We get a lot of enquires about wholesale, which is not all that surprising for a coffee roasting company. Usually, we tell people that we don’t have capacity to take on any new contract clients (i.e. businesses that want a regular supply of coffee for the foreseeable future). Now, this is completely true - but it can sometimes feel a little disingenuous too - so I thought I would write this blog post to explain.
It’s not like we never sell coffee to other businesses. In the past, we have supplied coffee to all sorts of weird and wonderful businesses. Speciality coffee shops all over the UK and throughout Europe, Scandinavian technology conferences, international film festivals, ski resorts in the French alps, national sports teams and cultural events of various kinds.
We also work with a small number of businesses we have supplied with coffee for several years - two of them were our next door neighbours at our original roastery location. We were literally operating from their shared back yard. We got to know each other, it all just made sense at the time and because we care about these people and their businesses, it still does. Incidentally, the one other business we supply regularly is a deli that we have worked with since 2012.
So, we have these ‘accounts’ that work really well, they pay us on time, we deliver to them when they need us to and we all benefit from the relationships we have. Why would we not want more of these types of customers? - that’s what I’m here to talk about.
It’s not so much that we don’t want more of this. It’s more that we have realised we are just not awesome at ‘business to business’ sales.
In fact, we decided a good while ago that taking on more contract wholesale accounts would drag our focus away from where we really want it to be. We have built our entire operation around a ‘direct to customer’ model and we’ve found over the years that wholesale roasting hasn’t always been compatible with that. There are two major areas where friction occurs.
We have a beautiful coffee roaster - which has a small capacity. There are both positive and negative aspects to this. On the positive side, we can roast a wide range of different beans in small batches and we don’t have too much coffee left over after each roasting session - so ‘wasteage’ is low, even when offering a wide range of beans and roasting to order.
We can also develop our roast profiles for new coffee using production-sized batches, which gives us an advantage over those with larger machines - where it costs a lot more to get things right in the early stages.
On the negative side, roasting the relatively large volumes of coffee needed for fulfilling wholesale accounts on a small capacity machine would be much more labour intensive for us than it would be on a large capacity machine and so the economics don’t work as well. If we wanted to do more wholesale, we’d need a bigger roasting space, a bigger roaster and more space to store coffee.
Of course, all these things are do-able, but there is another issue that has been harder to find a way around.
Whenever we sell our coffee to a business, they need to make money when they sell it on to their customers. For example….
Speciality Coffee Roasters sells a bag of its coffee to Speciality Coffee Shop for £10. Speciality Coffee Shop sells that bag to a customer of theirs for £15. This is how the wholesale/retail thing works right?
But….Speciality Coffee Roasters now really need to sell that bag to their webshop customers for £15 too. If they sold it to their webshop customers for £10, Speciality Coffee Shop is going to get pretty annoyed and not be able to sell the same beans that are sat on their shelves for £5 more. Speciality Coffee Shop will probably not want to buy Speciality Coffee Roasters beans anymore - for understandable reasons.
We don’t have to deal with this dilemma. We sell direct so that we can sell our beans at a lower price, direct to the customer and still make our business viable in the long term.
In short, we find it’s easier to focus on quality when we are less worried about quantity.
Maybe, maybe not. We don’t have any plans to launch a wholesale offering right now but it is something that we spend time thinking about. If we ever came up with a way to do it that made sense for us, then yep - we probably would.
In reality, we’d need to be running two businesses instead of one. For now though, our focus remains firmly on the people making coffee in their homes and workplaces.
Of course, we’ll continue to offer coffee to businesses on a one-off basis, to cater for some interesting event, or to take up a spot as a guest roaster in a quality-focussed shop - so if you have anything like that going on, do give us a shout and we’ll more than likely be happy to collaborate.
……but the ongoing stuff? - the truth is that we’re not going to be the right fit for you right now.
If you need a long term supplier and want a recommendation, feel free to get in touch and I’ll be more than happy to point you towards coffee roasting buddies in other companies that will be able to do a really great job on the contract wholesale front.