Sunday 24 September 2017

My Big Idea: Coffee distribution business enjoys a kick

George and Matt Flannery
George and Matt Flannery
Sarah McCabe

Sarah McCabe

Matt Flannery's coffee distribution business Coffee.ie took a battering in the recession but is now firmly back on track, with sales doubling in the past two years. The 28-year-old tells Sarah McCabe about launching a new consumer-focused website and signing up one of the world's best coffee brands.

"THE COMPANY was founded 25 years ago by my dad. I joined straight out of college in 2008 and my brother George came on board in November 2012. Our dad was very smart – he bought the domain name coffee.ie in the late 90s, long before web selling took off – but we only launched the site in 2009. Through it we sell wholesale coffee to hotels, cafes, shops and hairdressers.

We have just signed up to be the exclusive distributors of Bristot, one of the most popular coffees in the world. It is sold in 65 countries and is the market leader in five – but oddly enough, people don't know it in Ireland. The market leader here is Bewleys. We are the sole distributors of Bristot in Ireland, meaning we have really tight control over quality standards. We're really excited, it's a fantastic coffee. I am a real coffee nut and it's easy to sell something you love.

We're based in Galway and mainly sell in the West – we supply coffee to Ballynahinch Castle and 37 West, for example, which was recently voted Galway's best cafe. But we're trying to push into Dublin, pitching to the likes of Donnybrook Fair.

There's far more to making a good cup of coffee than the beans. The machine used, and the person making it, are equally if not more important. That's what makes us different; we provide really comprehensive barista training and advice on machines. In the past year we have also launched a consumer-focused business, thecoffeeshop.ie. We are still playing around with it, figuring out what people want, getting bag sizes right and so on. We have looked at a coffee subscription service, but that suits specialist coffee companies better.

I came into the business just as things took a turn for the worse. Year on year, revenues contracted. But things took a turn for the better in 2011 and turnover has almost doubled in the last two years."

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