North Wales Co-operative Consortia wins Business Award for Innovation
Cilydd, a co-operative consortia of 12 independent tea houses and café’s have won the Conwy Rural Business Award for Innovation at a recent ceremony hosted by the Conwy Rural Partnershipat the Eagles Hotel in Llanwrst.
Rhian Edwards from the Wales Co-operative Centre has been working with Cilydd since early 2011 and helped the consortia incorporate earlier this year. She has supported them with the development of their consortia business structure and overall strategy, and is now supporting the development of a business and supporting marketing planning.
Cris Martindale of Caffi Cristobal is a wholesaler of loose-leaf teas, coffee roasters and a beverage consultant. Cilydd was founded when Cris organised a meeting of his clients in North Wales to discuss developments in their industry. Cris takes up the story in his own words.
“This is an idea which grew out of a mistake.
I have been associated with the tea and coffee trade for almost forty years. I moved to Wales four years ago to start a tea and coffee wholesalers called Caffi Cristobal supplying cafes, bistros, restaurants and some hotels throughout the Conwy valley and Gwynedd .This experience soon convinced me that the traditional model was no longer fit for purpose. To understand why this is the case it is necessary to see the broader picture.
Looking at the American model of coffee shop it is clear that the independent coffee shop with a genuine idiosyncrasy and access to a much wider range of coffee than the “superstores” is (like micro-breweries in the UK) gaining a larger share of the market. Interestingly when Mr Schultz took up the reins of Starbucks again after the chain began to lose market share he spoke of individualisation –of each shop having a distinctive character. In order for this more sophisticated approach to happen the traditional separation between Grower-roaster –retailer –needs to change. The owner of a small independent coffee shop now needs to have a knowledge of roasting and access to a wide variety of coffees so that her/his coffee offering is part of the overall independent package.
The tea trade is, if anything undergoing an even greater evolution. (Being now where the wine trade was 30 years ago.) The development of the internet as part of globalisation and the shift within China (the greatest tea producer in the world-India produces 10 types of tea, China in the region of 8000.)to a market economy have meant that tea from China is readily available. This new access was first taken up on the West coast of America and has since then moved rapidly east. Loose leaf tea sales quadrupled in the USA between 2002 and 2008 to $6.7 billion dollars. These changes have now arrived in the UK. All cities have specialist tea shops whose popularity is centred in the 18-35 age groups –a group who are health conscious and who want something other than the usual cup of “jo”.
With the above in mind two years ago I organised a meeting of all my clients. What came out of that meeting was a common commitment to being individual and at the same time a feeling of isolation and impotence in a world entering into recession and dominated by the big companies. It was agreed that in future we should meet regularly with a view to finding ways of co-operating with marketing, buying, education and the setting of standards. A local poet suggested a name (Cilydd-together.) a slogan “Dilynn y Ddeilen=Follow the leaf) and ,having commissioned a local artist to produce a map of North Wales we had distributed copies of this and a leaflet giving information about who we are and where we are to be found to all members. This has been successful.
Building on this we have had a two day seminar on roasting and coffee making from a member of the London school of Coffee, several tea tasting seminars and discussion about how we wish to grow. Eighteen months ago we approached the Wales Co-operative Centre and have been working closely with them. On 23 January 2012 (Chinese new year and the beginning of the Year of the Dragon) Cilydd became a not for profit limited liability company open to all cafes etc. in Wales who subscribe to our values-on using local products, offering a knowledgeable and courteous service and leaving the minimum carbon footprint possible.
Our ambitions do not end here. We are already the largest concentration of “tea specialists “outside London and intend to build on this. At the moment we are working on the finishing touches to a Business plan with a view to seeking sponsorship in the near future and working on a marketing strategy. For historical reasons Welsh independent businesses often feel as if they are on the back foot. We no longer feel this way. We are looking to create a coffee and tea culture in Wales which is a market leader in the UK, supported by a Welsh tea and Coffee Council and by establishing a co-operative Roaster will be able to buy directly from the growers (as we do already with many Chinese and Indian teas) so eliminating the middle man, I set out to become , four years ago.”
Rhian Edwards commented, ‘Cilydd is an exemplary example of how consortia working can add value to businesses in Wales. Although Cilydd was originally set up as a tea-buying consortium it has developed and expanded to look at joint marketing approaches, quality standards and training and has ambitions to expand and develop further. At the Wales Co-operative Centre we have been able to help Cilydd focus their direction, incorporate the group as a consortia business and are in the process of developing their long term business and marketing planning. We look forward to working with this exciting co-operative further as they grow and blossom.”
If you would like to know more about the potential benefits of consortia working and how the Wales Co-operative Centre can help you to form a consortia, visit our working with other businesses pages on the www.walescooperative.org website or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org