The big boss Will Little was invited to speak on BBC Business Live‘s feature, ‘Inside Track’ this week about how Little’s is livening up the instant coffee market. If you didn’t catch it, you can watch it on catch up here or read on to see some of the highlights…
What made you decide to join the family business after being a graphic designer in London?
“I had no interest in coffee, no interest in the family business – but in London, I started to discover coffee for myself. Back in 2009, there was a coffee renaissance happening in London at the time – 3rd wave coffee, if you like – and I was going to all these new cafes that were popping up. They were reminiscent of home, but it was guys with beards and tattoos making coffee rather than my Dad. It was cool and different and new and I was inspired by it. So, when the opportunity came to leave London and come back to Devon, suddenly the prospect of returning back home to the rolling hills of Devon was pretty appetising.”
I thought nowadays, more and more of us are moving towards speciality coffee – why is the instant coffee market appealing to you?
“It’s one of the sectors that we can have the biggest impact in. What’s amazing about instant coffee is that whilst everyone thinks that people are going off it and going to freshly ground and ‘real coffee’, actually, still 75% of the market is instant coffee, so there’s a lot of work to be done there. I think the problem is that it’s a very uninspiring sector – the instant coffee market is pretty boring – let’s face it – and there’s not a lot of differentiation and innovation. So I’m excited by the fact that we can make a big difference there and offer something genuinely different to the consumer.”
As a small business with big competitors like Nescafe, how do you get noticed?
“We share shelf space with some of the biggest companies on the planet so we have stiff competition. It is hard – we are tiny, we are independent. The reason you haven’t heard about us is we’re growing organically and we’re doing what we can.”
35% of your sales are exported – so where is your coffee drunk the most?
“Russia’s really good for us, South Korea, Scandinavia is doing really well. Europe is collectively where most of our exports go.”
I’m going to ask you about Brexit…it looked like it could be really bad for your company?
“Yes – WTO rules would have meant that we pay a 9% tariff on all the instant coffee that we import from Germany – which is about 70-80% of everything that we buy. 9% on that would have killed us. The problem is as well, that out of that 35% that we export, about 30% of that is within Europe, so there would have been another 9% tariff going back out if we export it. So there would have been an 18% cost increase to all our export customers and that would have been bad news.”
Watch it on catch up here.