Lex Thornely – People And Planet Before Profit
There’s nothing like a great cup of coffee. Perhaps even better, is a great cup of coffee whose origins can be traced back to an ethical business. One that puts people and planet before profit. One that uses green and sustainable technology to help build their growers’ livelihoods. What about one that supports and protects local ecosystems and wildlife habitats in their coffee origins? All of those factors might make the morning brew even more palatable, but is it possible to achieve all that in one cup?
Introducing Lex Thornely co-founder of Blue Goose Coffee who, along with his business partner Nick Ratsey, have created the ultimate eco coffee capsule and managed to do so without it literally costing the earth.
Lex grew up in Hong Kong before moving back to the UK where he worked in various specialist marketing and PR roles. He met his wife while attending university in Bristol and it was her Alphington routes that drew the couple to Devon.
After a few months of searching, Lex found a role which enabled him to work with accounts such as the Exeter Food Festival and Taste of the West; and as he puts it,
“it was a great start to life in Devon.”
A few years later, having left to go freelance, Lex met his current business partner Nick through, of all things, a Twitter conversation which ultimately led to them deciding to focus on something they both loved. Coffee.
They connected with a small family roast house called Café Saula in Barcelona, eventually managing to secure exclusive global rights to sell their range of ground and whole bean coffees through Amazon. Not only did this give them a taste for the coffee market, but also first-hand expertise of selling through Amazon.
With a track record of bringing other brands to market and helping them to secure more exposure and sales through effective marketing strategies, Lex and Nick were perfectly placed to hone their love for coffee and their e-commerce skills into creating their own product and brand.
The inspiration came on a trip to a waste-processing site in Oxford, where they were staggered by the number of unrecyclable coffee capsules waiting to be burnt in incinerators. Lex explained,
“That moment really sealed the deal for us in terms of making up our minds about where to focus our efforts. It was blindingly obvious, with the sharp increase in use of capsule-based coffee machines, that there was a need for a fully compostable coffee capsule on the market. And that is when Blue Goose Eco Coffee Pods was born.”
In 2017, they were one of the first to launch their compostable eco-friendly coffee capsules under The Foodies Larder brand. Having proved the concept and the direct-to-consumer model through Amazon worked for them, they decided to invest and take their business to a new level.
So they set to work sourcing a new, better performing capsule, created using waste wood bark from the European printing industry and manufactured using renewable energy. They continued to encapsulate – only speciality grade Organic Peruvian, Ethiopian Yirgacheffe and the UK’s first organic Swiss water decaf coffee (decaffeinated using water and temperature rather than chemicals) and spent 8 months planning and creating their new brand.
Enter the Abyssinian Blue Winged Goose , a threatened species of goose found in the highlands of Ethiopia – the birthplace of coffee. It not only helped establish a narrative and give context to their brand, it also formed the focus of their CSR efforts, supporting the totally unique natural environment of the Bale Mountains National Park, which is also the home of the Blue Goose. They also donate a portion of their profits to WellWishers, a charity who work with local communities to hand dig wells and bring fresh water to thousands of Ethiopian villagers.
The first week after launching, they were awarded a ‘Which? Best Buy’ for their Ethiopian, an almost heaven-sent piece of serendipity which provided not only an emotional boost to the team but also an incredible influx of business.
Part of their gearing for growth was to completely re-design their packaging too, so it would not only work online and on the shelves of carefully chosen retailers but it had sustainability at its heart. They achieved this by sourcing FSC card for all packaging, printing everything using vegetable ink and even securing their capsule carton boxes with plastic-free glue..
Excitingly, the business has also recently launched a Lungo coffee which is a speciality grade El-Salvador and Brazilian blend, which enabled them to add their Eco Coffee Pod Gift Collection to their range, which has become their best seller after just 3 months.
As we write this, they have also begun working with the Six Senses and the Rosewood hotel groups, from Bhutan to the British Virgin Islands and the Maldives. Added to this is a raft of local and regional press (secured by expert Devon-based food and drink agency RAW Food & Drink PR) and being selected for the VIP packs for the GQ Men of the Year Awards, so the future is surely bright for Blue Goose Coffee.
At a per-capsule price of 45p, they are slightly more than Nespresso capsules but with good reason. Lex concluded,
“With over 350,000 capsules sold so far, we could’ve made a lot more profit if we took shortcuts or reneged on our ethics but, instead, we have made the right choices rather than the easy ones and have a top-quality, ethical and sustainably-sourced product to show for it.”
So, if you’re looking to treat that coffee-loving person in your life, why not do it one compostable capsule at a time and check out the range at www.bluegoose.coffee
Interviewed by Joff Alexander-Frye
Written by Stella Nicholls
Photos supplied by RAW Food & Drink PR