Metropolitan Coffee of London has taken on distribution of coffees from Kimbo, which promotes itself as the third largest coffee roaster in Italy. The brand is intended to replace the company's business with Segafredo, a relationship which ended some months ago.
"We have taken on three Kimbo espresso blends to serve as a ‘good, better, best' range," said Metropolitan's managing director Angus McKenzie. "They are premium coffees, and range from ‘wonderful' to ‘top-drawer multi-dimensional', at a quality we think compares with Illy.
"The first one, Crema, is a very smooth, light coffee. Nice for Americano, but with the strength to push through the milk nicely for latte. The second one is Azzurro, which has more body and sweetness, and goes through the milk well for a cappuccino.
Kimbo is to be positioned as a premium coffee, probably around £11 per kilo. The pricing of coffee to the catering trade continues to be a vexed subject - it is widely accepted that the good roasted coffees start at £8-£9 per kilo, with excellent ones starting at about £14.
Some establishments who are extremely choosy about their coffee pay over £20 a kilo but, to the exasperation of the coffee trade, many restaurants and hotels still look to pay £5 or far less, which is generally taken as an indication that they see coffee as no more than a commodity. By contrast, the entire coffee trade says that the best strategy in a recession is to trade upwards.
"We say that the beverage trade has to get into the mindset of selling premium coffee, and away from the trap of cost-based business," says Angus McKenzie. "This is the best strategy for the future, although we accept that a high price at first may not seem palatable. But all reports suggest that consumers will walk past five mediocre coffee shops to find a dream coffee further on!"
The move involves the fourth coffee brand to be promoted by Metropolitan in the last couple of years. It has clearly been taken on to replace the Segafredo brand, which is now in the hands of Brodies of Edinburgh. Metropolitan's other recent efforts have been behind Integrity, its fair-trade coffee, and the Amada brand.
"It is fair to ask why we're pushing a new story," acknowledges McKenzie. "The fact is that we realized we were never going to drive Segafredo further without investment which wasn't forthcoming.
"The Integrity brand was born out of the fact that the Italians couldn't get their heads round the Fairtrade concept, and that is here to stay. It is growing.
"The Amada brand is successful for us in Greece, so we dabbled with it in the UK, but it was really a stop-gap.
"It took a lot of time to find a roaster who understood working with the UK, and we weren't going to jump into bed with just anybody, or be treated as just another export company for an Italian roaster.
"We needed a partner who would take time to understand the market here, and Kimbo has co-funded work to put the brand where they want it to be here. There is some very smart packaging, very smart signage, and very contemporary crockeryâ¦ I defy anyone not to think about stealing a Kimbo teaspoon!"
By Ian Boughton