer within a global coffee brand.

I have been lucky enough to travel to many coffee producing countries and spent time with coffee growers, which has given me a real appreciation for the nuances of this particular supply chain and the challenges within it. I have also been fortunate to work on projects seeking to address some of those problems.

What projects have you been working on lately?

Over the past six month, our team has been reshaping the coffee portfolio with the introduction of our new Espresso blend, adding breadth to the category and delivering a range of great taste profiles.

In Western consuming countries, Robusta is growing in popularity as the awareness of and accessibility to more premium qualities improves. The small amount of Robusta used in our Espresso blend gives it a bold coffee profile which is highly effective in beverages that contain dairy, as well as alternative milks and sweet and flavoured products.

What is the best part of the job?

Ready-to-drink (RTD) coffee is an enormously exciting and rapidly evolving part of the beverage world.

I am thrilled to be part of our coffee journey and establishing our high-quality offering in this market. Our expertise lies in creating exciting customer-centric products and solutions that leave a lasting impression. Collaborating with us is truly unparalleled; it doesn’t get any better than that!

What key trends do you think will impact tea and coffee beverage innovation in 2024?

We continue to see coffee split across two key areas – indulgence and healthy/functional trends.

For indulgence, we will continue to see different flavour combinations targeting younger coffee drinkers and how they access these products. In 2024, I believe there will be a big surge in brand collaboration, as we see a significant increase in the popularity of dessert-inspired coffee blends fuelling premiumisation.

Tea and coffee paired with alcohol, such as hard coffee and hard tea in North America will continue to boom.

In the health/functional beverage space, we’re already seeing reduced sugar options for RTD coffee and teas. Given our established sugar reduction capabilities featuring Brix Boosters, Sugar Treattarome and Treattsweet products, I look forward to working on using these with our coffee blends to drive beverage innovation and the coffee category.

Any tips on kicking off a career in the world of tea and coffee ?

There are so many entry points into the industry, whether working in a coffee shop or as a junior in a larger tea or coffee company. All you need is curiosity about products, how they taste, how things fit together, and creativity and determination to innovate.

Working in the quality lab in my first role enabled me to be really hands on with coffee, learning the different flavour nuances and developing blends. I am fortunate that this career has allowed me to be able to travel and meet coffee producers, work with some amazing suppliers and also support the biggest coffee brands in their growth – it’s the best global community of people and there is a huge amount of value of developing those long lasting relationships.

What is your favourite drink and occasion to drink it?

I’m from the North of England so it has to be a strong, hot cup of Yorkshire tea first thing in the morning!

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