Sunday morning, in bed, catching up on the week’s papers and enjoying a steaming hot cup of coffee. And the coffee is to die for, as good as any cup you’d get from the best barista in the best local coffee shop. Not only that, but the coffee is organic, it’s from a sustainable source and the packaging is kind to the environment. This is the vision that has led Cru Kafe to start their journey in the coffee industry, producing a premium coffee that you can enjoy in the comfort of your own home.
Meet Colin from Cru
Cru Kafe was founded in 2013 when two budding business partners approached serial entrepreneur Colin Pyle about their idea for a new coffee brand. In essence, organic and fairtrade coffee delivered in a Nespresso compatible capsule that was better for the environment. Colin jumped at the opportunity and set about researching how they could make an ethical product that used coffee and capsules that are kinder to the world. In Colin’s words, “we wanted to perform a software upgrade for Nespresso’s existing hardware”. Cru Kafe launched their first blend in March 2014.
Coffee and Tech?
We wanted to get to the heart of Colin’s vision for the company and how he sees the future of coffee. He started by declaring: “we are 100% a tech company”. That threw me a little bit. Surely a company that makes and sells coffee, albeit via an online subscription service, is predominantly a food business? Colin went on to explain. “What I mean by tech is more the attitude, the openness, and the collaborative environment”. Cru Kafe are following in the footsteps of many tech startups before them; they’re lean, agile and spend a lot of time experimenting, testing and sharing. It’s a learning experience but they’re very open and appear to be embracing the excitement of hustling and iterating on their product and service.
“What I mean by tech is more the attitude, the openness, and the collaborative environment”
Just after the company launched back in 2014, they received a glowing review in the Sunday Times which resulted in over 1000 orders in a single weekend. The company wasn’t ready, the coffee wasn’t ready, the capsule wasn’t ready. Cru Kafe did what any startup would do, they embraced the chaos and decided to treat these new customers as guinea pigs. They closed down sales to further customers so they could focus on testing with this specific group. This is not the way most traditional companies run their business. But this kind of approach is typical of tech startups: build, test, refine. In many cases this is what differentiates a foodtech company from a more traditional food product business.
“Coffee is still a very traditional business and we’ve dealt with some people in coffee that just don’t want to collaborate. Coffee is the second largest traded resource on the planet, I’m pretty sure the pie is big enough for everyone.”
Colin told us how he had tried to arrange a panel comprised of some of the top names in coffee for an event at London Food Tech Week earlier this year.
“I emailed a whole bunch of really important people in the coffee industry to have a chat about how everyone was using technology to improve coffee but also their business, they all declined or were too busy. Not to be deterred I scoured a couple of the crowdfunding platforms, Kickstarter and Indigogo primarily, for some cool stuff people were doing in coffee. And I found this really amazing home roaster called Ikawa. I ended up giving up on the top guys in London coffee, I was shocked at the lack of interest to collaborate and have an open dialogue. It was really eye-opening.”
This collaborative way of working is very common for anyone working in startups these days and this approach inspires the direction that Colin sees for coffee in the future. He explains that it’s more than being a food company, that it’s about building a brand, and that brand has to be both online and offline. The brand has to have a great story and build a strong emotional connection to people. “So many offline brands have terrible online presence and terrible content, and so many tech companies have great tech and digital but have terrible brands”. A foodtech company has to have people on the ground talking to other people, and an online presence that keeps customers coming back again and again.
“People want the story, people are spending money with people they want to buy from.”
For the real coffee lovers
Cru Kafe are currently concentrating on building their own brand around this very idea. They want to take their content and their events to a whole new level. As we speak they are busy growing a partnership with a well known food video platform so they can make videos to share their love of coffee. They want to produce and share coffee recipes and build an engaged community of coffee lovers. “There’s this huge shift of people who want to upgrade their coffee at home. This is where the little guys like us can do quite well.”
“I’d prefer to have 100 people who love the product than 1000 who just like it”
As our chat progressed, Colin’s passion for the Cru Kafe brand was proudly on display: “I’d prefer to have 100 people who love the product than 1000 who just like it”. He truly believes that there is more to business than just making money and only wants to be involved in something if it’s truly making a difference and improving the world that we live in. I’d definitely say that Cru Kafe and their ethical coffee and eco-friendly pods fit the bill.
You don’t have a Nespresso machine?
At the moment, the Cru Kafe range is Nespresso-compatible pods only. But not to worry, for all those coffee lovers who don’t have a Nespresso machine and prefer the ceremony of doing things properly, the team at Cru Kafe are developing their offering further. Their future plans are to produce a new range of beans and ground coffee which should become available early 2016. Keep an eye out on their website for all the details.
Not only are new products on the horizon, they also have plans to make an even better, fully compostable pod. This is a coffee capsule that you can put in with your food waste, as opposed to a biodegradable pod that goes into your normal waste and decomposes in landfill. How great is that? You’ll be able to enjoy a great cup of coffee and feed your garden!
If all that wasn’t enough, Cru Kafe are looking to expand further internationally. They already distribute in Norway and the Middle East but they’re keen to get into the US market. Colin also has his eye on an an alternative brand of pod-based coffee machine in the States that uses pods that are notoriously bad for the environment and sees huge potential in solving that problem in the future. There’s never been a better time to disrupt such a traditional market and I look forward to watching as Cru Kafe take the coffee world by storm.
Cru Kafe gained initial momentum with a very successful Kickstarter campaign that allowed them to develop their initial product and grow to their position today. With their big vision, they’re now looking for more investment and you can get in on a slice of the action. They’re doing it all again with a round of equity funding on the Seedrs platform. This investment opportunity gives normal people and seasoned investors a chance to back the growing business and share in their future success. The Seedrs campaign is relatively new and already has gained some significant traction. Check out the videos on the Seedrs site to hear from the founders themselves and join the coffee revolution.
Cru Kafe has only been running for around two years and already they’ve had some pretty impressive results and have some ambitious plans for the future. They’re going head to head with some big players in a large market but their vision of tasty, ethical, eco-friendly coffee should hold them in good stead.
We’ve already stocked up on Cru Kafe pods to see us through the winter and if you’d like to do the same, you can save a few quid too if you use the discount code FOODRUSH at checkout to get 25% off your first order.