Would you believe it, folks? It’s our 30th birthday! We know age is just a number, but we’re super honoured to say we’ve been doing what we do for three whole decades! Our journey has been an interesting one, and just like any independent business, we’ve learned a lot along the way. We’re spending our 30th year looking back at how far we’ve come, and like we should all do once in a while, giving ourselves a good ol’ pat on the back.
Let’s wind the clock back 30 years ago to when Henry & Leila Little were living in Leila’s native Finland, in a small town called Naantali. The Finn’s are the biggest consumers of coffee per head in the world, which means they know a thing or two when it comes to a cup of the good stuff. Henry & Leila went on a trip to California where they first discovered artisan roasters infusing coffee beans with natural extracts. Inspired by their discovery, Henry & Leila returned to Finland, quit their jobs and began roasting and infusing coffee beans.
After a decade of spreading the idea of flavoured coffee in Finland, 1995 saw Henry & Leila broaden their horizons and move the family (and the business) to Devon, England. They moved to a small unit in an industrial estate near Newton Abbot, where they roasted coffee, and even sold tea!
The 90s saw an unprecedented rise in technological advancements including, of course, the internet and mobile phones. With this came an eruption of inventions, connections, ideas and opportunities; people from all over the world were suddenly connected with the click of a button. Everybody was suddenly so much busier. Henry & Leila realised that people don’t have time to brew up their delicious coffee every morning in the way they had always intended. It was then they decided to evolve their products into the super convenient instant coffee we know today.
Word soon spread of this new kind of instant coffee and Henry & Leila soon gained a small listing with Waitrose. This was a turning point for the business. No longer were they just selling coffee to lovely local customers who loved what they were doing, but they now had customers all over the UK who were turning into dedicated flavour enthusiasts.
My name is Will and I’m one of the children. I now run our family business with my wife Caroline. Whilst both living in London working in creative jobs, we began to realise that what our parents were doing was pretty awesome. We began to recognise how popular coffee was becoming, and let’s face it, it was also pretty damn cool. We could see my parents’ idea had legs and we had some ideas of how we could move the business forward. After five years in ‘The Big Smoke’, we decided to escape the rat race and move back to sunny Devon.
Since myself & Caroline coming on board, we have gained listings in some of the UK’s biggest supermarkets including Sainsbury’s, Holland & Barrett and Ocado, and now we export to 11 countries across the globe. With all this growth, the time came for us to move out of our unit in Dunkeswell and head for a new, shiny factory in Willand, which was nearly twice the size. Suddenly we had all this space, but it didn’t take long to fill it.
As the business grew, so did the head count. From five years ago where it was just myself, Caroline, my parents and a guy called Rob, now we have 13 people who help make, promote and sell our coffee to customers across the world. We have such a great team now and we are so proud to have built this little empire. And we’re pleased to say Rob still works for us!
Times have changed since my parents started out back in the 80s, and many consumer demands have shifted. Now it isn’t just about a tasty cup of coffee, it’s got to fit into a healthy, balanced lifestyle. That’s why our coffees have zero added sugar, is just 4 calories a cup and use natural ingredients wherever possible.
So, where do we think we’ll be in another 30 years? Well, we don’t have a crystal ball, but one thing we do know is that as a family business, it was always important to us as that we remained small and independent. And we plan to keep it that way. When you buy our coffee, you’re helping us kick the coffee giants of the world in the butt! Thanks to all of you for helping us change instant coffee for the better, once and for all. Without you, we wouldn’t exist, and we certainly wouldn’t have made it to 30.