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Wed 18th Nov 2015 - Luke Johnson – Small Batch part of the second wave of coffee shops
Luke Johnson – Small Batch part of the second wave of coffee shops: Sector investor Luke Johnson has told Propel he regards his latest investment, Brighton-based artisan coffee brand Small Batch Coffee, as part of the second wave of coffee shops – his Risk Capital Investments vehicle has acquired a majority take in the company. He said: “Britain invented coffee shops in the 18th century and we now have this latest iteration of coffee shops, of which Small Batch is a great example. It is designed to appeal those who feel a little jaded by big brands. There a desire among fashion-conscious 30-somethings for a more authentic coffee shop – that’s the opportunity. We’re not alone in spotting this – the market is growing very fast. There is a bohemian culture in Brighton that’s unlike any city other than London. Brighton has a particular vibe whereby locals like local things – Giraffe never really worked in Brighton.” Johnson said that there are possible synergies with his Patisserie Holdings and Gail’s Bakery brand that will be explored. There is particular potential in improving Small Batch Coffee’s food offer, he said. “The founders recognise there is a missed opportunity there,” he added. The attraction of Small Batch is underpinned by “exceptional coffee, clever positioning and very good people running it”, Johnson explained. “We’re not going to rush at (expansion) – the prime example of that is Harris + Hoole,” he added. “We might open one or two new sites in the first year – we moved quite slowing at Gail’s Bakery to begin with, although we’re opening eight sites this year, twice as many as last year.” Johnson said he is still keen to invest further in the sector even though he holds investments in ten different sector businesses. He added: “I don’t see why we should stop there – it’s such a big sector, it’s still in growth and its excites me. In this industry, it’s not about capital, it’s about ingenuity – and customers can sniff out the phoney stuff.” Johnson’s business interests in Brighton now include Laines Pub Company, a key Eclectic Bar Group site and the headquarters of his Neilson activity holidays business. Small Batch Coffee prides itself on his direct relationship with coffee farmers. It states on its website: “The quality of our green unroasted coffee is integral to every step of this process and is why our coffee sourcing policy is driven by quality and forging direct relationships. All of our coffees are lovingly grown and nurtured by talented and professional farmers then purchased directly by our import partner at fair and sustainable prices significantly higher than the Fair Trade minimum. We believe that by encouraging the growers to invest in the production of specialty grade coffee they are ensured a continuing and sustainable market for their product and paid a specialty grade price for it. This approach is reflected through our entire coffee production; from roasting, blending and packaging to quality control, staff training and machine maintenance we believe that quality and hard work will always shine through.”


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