Wolthers: A Green Coffee Family
Updated: May 17, 2019
In 2019 the Wolthers Family and its companies celebrate 70 years in the international green coffee trading industry.
It all started back in 1949 with John-Aage Bendz Erreboe Wolthers, known more commonly as John Wolthers. At the time he was working in Denmark at Nordisk Andels Forbund (NAF) as a young food purchase Junior Buyer when he took on the opportunity to move to Brazil and become the green coffee buyer for the Coop Group - a Cooperative group that owned various supermarket chains and coffee roasting companies throughout Scandinavia, West Germany and Switzerland at the time. In preparation for his move to Brazil, John Wolthers travelled and worked green coffee trading in different branches of Coop in Europe, learned coffee grading in London and coffee production in countries such as Peru, Colombia Brazil and Mexico.
After years of training, In 1956 John Wolthers moved to Santos-Brazil, with wife Kirsti and first son John as NAF's Green coffee Purchase Director. Only a few years into John’s 24-year tenure, NAF became the largest green coffee-buying company representing own roasters and supermarkets in Europe with base in Brazil. For decades, millions of bags were shipped to Scandinavia and Central Europe while John Wolthers expanded the list of suppliers, qualities and volume. Much of the success in those years was attributed to John's ability to build strong relationships with producers, exporters, the Brazilian governmental coffee authority (IBC) and still approximate the Coop executive body and their consumers to origin.
In Scandinavia and Central Europe, John Wolthers appeared in Coop Magazine articles and even in movie ads and became known as “Vores Mand I Santos”, meaning Our Man in Santos. His second son Christian Wolthers was quick to pick up the trade and service track in coffee quite early, as he was a constant travel companion to his father when visiting coffee farms, exporters and the IBC in Rio de Janeiro. In the years between 1968 and 1979, traveling on inland Brazilian roads was a challenge but visiting farms, cooperatives and exporters was the base of creating strong ties for the NAF Group and its suppliers. Christian still as a child and then as a teenager had the chance to learn the art of building relationships. Very early he also learned green coffee quality and how to cup coffee, distinguishing regions, preparations and qualities.
After John Wolthers’ passing, Christian jumped right into the coffee industry at age 19. He moved his wife Viviane Jensen and his first-born Rasmus to Denmark where Christian worked at FDB - Coop's Danish Coffee Roastery. Months later, Christian worked as trainee at Coop's roasters in Sweden and Norway, and then in Spring of 1980 the small family moved to Hamburg where Christian worked at Bernhard Rothfos in the quality control department and as trainee at the trade room. In 1981, Christian and Family returned to Santos Brazil where he worked in different coffee companies such as Procafe/Rothfos, Cargill, Esteve, Exportadora Guaxupe and again in Rothfos Rio de Janeiro.
In 1986, Christian opened his first coffee Company - Sector Commodities in Rio de Janeiro, an Export brokerage agency and quality control laboratory representing European roasters, Importers and Supermarkets. By 1990, President Collor closed the IBC based in Rio de Janeiro… the IBC that regulated exports was no longer and the market was free. Christian decided to sell his company and move back to Santos, following once again the green coffee export path instead of the political track that reigned for many years until then. It was in May of 1990 that Christian opened Wolthers & Associates Corretora de Mercadorias LTDA (W&A), a green coffee export sourcing broker and a quality assurance laboratory working for important European companies.
In few months, W&A became a driving factor in Brazil's green coffee export scenario. With the connections and relationships in consuming countries built by John Wolthers Sr and by Christian, the company quickly attracted more suppliers and buyers.
In 1995, Christian and family moved to USA to address the growing Specialty Coffee Industry, representing important Brazilian Companies and producers. W&A remains operating in Santos and in 1998 Rasmus Wolthers returned to Brazil to share control with W&A executive staff, and less than 2 years later Rasmus became the CEO and drove the company into its current level of relationships, service and turnover. The company is now responsible for over 4 million bags exported yearly, as well as over 1 million bags of Quality Control.
Since 1998, several other Wolthers family members have worked or currently work at W&A, including Christian’s daughter Anike, his nephew Daniel, and his son Svenn Aage, who is currently taking care of foreign affairs and the Wolthers companies in Buenaventura and Guatemala City.
It is important to make clear that the non-family Executive board and other employees have been fundamental to the Company's success through these decades! Together we have driven the Company into this new era of coffee where responsibility, transparency, relationships and connectivity are of utmost importance.
Christian Wolthers remains in USA assisting from a distance and operating imports of the best Brazilian and Latin American Coffees.