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Matthew Algie: Nurturing Scotland’s Culture Of Coffee

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Matthew Algie: Nurturing Scotland’s Culture Of Coffee

October 21
20:07 2013
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Recent research has demonstrated that outlets of all sizes – both independents and chains – are booming in Scotland, as individuals and business people seek a combination of solace and relative formality in quiet corners and oversized, comfy sofas. Part of the reason these venues are proving so popular with the public is because they offer the dual attraction of a relaxed atmosphere in which to meet up with friends, and an alternative meeting place to the usual office boardrooms. Of course, another factor may also be a simple case of cost advantage; it’s inevitably cheaper to chat over a hot beverage than it is over an expensive meal in a city restaurant. However, there is another – more fundamental – reason to explain their rise in popularity: Taste. Like wine buffs, whisky drinkers and aficionados of fine ales, coffee lovers have high expectations, and they will seldom compromise on the quality of the raw product. Likewise, the outlets themselves need to maintain high standards in order to compete with one another in a crowded market. So, if coffee is the question and quality is the answer, how do consumers reconcile the two in order to identify outlets selling the best beans? What, exactly, differentiates the hundreds of seemingly similar coffee shops, and how can baristas ensure they are serving a consistently high calibre product? Matthew Algie, the UK’s largest independent coffee roaster, has the answers, so  With the number of coffee shops growing rapidly across Britain in recent years, the demand for out-of-home beverages has soared exponentially. As the rapid rise continues in the popularity of chains and independent shops, connoisseurs across Scotland –particularly in Edinburgh, which now boasts more outlets outside London than anywhere else in the UK – have the pick of the bunch when it comes to choosing their preferred venue. Supplying top class coffee to hotels, shops, cafes and restaurants for the last 150 years, Matthew Algie recently re-branded to reflect its commitment to sourcing the best raw product, machines, accessories and after-sales service for its clients. Sales and marketing director, Gordon Muir, believes that quality can make or break an establishment’s reputation: ‘Unless you are familiar with a coffee house through previous experience, it can be hard to determine which ones sell good coffee and which trade mainly on their ambience or location,’ he explains. ‘We believe that all these factors are vital ingredients in the overall experience, and our ultimate aim is to help raise and then standardise the quality of product across the industry. Only when we achieve that will people be able to objectively identify a particular outlet as one which sells great coffee.’ Founded in Glasgow in 1864, Matthew Algie was – until its re-brand in 2010 – considered very much a business-to-business operator. Nowadays, however, the company views itself as an all-round provider of products and services to the out-of-home hot beverages industry. Picking up the Sustainability Award at the recent Glasgow Business Awards, the firm was rewarded for its pledge to provide clients with responsibly sourced coffee. However, according to Gordon, although they supply fair trade, organic and Rainforest Alliance (RA)-certified coffees, these labels are now part and parcel of the hot-beverage market: ‘Matthew Algie launched the UK’s first fair trade espresso back in 1997 when these labels used to represent major USPs for suppliers,’ he explains. ‘Now, though, customers expect their coffee to be – at the very least – fair trade, so now you tend to stand out if you don’t offer it.’ Gordon believes that not only does Matthew Algie’s commitment to responsible sourcing help to galvanise their reputation in the eyes of their clients and customers, it also lets the coffee farmers themselves feel confident about their own future in the market: ‘In order to guarantee consistent quality, we have to cultivate business continuity,’ he says. ‘Our main priority with regard to sourcing the product is that we need to be able to buy the best quality coffee for our customers, so it makes sense to protect those who provide this. ‘By visiting coffee farmers and co-ops across the continents, we secure supplies of the best quality green beans, which we then transport back to Glasgow to roast, pack and distribute.’ And with over 2,000 clients – among them such renowned names as Sainsbury’s, Pizza Express and Gleneagles – Matthew Algie is kept busy making sure they continue to serve the best product to their own customers: ‘As part of the service we provide, we also source the equipment and machines direct from the manufacturers,’ adds Gordon. ‘From the moment we supply a machine to an outlet, we become responsible for ensuring it delivers consistent, reliable service.’ To achieve this, a dedicated team of 40 engineers provides 24-hour support, a comprehensive stock of spare parts and an industry-leading three-hour callout time to ensure coffee houses are keep serving, even if a unit requires urgent attention. ‘The Barista is key to amazing coffee, and in providing this service – which we believe is unrivalled in the Scottish marketplace – we are aiming to assist with as much of the coffee-provision process as we can to assist our clients when they need it most, he concludes.’ So, as Scotland’s out-of-home coffee industry continues to grow, despite – or perhaps because of – the UK’s economic woes, it’s clear that quality is the key component that must be maintained in order to continue this upward trajectory. While the outlets themselves provide the venue and atmosphere, it is up to the coffee supplier to provide the best possible product for the end users. With consumers still determined to allow themselves certain luxuries every now and then, and the UK out-of-home coffee market expected to be worth up to £12bn by 2012, we should be embracing and bolstering this buoyant sector during this period of ongoing uncertainty. If individuals are seeking out relaxing venues in which to catch up with friends, and business people need quiet, discreet, comfortable locations to discuss work-related matters, then operators should be providing the highest quality product for them when they get there. If this upward trend continues – and the omens are good in this respect – then in the next few years it should become possible to identify a high quality coffee house simply by looking at the supplier’s name on the door.

www.matthewalgie.com

 

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While the recession has undoubtedly bitten hard into various businesses, some – such as coffee shops – are thriving because of the downturn. Alex Buchanan shared a beverage with Matthew Algie to find out why…

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Catering Scotland

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