Growth, Strategy and Branding Discussed at European Coffee Symposium 2015

Senior executives from across the Pan-European branded coffee shop and food-to-go market gathered in the exciting city of Copenhagen for Allegra’s eighth European Coffee Symposium (24-25 November 2015).

This year’s event welcomed more than 400 industry leaders to The Bella Sky Hotel for a packed two day programme that combined a tailored Supply & Innovation Day, a Coffee Shop Study Tour, the prestigious European Coffee Awards and the insightful European Coffee Symposium conference itself.

Key Topics Explored at the Symposium

Entitled ‘Growth: Strategies for Accelerating Profits’, the conference programme provided delegates with fresh ideas, actionable business insight, excellent networking opportunities and lively debate.

The conference line-up featured key players from the European coffee industry who took to the stage to discuss the conference’s main focus areas, including:

•    Key learnings from pioneering markets
•    Overseas business opportunities
•    Growth markets, with particular focus on the Nordics
•    Managing global supply chains
•    Adapting your offering for new markets / consumers
•    Lessons from a variety of funding methods

Current and Future Marketplace Trends

Jeffrey Young, CEO of The Allegra Group, began with his keynote speech presenting the latest insights from Project Café15 Europe.

During his speech, Jeffrey spoke about how the coffee industry has evolved over the years, as we now experience the emerging 4th wave: The Science of Coffee.

He shared current market statistics, including an overview of some of the largest European markets, bringing in existing trends such as iced beverages, speciality tea and health and wellness. Jeffrey also spoke of Generation Z and this age group’s need for digital technology and permanent connectivity for ‘fear of missing out’.

Jeffrey finished his speech by emphasising the importance of people and the significance of community within the coffee industry.

Strategies for Brand Development

Ian Cranna, VP Marketing & Category EMEA for Starbucks Coffee Company, discussed the “next generation of Starbucks” in his talk ‘Starbucks & More’. Through a very visual presentation, Ian showed photos and videos to explain how Starbucks is creating a ‘theatre of coffee’ with its new concept stores.

The new stores provide both a local touch and a nod to the Starbucks Reserve store in Seattle in their style, whilst showcasing various brewing methods to respond to growing consumer interest in speciality coffee.

Agreeing with Jeffrey about the need for technology, Ian also spoke of Starbucks’ success with its new Mobile Order and Pay service, which accounted for 21% of US transactions in October 2015.

Angus Thirlwell, CEO and Founder of Hotel Chocolat, spoke about an entirely different bean. Discussing ‘Growing a Brand: A Decade of Disruption’, Angus drew upon the parallels between coffee and cocoa beans including terroir, sourcing, roasting and ethics. He described how Hotel Chocolat has disrupted the industry, creating a ‘fluid slab’ inspired by molten chocolate, instead of a traditional chocolate bar. Angus also explained that in spite of all of Hotel Chocolat’s innovation, they have stayed true to their brand and its mantra of ‘more cocoa, less sugar’. 

Also commenting on the importance of branding was Kevin Hydes, International Brand Development Director from Costa Coffee, sharing Costa’s journey from wholesaler to coffee boutique to international chain. Kevin explained that Costa sees itself as a community business putting passion, quality, taste experience and people at its heart. He emphasised that Costa’s people will always be key, from the farmers and roasters, to the baristas and consumers.

Innovation and Growth

Discussing the importance of innovation within the industry was Pontus Wretman, Product Manager, Espresso House. He explained that to be successful, businesses needed to work with trends, yet remain unique. He saw Espresso House’s in-store bakery as crucial to its success, as it allowed the brand to be entirely unique, whilst remaining competitive and in full control of the product chain. He also advocated the importance of people and strong communication.

David Abrahamovitch, CEO and Co-Founder of Grind & Co. also stressed the significance of innovation and uniqueness when galvanising and growing a brand. Referring to Grind & Co. as an “Independent Coffee Group”, he explained that Shoreditch Grind started selling cocktails because it seemed a shame not to utilise the space in the evenings. As they expanded, they kept this model, creating a unique feature in each outlet such as a hidden basement cocktail bar or recording studio.

Daniel Thompson, Head of Coffee Development at Soho House Group, was joined by two of his team members to discuss the scalability of speciality coffee, emphasising the importance of consistency across products, equipment, standards and people. He explained that to ensure quality remains high, each Group barista is subject to a rigorous training programme before they are allowed to make and serve coffee to paying customers.

Morten Münchow, External Lecturer in the Department of Food Science at Copenhagen University, discussed several experiments he and his colleagues had carried out to see if people could distinguish between high-quality and low-quality coffee. Perhaps surprisingly, the results from the focus groups showed that actually, people cannot tell the difference. However, Morten was adamant that over time the industry could change consumer behaviour and drive the move to better quality coffee.

Artisan Nordic Roasters

The symposium’s panel session featured several Nordic roasters: Klaus Thomsen (The Coffee Collective), Anne Lunell (Koppi Coffee Roasters), Esben Piper (La Cabra) and Andreas Hertzberg (Solberg & Hansen). They agreed that although the industry is growing more professional and technical, it is still not easy to change the markets, because Nordic coffee culture is so traditional.

They also discussed the quality of coffee within the hospitality sector, explaining that although some restaurants are beginning to appreciate the importance of coffee, the quality is still not on par with the food offering, even in Michelin-starred sites.

The European Coffee Symposium was sponsored by BRITA Professional, Dart Products Europe, Easyfood, One & Only, Teahouse Exclusives, Teissere and UCC Coffee.

For more information about next year's event, taking place at The Hilton Budapest Hotel, please visit:
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