Stewarts of Trent Bridge

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Stewart’s have invested in a few pieces of essential production equipment, supplemented by the grant funding from FEAST2, including a £3,000 coffee grinder, a new hopper, and a new roaster at £25,000.

Background

Based out of a converted fruit-and-veg market in Nottingham’s Sneinton Market, Stewarts of Trent Bridge are independent coffee roasters who provide retail, subscription, and wholesale services to home and trade customers, including top-class restaurants, hotels, cafes, coffee shops and businesses. The business uses green coffee beans chosen, crafted, and packed in the Coffee Roastery in Nottingham city centre and are traceable back to the farmer or the cooperative to ensure a fair-trade agreement. Stewarts showcase their coffee at their own coffee shop next door, Blend, in the heart of the city’s Creative Quarter.

Stewarts’ wholesale coffee is sold throughout the UK and also offer machinery and barista training for businesses of all sizes. Roasts are sold via a monthly delivery service. Most customers are based in Nottingham, with 60-70 placing orders of 2-3kg per week, these including coffee shops, farm shops, Deli’s, sporting facilities, and mobile coffee units.

Barista training is offered at Stewarts for novices or experts providing training on the process of roasting to brewing, setting up equipment, drinks production, presentation, care, and maintenance of machines. The ‘Espresso Basic’ workshop is a 1.5-hour session that introduces the basics around coffee, including using and cleaning a professional espresso machine, making an espresso and milk texture to create basic latte art. The ‘Homebrew Workshop’ is a 1-hour session that focuses on improving daily brewing and optimising the end product using brew methods including the V60, Cafetiere, and Aeropress. The ‘Expresso Advanced,’ a 1.5-hour workshop, is for a barista with some previous experience to create the perfect espresso.

The Solution

Engagement with FEAST2

Stewart’s have invested in a few pieces of essential production equipment, supplemented by the grant funding from FEAST2, including a £3,000 coffee grinder, a new hopper, and a new roaster at £25,000.

In addition, as a result of the savings made as a result of the project, the business has been able to purchase Cropster, a specific software tied to the new roaster, which helps to map inventory, roast yields, production levels, product specifics, temperatures of roast, all in real time. The new technology ensures a considerably higher level of consistency, quality and traceability, with data from each roast logged.

Impact of Engagement with FEAST2

The roaster has provided a significant impact for the business, directly halving the time it takes to roast a batch of coffee. The original roaster was purchase by Stewart Falconer, business founder, in 1974 – 10 years before the business was even established. With a production capacity of 9kg of roasted coffee per use, the roaster would not meet the demands of a growing business. March 2020 saw the business sell the old roaster, with FEAST2 helping to fund a new 20kg roaster, which has more than doubled the production capacity for the business. Most importantly, the increased capacity will support the next phase of the business’s growth.

The new grinder enables Stewart’s to automatically grind coffee to a range of different consistencies – be that for espressos, cafetieres, cold-brew or for moka pots. The grinder means the business can offer pre-ground coffee in addition to simply whole bean. The hopper also allows the business to provide a consistent amount of coffee in each bag, and also at a much faster rate.

As a result of consistent growth over the last few years, the business has needed to recruit three new staff, which has helped to define roles within the business – an additional packer and a new roaster joined a university student undertaking a work placement with Stewart’s. The student helped the business with marketing, increasing the quality of the coffee, and also assisted with Barista training.

Environmental and Social Impacts

The new modern coffee roaster, nearly 50 years the junior of the original 1974 purchase, is a much more environmentally-friendly piece of equipment. The roaster uses less gas, and has been connected to a Vortex, an after-market system which cuts down on the equipment’s emissions using water. The new technology is undoubtedly more economical, which feeds into an increasing effort to make the brand and process more sustainable.

In recent months, the business has also redeveloped their packaging to remove a foil-based lining that is commonplace in most fresh coffee products, to ensure their packaging is recyclable. Stewart’s have also begun to use a cycle delivery service for local orders that prides itself in being carbon neutral.

Impact of Covid-19

Commercially, income largely ceased in the first few months of the pandemic, before the easing of restrictions has slowly allowed sales to return to normal in the last few weeks.

However, in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, sales of online domestic coffee and wholesale coffee to mobile units increased exponentially; with traditional coffee shops closing as a result of the nationwide pandemic, there has been a boom of interest in purchasing shop-quality coffee at home, or supplying coffee on a mobile basis to private functions and gardens. The pandemic has also seen people change their career aspirations, which has resulted in a number of new start-ups or people reinventing their business in the area who are looking to sell coffee. As a consequence of a number of long-running trends in the property market, accelerated by the pandemic, new businesses have been able to take advantage of cheap, available commercial property. Customers are diversifying, selling their coffee at pop-ups and online, which in turn creates more demand for Stewart’s coffee.

The UK’s withdrawal from the European Union has had an indirect impact on the business; with Stewart’s coffee machines manufactured in France, delivery times have increased a little due to a number of factors – increasing demand as a result of more people looking to sell coffee themselves; increased issues with importing to the UK, and challenges of obtaining materials. Coffee deliveries have largely remained seamless.

The Future

In the not-too-distant future, the business will outgrow its existing premises in Nottingham’s Sneinton Market, with increases in packing, dispatch and production scheduled for the coming months. At present, the business is growing organically, largely through brand awareness and via word of mouth. In addition to the coffee grinder, roaster, and technology already secured, Stewart’s will look to automate processes where possible, including perhaps in pre-weighing and heat-sealing packages, in order to meet increased demand.

There is a considerable need for the grant funding and business support provided by the FEAST2 project and The Food and Drink Forum, especially for businesses with little experience or who are just starting out. Technical elements such as food safety regulations, production certifications, finance, are all considered to be significant barriers. There is an understanding that taking up external support is rarely a priority for small businesses, but advertising grant funding is thought to be a strong draw.

The business commends the Food and Drink Forum as a good organisation; anything that strives to support individual businesses, particularly financially, to help them move to the next step, is invaluable. With regards to process, the business has found working with FEAST2 to be straightforward, simple and fairly informal, without any prohibitive bureaucracy or challenging paperwork.

Stewart’s have previously signed-up to the British Independent Retailers Association (BIRA). Membership to BIRA provides preferential rates on generic business services; Stewart’s have sought help with HR in the past. However, the support is not targeted at food and drink businesses.

The FEAST2 project is receiving up to £2million of funding from the European Regional Development Fund as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014-2020. The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government is the Managing Authority for the European Regional Development Fund. Established by the European Union, the European Regional Development Fund helps local areas stimulate their economic development by investing in projects which will support innovation, businesses, create jobs and local community regenerations. For more information visit: www.gov.uk/european-growth-funding