Twin has been awarded the prestigious Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA) Sustainability Award 2014 for an innovative project which saw the launch of the UK’s first single origin coffee from the Democratic Republic of Congo’s (DRC) in Sainsbury’s last year. The project focused on achieving consistent, premium grade coffee from the Sopacdi cooperative in Eastern DRC to sell to mainstream markets and supported women’s empowerment through a premium that funds women’s groups and micro-enterprise projects run by women.

The annual award honours individuals, businesses and organisations in the speciality coffee industry that have created innovative projects to expand and promote sustainability. Twin stood out due to the many ways in which the project supports the long-term sustainability of the coffee industry, including developing new origins to meet demand, linking some of the world’s most marginalised farmers to the speciality segment of a mainstream retailer, and strengthening each link in the supply chain, deepening engagement and understanding from all actors.

Nicolas Mounard, Twin’s Managing Director, says: “When we first entered the DRC to meet with coffee farmers, everyone thought we were crazy. Besides the security risk, almost everything had been lost to civil war – from coffee farms to processing facilities. But what we found at Sopacdi was not just the potential for world-class coffee; it was amazing, resilient people. We’re proud to have brought Sopacdi to mainstream markets in the UK, Europe and America, and we look forward springboarding many more promising new origins, no matter what the challenge.”

Twin first engaged Sopacdi in 2008, helping grow the organisation from 284 to 5,200 members by investing in productivity and export capacity, including farm rehabilitation, processing infrastructure, financial management and governance. In 2009, Twin partnered with Sainsbury’s and the roasters Finlays under a three-year Food Retail Industry Challenge Fund (FRICH) project financed the Department for International Development. The project resulted in the launch of several Fairtrade Sainsbury’s coffees, including a blend for Red Nose Day in 2011, and single origins from Mzuzu (Malawi) in 2012 and Sopacdi (DRC) in 2013.

Building on these successes, last year Twin kicked off a second FRICH project in partnership with Sainsbury’s and Finlays to continue supporting Sopacdi alongside a second Congolese coffee cooperative, Muungano. Cecile Batumike, Sopacdi member, says “With the income from the sale of our coffee, we are now able to send our children to school, we are able to feed our families and we are proud to know that our coffee is being sold in the international market.”