Founded in the US in 1992, Keurig Green Mountain became the pioneer of America’s coffee revolution and millions of Keurig single-serve coffee brewers occupy American homes.
Last year, the company was acquired in a multi-billion-dollar deal, but despite its huge success in the US, Brits are only just waking up to smell the coffee.
Real Business sat down with Steve Stagg, Keurig UK’s MD, to discuss the challenges and opportunities of pursuing new international marketplaces.
(1) Give us a bit of background about Keurig Green Mountain and how you became one of the biggest coffee brands in the US
Well, first and foremost we regard Keurig as a problem-solving company. The founders of Keurig Green Mountain wanted to combat a commonplace problem that plagued office coffee – a full pot of brewed coffee which sits around, grows bitter, dense, and stale.
By creating a single-serving pod of coffee grounds and a machine that would brew it, Keurig wanted to offer a simple ‘plug and play’ solution which is low maintenance and represents a small capital outlay.
After a number of years of tweaks, developments, and investment, the ground-breaking technology was developed and the first Keurig single-serve brewer hit the marketplace, initially catering to the B2B market from 1998 onwards before becoming a massive consumer success in the mid-2000s.
(2) So why does Keurig Green Mountain want to crack the British market?
We know that the UK is a nation of coffee and tea lovers, consuming around 70m cups per day! Yet we find that a lot of Brits tend to favour high street coffee shops, as what’s on offer in their offices just isn’t up to scratch.
Keurig UK aims to change that by bringing the coffee shop experience in-house with a wide-range of drinks on offer. We’ve partnered with a number of brands including Twinings and Starbucks to ensure the hot drinks consumers know and love can be served at the touch of a button, at a fraction of the cost and, most crucially, in the workplace itself.
It’s not just coffee that Keurig single-serve brewers make – we also do a great range of tea which is not typical for these types of appliances, and we all know how much Brits love their tea!
(3) How do you plan on building the business in the UK?
We’re focused on selling to businesses right now. The Keurig brewing system’s ease and variety of beverages make it an ideal companion for any workplace that needs to cater for a wide range of different tastes and preferences.
We’re working with businesses in sectors that are often client-facing, as well as in the catering solutions space, as we feel Keurig UK offers the perfect opportunity to offer clients both choice and quality, minimising the need to send the intern scrambling to the nearest café when a client turns up!
We have Keurig Authorised Distributors situated across the country who are able to provide top-level customer servicing and product care, meaning we’re confident that we can offer hot drinks solutions to business across the whole of the UK.
(4) What are the key differences between operating in the US and the UK?
The differences aren’t so stark. The coffee cultures are more or less the same. What we’ve seen increasingly in the US over recent years is employers wanting to boost productivity by ensuring employees have everything they need in the workplace.
This stems from how the big tech companies like Google and Facebook are re-modelling what the typical ‘office’ looks like. We’re starting to see this happen in the UK too and I think the Keurig brewing system will have a big role to play in that.
Ultimately, a coffee brewer that has a low capital outlay, is easy to maintain and improves the working space is going to be appealing both sides of the pond.
(5) The coffee shop market in the UK could be worth £15bn by 2020. Are you competing with the coffee shops?
I don’t think so. Rather than competing, I think we’re complementing coffee shops. In fact, we’re working with brands like Starbucks to provide certain varieties of their coffee via Keurig single-serve coffee pods and brewers.
People will still want the social experience of visiting a coffee shop in the morning or at the weekend, but we’re making it more accessible for people to enjoy great coffee throughout the day. It’s a cost-effective way of providing for that demand, but one which doesn’t compromise on quality.
I think there’s also a great opportunity for smaller businesses or restaurants to start offering top quality hot drinks to their customers, without having to invest in the equipment relied on by baristas. This will allow more venues to add quality drinks to their menu, without the headache of expensive machinery to maintain or the need for specialist staff to operate them.
(6) So what can we expect from Keurig UK in 2017?
We’re going to be talking to a lot of UK businesses over the coming months and helping impress their clients and keep their staff happy. We’re currently offering businesses the opportunity to trial brewers for free.