Rocksteady Coffee and the Journey Growing Some of the World's Finest Coffee

Coffee is one of the world’s most appreciated beverages, with over 2.25 billion cups consumed every day. Rocksteady Mountain Resort Ltd., is based out of the Blue Mountain Coffee region in Jamaica. Coffee cultivated in that area is protected by a geographical indication (GI), a unique type of intellectual property (IP) that informs customers about the origin of the products that come from a particular geographical area and that have a reputation and specific qualities and characteristics linked to that location.

Ricardo Forbes, creator of his company’s famous Rocksteady Coffee, discusses the significance of the Blue Mountain Coffee GI for his business and the importance of IP in developing his gourmet operation.

Ricardo Forbes is the creator of his company’s famous Rocksteady Coffee; (Photo: © Courtesy of Rocksteady Mountain Resort, Ltd.)

At what point did you realize IP could support your business?

The Blue and John Crow Mountains span 42,000 hectares on a small island, but the perfect microclimate and soil conditions make the Blue Mountains and its coffee both exclusive and globally recognizable. Naturally, Jamaica Blue Mountain Coffee is a heavily protected name. With such global reach baked into the GI, many farms rely on the Jamaica Blue Mountain Coffee name rather than focusing on building unique IP within it.

When I started my business, I knew I would need a brand name for my gourmet products that would immediately inspire something meaningful in the minds of customers. So I opted for Rocksteady Coffee, which is extremely relatable to Jamaicans. It transports Jamaicans back to the rock steady music period, which was nestled between the eras of ska and reggae. This name evokes a specific sense of pride and happiness and elicits a high level of brand recognition in the country.

I recognized the immediate need to protect my brand, Rocksteady Coffee, by registering it as a trademark. The trademark is now registered in Jamaica, Canada, the USA, the UK and Europe.

What added value did the Blue Mountain Coffee GI initially bring to your products?

Jamaica Blue Mountain Coffee is the peerless product of a perfect microclimate, unrepeatable anywhere else in the world. The soil, climate, and expert knowledge of our farmers makes “Jamaica Blue Mountain Coffee” what it is. With the GI, customers can expect a certain degree of quality and our coffee’s unmistakable flavor characteristics. When people order Blue Mountain Coffee, they know what they are buying.

Blue Mountain Coffee takes the whims of the luxury consumer further. Rocksteady Coffee is as much a product as it is a feeling, so consistency in the final product is extremely important. However, even within the GI, I wanted to make Rocksteady Coffee stand out.

Our strategy has been to only sell roasted coffee that has been produced from our farm, so that our product tastes the same wherever you buy it. So, if you buy Rocksteady Coffee in Kingston or in Japan or Europe, you can expect that it tastes the same, because it is a single origin product. This consistency of our products, in terms of taste profile and our roast, has helped to create customer loyalty.

In the international luxury market we target customers that are more knowledgeable about their coffee. They have an interest in knowing where their coffee comes from, whether it’s organic or not, how it is roasted and so on. The GI certification that comes from the Jamaica Blue Mountain Coffee designation, and its associated reputation, has enabled our brand to grow.

Rocksteady Coffee is a single origin product cultivated in the Blue Mountains of Jamaica; (Photo: © Courtesy of Rocksteady Mountain Resort, Ltd.)

What do you think IP Offices could do to better support businesses like yours?

In addition to the range of good services offered by the Jamaica Intellectual Property Office, (JIPO), it would be great to have access to more online IP services in Jamaica. This would certainly make the lives of entrepreneurs a lot easier.

The easier it is for entrepreneurs to use the IP system the better. If it is easy to use, more entrepreneurs will register their IP rights and benefit from IP protection. There are already many great companies in Jamaica that could make better use of the IP system.

What are some of the main lessons you have learned so far?

The main lesson that has guided me in building something meaningful is not to listen to the “noise” at every phase of business expansion. Collaboration and feedback is key to what we do, but we must remember to stay focused on our goals. As entrepreneurs, we must be able to assess what is actually working and expand on those elements of our business. If you listen to and act on every opinion about what is going wrong, you may end up making so many changes to your operation that you don’t recognize your product anymore.

I have also learned not to overthink things and be patient, especially when you are operating in a high-end, gourmet market like Rocksteady Coffee. Focus on sales and develop your customer base. The value of relationships is immeasurable. I still follow the old school approach of walking into an establishment and having a sit down with the manager who asks, “When can I buy?” That’s my customer acquisition.

Being able to build good relations, knowing the details of your product and being patient, are all important. Good things flow naturally from that.

The main lessons for Rocksteady Coffee so far have been to focus on sales and build relationships with their customer base. (Photo: © Courtesy of Rocksteady Mountain Resort, Ltd.)

What advice do you have for other SMEs when it comes to IP protection?

Registering your IP gives you an important extra layer of confidence in your activities. For example, with a registered trademark you acquire a potentially valuable business asset that can bring tangible benefits to your company, allowing you to talk about your brand with greater assurance.

Registering the trademark was an important aspect of the international marketing strategy. Having registered my trademark in markets abroad, gave me the confidence to say, ”This is who we are, this is our product, this is Rocksteady Coffee.

What are your plans for the future?

Our main goal is to be recognized globally as the best coffee producer of Jamaica Blue Mountain Coffee, one of the best coffees in the world. This vision is now paying off, as we have many clients that clearly prefer our product even among others from the same GI region. This is an indication of how we have been able to build customer loyalty and trust in our brand. Another one of our exciting future plans is to build a suite of executive, private retreats on our farm and a concept cafe in Canada that will help to bring us closer to our customers. We want to bring our farm right to our customers, who are not only interested in drinking our coffee but who are also interested in the farming experience.

Rocksteady Coffee aims to be one of the best coffees in the world; (Photo: © Courtesy of Rocksteady Mountain Resort, Ltd.)