Elaine Higginson, managing director of United Coffee (UK & Ireland) spills the beans on the company's restructure of its UK businesses.
Q What changes have recently taken place within the company and why?
A United Coffee, which was formerly known as Drie Mollen, has brought together its UK businesses - First Choice Coffee in the out-of-home market and Gala Coffee in private label retail - under one management team to create United Coffee (UK & Ireland).
The uniting of the two has created one total solutions provider that serves both markets and the merger will help to enhance the growth of both parts of the business going forward.
United Coffee will also be rolling out the First Choice total solutions concept across Europe, which will further strengthen the brand across the Continent.
Q What effect will this have on your food service customers?
A It's very much business as usual. We offer a unique range of products, market-leading equipment and a passion for serving high quality, consistent coffee that keeps the customer coming back for more.
Q Who are your equipment partners and what do they bring to the table?
A Our partner for traditional barista-operated equipment is Italian manufacturer Nuova Simonelli, world leader in coffee machine craftsmanship. Its range of machines include the Aurelia - the chosen equipment of the World Barista Championship - and the premium-end Victoria Arduino.
Our award-winning bean-to-cup automatic and semi-automatic equipment is manufactured with Swiss precision by Thermoplan. The Black&White COOL, Black&White CTS and the Tiger are all designed for operations where coffee is not the main offer, but the quality of the coffee in the cup will rival any coffee-led establishment.
Q What is your company's USP?
A An unrivalled passion for creating the best customer experience. Our customers have always been at the heart of our business and that's been the key to our success.
Unfortunately, there's still a lot of poor and sub-standard coffee in the marketplace and it's our mission to re-educate both consumers and operators on what makes really great coffee. Get your coffee offer right and you can watch the profits roll in.
Q How important has the ethical sourcing of coffee become for a food service business and what effect does it have on business?
A Ethical sourcing has become a prerequisite for a food service business, particularly in terms of coffee - consumers have come to expect it. I think we are past the point where we can spotlight a product's ethical origins as a selling point; the question now is really if it's not ethically sourced, then why not?
Operators also need to remember that just ticking the ethical box when serving coffee is not enough; the quality has to be there too to ensure a good end product.
Q Ten years ago the term "barista" was little known outside the speciality coffee world. How do you rate it as a career choice today?
A Competitions like the UK & World Barista Championships are really spotlighting the barista. Individuals like former world champion Gwilym Davies, who has just joined us as an ambassador, are really helping to demonstrate the craftsmanship involved in coffee.
A true barista is a highly skilled scientist and craftsman and as the demand for coffee continues and grows in the UK, I hope to see the career choice of barista become as revered as it is in Italy and other parts of Europe.
Q What do you make of the "coffee revolution" we've had in the UK?
A What everybody knew as the coffee revolution has been overtaken in the last few years by the "third-wave". London is packed with artisan coffee shops and the UK population is developing a more discerning palate. Cast your mind back 15 years and we were drinking poor quality filter coffee from polystyrene cups. Now, there's a demand not just for speciality coffees but for stronger, rich coffee with a quality finish.
Q Where does the market go from here and how do food service operators make sure they get a piece of the action?
A The market has shown continued growth and we are seeing more value offers from operators where coffee is not the core product to attract consumers who are cost-conscious. Having said that, the premium end of the market is also growing, demonstrated by the third-wave, where coffee creates a real experience and sense of occasion for the customer.
Coffee presents a huge commercial opportunity for food service operators, from QSRs right through to Michelin-starred restaurants. But, that opportunity only remains as such if every cup of coffee served is of the same high quality.
Company name United Coffee (UK & Ireland)
Address 2 Bradbourne Drive, Tilbrook, Milton Keynes MK7 8AT
Tel 01908 275520
Websitehttp://www.caterersearch.com/Articles/2010/03/05/332492/Tchibo-Coffee-International-Supplier-profile.htm" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer">www.unitedcoffeeuk.com](http://www.unitedcoffeeuk.com)
Area of operation Nationwide
Brands Grand Cru hand-crafted credible coffee; Grand Café; and Grand Chocolat
Market sectors Restaurants, hotels, contract and public catering, pubs and leisure, retailers
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