Home Features Business Profiles Q&A: Phil Smith, UCC Coffee

Q&A: Phil Smith, UCC Coffee

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UCC Coffee UK & Ireland prides itself on developing and bringing innovative new products to market, meaning it can work in partnership with its customers to deliver a combination of insight, the finest fresh-roasted beans, and state-of-the-art coffee machines. Services the company provides are unique market research and understanding, category management, accredited training, brand concepts and comprehensive service packages to keep coffee profitable and ahead of the curve.

We spoke to Phil Smith, head of category & insight, UCC Coffee UK & Ireland, who has over 14 years of experience in the coffee world, about the changes within the £9bn industry.

FFT.ie: What changes have there been in the industry in the last five years?
Phil Smith: In the past five years, we’ve seen the coffee industry really develop in areas other than traditional coffee shops and chains. From QSRs to convenience stores, coffee is more widely available than ever, and is being used not only as an income stream but also as a tool to drive footfall and encourage secondary purchases.

What changes do you expect in the industry?
We’re expecting to see more sectors realising the revenue potential of a good coffee offer. However, only operators offering well-made coffee will capitalise on the opportunity – if you’re not offering consistent, quality drinks, consumers will go elsewhere. We can also expect to see increased and diverse segmentation within the industry, with different operators and sectors targeting, and catering for, different consumer demographics.

How does coffee succeed as a brand?
We’re seeing coffee drinkers becoming more discerning and interested in origin, taste profile, bean variety and roast profile. The coffee industry as a whole needs to get better at communicating information like this in a way which is relevant to, and digestible by, consumers.

What is unique about coffee as a product from a marketing point of view, as opposed to other food products?
Coffee’s versatility as a beverage makes it hugely marketable, you can build a whole menu around one coffee, with drinks to suit a variety of customer tastes. It is a romantic product – it’s grown in warm climates and offers a taste of areas of the world that, for many, make dream destinations.

What are key factors to consider for the success of a coffee brand?
When it comes to coffee, consumers are left with more choice than ever on the high street, which means one badly served coffee will see customers go elsewhere. Loyalty schemes still have their place in encouraging repeat visits, and while stamped cards have become a new standard we’re seeing app-based loyalty schemes gain real traction.

How do you suggest restaurants and cafes remain competitive?
Coffee shops are competing on more than just their drinks. It’s important to ensure the wider customer experience is as good as it can be. This means focusing on minimising queue times, improving customer service and creating a complimentary food offer. Coffee isn’t just a product to be enjoyed, it’s a conduit for conversation and an excuse for a large slice of cake, making coffee shops a social hub.