What's in a Label?
As we thoughtfully considered our labeling for Maya Mountain Coffee and Spice Company, we knew we needed to be different. We knew we needed to engage our customers curiosity immediately and stand out from the crowd! Sure, we could have gone with the current marketing hyperbole–All Natural, GMO Free, Chemical Free, Farm Fresh…and whatever else you may run across in the grocery store aisles. But, we know our customers are wise to the ploys, and besides that, we have more to offer than most purveyors of fine goods!
So, let’s take a walk through the grocery store and consider the labels that we all look for when we are filling our cart. Those labels we expect will keep us safe, healthy, environmentally conscious, supportive of local growers, and more.
When you are looking for a quality product but can’t find the Certified Organic label, the next logical step is to look for “All Natural” products…right? Fortunately, the food labeled “natural,” according to the USDA definition, does not contain artificial ingredients or preservatives and the ingredients are only minimally processed. However, they may contain antibiotics, growth hormones, and other similar chemicals. This is according to the USDA’s guidelines!
Obviously, the word natural means very little for those looking for pure unadulterated food.
Hormone Free Chicken??
It’s amazing. Even the store brand chicken has stepped up to the plate and cares about our health…right?? Sorry, but the fact is that no chickens raised in the U.S. or internationally, are given hormones. Feeding chickens additional hormones has been illegal in the U.S. since the 1950’s! So, if it is the law, why make such a big deal about it?
It is simply a marketing tag that will get customers attention with no real meaning behind it!
Farm Fresh Eggs??
I love this one. It means absolutely nothing!! C’mon, where else are the chickens going to lay their eggs? The fact remains that your farm fresh eggs from the grocery store are an average of 45 days old.
Let me share a story from a personal friend who went to a local California based grocery store. This guy wanted to increase his local market share through a wholesale partnership with local grocery stores, so he began by making visits to those who proudly tout the words “Local Produce” throughout their advertising and within their stores.
Upon visiting this business they thanked him for his visit, but declined the opportunity saying that they can’t do business with local farms! Upon closer inspection, he began seeing that although LOCAL signs adorned the store, the produce had tags from mainly California farms. I guess local is a relative term!
Many consumers believe “Angus” represents some kind of premium beef, but it is simply a marketing ploy. Angus is probably the most prolific beef cattle raised in the U.S. Angus is simply a breed of cow that has lineage from Aberdeen-Angus. A couple of counties in Scotland.
According to the USDA, if cattle has any genetic markers connecting them to the Angus line, they can be called Angus. (I had one butcher tell me that if a cow headed for slaughter has a black mark on the tongue the seller has every right to call it Angus beef). This tells the purchaser little about the quality of the beef!
As you can see, what you see on tags, signs, and labels can be misleading. There is no way around this, the bottom line is that focus groups and advertising professionals hold the keys to your labels! Personally, I’d rather know my farmers, know my producers, know the right questions to ask, and feel good about who I am supporting!
So, with that in mind, please allow me to share with you how we came up with our label and why we chose the tags we did for Maya Mountain Coffee and Spice Company.
|Wild Harvested| Jungle Sourced | Hand Processes | Empowering Villages Through Entrepreneurship |
First, a little history. Up until 1973, Belize was British Honduras, a self governed British Colony. Up until 1948, India was also a British Colony–since 3,000 BC, India has been the world center for spice trade. In the late 1800’s British decided that because both colonies shared similar climates they should begin to develop the spice trade in the western hemisphere. Lacking the infrastructure, Belize as a spice capital of the west never came to fruition, but the plantings remained and propagated naturally while the jungle reclaimed it’s ground. We are partnering with farmers, many of whom are literally harvesting from the jungle!
This is best described in a story about a jungle trek we took in November of 2017. We were invited to enter a community that no “white folks” had ever entered. That in itself was an amazing honor and privilege. It was a 40 minute hike through dense rain forest. A hike that truly filled the senses!
Well, along the way, we identified a few vanilla orchids growing wild on the cohune nut trees and several patches of turmeric growing on the jungle floor! Villages like Delores, far out in the Toledo District, are able to reap the benefits of harvesting nutmeg that was planted during colonial times.
Also, allspice trees are always a great indicator for archaeologists looking for Mayan ruins that have yet to be unearthed. It was a prized spice by the Mayans! Yes, many of our spices are Wild Harvested…
We believe in keeping our model local to the communities we are working with through growing, processing, and packaging. Because Belize is a developing country, not all communities have electricity. The infrastructure is primitive and quite frankly due to the taxes and importing fees, a mechanized system for any phase of the process is too cost prohibitive.
Hand harvesting, hand grinding, hand pressing, and hand packaging will allow us to bring financial support in a sustainable way!
Empowering Villages Through Entrepreneurship
According to U2’s Bono, in a speech to Georgetown University, he said. “In dealing with poverty here and around the world, welfare and foreign aid are a Band-Aid. Free enterprise is a cure. Entrepreneurship is the most sure way of development.” As we build the Maya Mountain Coffee and Spice Company, we will work to do just that. The greater our market share here in the US, the more farmers, processors, and packagers we will be able to elevate to an entrepreneurial role throughout the amazing country of Belize!
There is a lot in a label. There is also plenty we as consumers expect. Trust and transparency are among them. Although marketing and society have devolved into a sell and make profits at all costs mentality, we at Maya Mountain Coffee and Spice Company give you our word that we will endeavor to exceed your expectations…
If it is on our label, you can believe it!