The romance associated with a perfectly brewed cup of coffee is brought to life by the untiring efforts of several people behind the scenes. Your Company is fortunate to have a great team and is delighted to celebrate the diversity of the team. They are the backbone of our operations and the key to our success. Every single day, they work at producing delicious coffee that is loved and enjoyed worldwide. Their diversity of experience, expertise and outlook has enabled us to become one of the world''s largest integrated coffee companies. I take this opportunity to salute them and thank them for all their contributions.
Indian coffee plantations are a people intensive business, demanding a breadth of expertise that takes years to perfect. Our Company''s team members are skilled in every aspect of cultural operations -from maturing the flowering plants to optimum levels, to picking the red ripe cherries at just the right time. Several of our workers are second and third generation employees for whom their estates are not just a workplace, but a long-time home. They demonstrate great personal commitment, and experience tremendous satisfaction, at the quality and quantity of our annual harvest of coffee.
Leading our people on the ground are our Estate Managers and their support staff. These Managers are seasoned plantation experts and they also take great pride in the unique time-honoured tradition of grooming their Assistants. Many of them are graduates in Agricultural Sciences, and their passion for coffee and nature is unrivalled. It is such passion and knowledge that brings forth from our plantations some of the finest Arabica and Robusta coffees which the world has seen. A good illustration of this is the Nullore estate microlot, which was the first ever Indian microlot to make it to the Starbucks Reserve collection, last year. This year, your Company was able to repeat this unique feat, with our Yemmigoondi estate microlot. Identifying and preparing new microlots of specialty coffee with unique taste profiles requires deep knowledge of soil conditions and microclimate, flora and fauna of the estates, the overall environment in which the coffee is grown, as well as close coordination between managers and their teams. Our managers and their staff bring to bear this combination of expertise and passion.
Our processing teams, at our Kushalnagar works, are equally adept at the very precise sorting and grading of coffee, which is required to bring you the perfect cup. The deftness of our garblers and the unique skill of our coffee tasters ensures a beautiful cup, in every case, with consistent taste profiles that have earned us the trust of marquee global roasters. Their efforts have enabled us to become the finest producer of specialty coffee in India - by venturing into single-estate, strain-specific coffees, as well as exotic
blends of monsooned coffees. We have also now taken steps to become totally export ready for our significant crop of pepper that is intercropped with coffee in our triple certified estates. What is heartening is that the efforts of our teams have enabled us to unlock great value from our existing assets, thus benefiting all stakeholders.
The Instant Coffee Division has been a key growth driver for the business, thanks to our teams in Theni and Toopran, as well as the sales team that is in constant touch with our customers across continents.
Our people have focused strongly on enhancing new product development capabilities through regular first-hand interactions of our blend formulation experts, with customers. This has resulted in higher blend approval rates, customer delight and new business acquisition for the long-term. We have already begun seeing the first results of this close collaboration with our customers - with new, innovative blends already making up nearly 15% of our total volume in the year that has ended.
The operations teams continue to focus on quality, while optimising resource usage, keeping costs in check and preserving the environment. Focus on sustainability is integral to all our teams and their concerted efforts have resulted in several breakthroughs, including renewable energy usage in our Theni factory going up to 81% this year. Our teams are proud that we seek to produce the best coffee in the most sustainable and environment friendly manner. The contribution of our supply chain teams have also been critical to our success, since they manage key areas such as imports of beans and commodity terminal fluctuations.
The next big leap of growth for your Company will come from our new freeze-dried instant coffee plant in Vietnam -which is expected to go live by the end of the current year. The Vietnam plant marks our first production foray beyond India and more than 90% of the employees here will be local Vietnamese people, thereby adding to our multi-cultural employee base. We warmly welcome our Vietnamese team members to the Tata Coffee family.
What is also commendable is that 54% of our workforce is women, a unique source of strength for your Company.
We celebrate such gender diversity, and I would like to specifically mention the wonderful role that our women colleagues play in the success of your Company.
They bring in specialised skillsets and perspectives that adds great value to various aspects of our business.
Having such a diverse group of employees, across socio-economic and cultural backgrounds, also offers us a natural advantage in our ability to connect with the communities around us. Our focused community interventions - such as the water sustainability projects in Coorg and the women empowerment programmes
- have been so successful because they were conceived and implemented by our people on the ground, who understand all the local needs and nuances. We continue to support the excellent work done by Swastha - a centre for academic and vocational training of specially enabled children in Coorg. I am delighted to share with you that, last year, two graduates from Swastha have begun working with Plantation Trails, our hospitality business arm. This is a small but wonderful start in providing long-term livelihoods to our children from Swastha.
Our employees have also contributed with great enthusiasm and energy to volunteering efforts, focused on causes close to their heart. This has put us amongst the top performing Tata Group Companies in this regard.
Everything I have described above has of course been possible because of the very capable leadership team, whom I have the privilege of working with. The transformation of your Company into a multi-product, multi-geography, customer centric organisation is a result of their
missionary zeal and strategic focus, supported by their respective teams.
Rev. Desmond Tutu famously said - Isn''t it amazing that we are all made in God''s image, and yet there is so much diversity amongst his people? These words ring true for our people at Tata Coffee as well. We are proud to belong to the Tata Group, which is an incredibly diverse Group in itself. Therefore, even as we celebrate this year 150 years of the founding of the Tata Group and 25 years of Tata Coffee, I am delighted to dedicate this annual report to ''Celebrating Diversity'' of the people at your Company.