Nearly 25 years ago, Michael Allpress ran a couple of central-Auckland mobile coffee carts. Today, he has successfully taken the coffee brand that bears his name to Australia and the UK.
Ordering your morning takeaway coffee en route to work seems as natural as breathing. But there’s been a quantum leap in the way Kiwis breakfast. Two decades ago, we were washing down toast with a slurp of instant coffee as we rushed out the door.
That was around the time that Michael Allpress ended his OE and returned home to set up his first business, Allpress Espresso Carts, serving quality espresso coffee in paper cups at Victoria Park Market and on campus at Auckland University.
“I turned 30 and thought I should do something sensible with my life and stop living out of a suitcase,” he says.
In Seattle, Allpress had seen an ingenious way of bringing quality espresso coffee to the people. “An engineer from Boeing built a cart called Monorail Espresso and set it up under the Seattle monorail. That’s where I got my initial idea from.”
With the help of a Commerce Commission research and development grant, he designed and built New Zealand’s first mobile espresso coffee cart, adopting the low-capital business model that he knew had long been popular in the US.
Allpress Espresso quickly differentiated itself in Auckland with its quality coffee and paper takeaway cups. It was a major improvement on the taste-distorting polystyrene that coffee drinkers had been forced to endure. After failing to find a locally made paper cup, Allpress had to import his own, and took the opportunity to custom-print those cups with the Allpress Espresso logo, creating immediate mobile branding.
“In that small market, the brand became like a coffee status symbol and we got some good brand loyalty early on,” he says. “It was quite a few years before my competitors saw the value in that.”
Know your origins
Green-bean buying is a key part of the Allpress Espresso business plan. Whereas most roasters buy their beans through a merchant, Allpress Espresso goes directly to coffee growers, selecting the best beans available from sustainably managed farms that provide social and economic return to their local communities. The company sources its beans from countries in Central and South America, Southeast Asia, the Pacific and Africa.
“We choose our own beans,” says Allpress, “and have spent many years building our knowledge and relationships with growers and exporters. We understand specialty coffee a lot better than we used to, always concentrating on flavour and consistency. We’ve established a reputation for having exceptional-tasting coffee.”
Each country has its own unique characteristics, says Allpress Espresso green-bean buyer Shane Low. “There’s no one pattern of buying beans and bringing coffee to the market. For example, Papua New Guinea has a lot of small, family land-holders, while Brazil has large estates. It’s so valuable to understand that chain and the unique qualities of the coffee in each region and how things work.”
It’s now a decade since Allpress Espresso took complete control of its green-bean buying for its businesses in New Zealand, Australia and the UK.
A shot in the arm
In 1999, Allpress Espresso successfully moved into the Australian market, and in September 2010 opened its roastery cafe in Shoreditch, East London, to supply fresh roasted Allpress Espresso coffee to independent cafes. There are also plans to set up in Tokyo.
Expansion on this scale demands a sound banking partnership. Allpress Espresso has been with BNZ since its early days when Allpress needed letters of credit to begin importing the Italian-made La Marzocco coffee machines he favours and exclusively represents in Australasia.
Allpress Espresso commercial manager Richard Chew rates BNZ’s service very highly and enjoys being able to access the bank’s new online international payments system. Its enhanced features make it easier to transfer funds to suppliers overseas, instantly alerting suppliers that a payment has been initiated by BNZ on behalf of Allpress Espresso.
Chew works closely with BNZ Partner’s Amanda Warrington and specialists from BNZ Treasury Solutions who are currently devising a treasury risk-management policy for the company.
“The volume of our overseas green-bean buying, the increasing price of coffee and the high foreign exchange risks mean we require a much higher level of capital,” says Chew. “So BNZ organised trade finance facilities and gave us a multi-option credit line to support these initiatives. They know our needs and acted really quickly to get a trade finance facility up and extend our overdraft. BNZ has been very responsive. Their order board for foreign exchange alerts us when the dollar hits a certain level, and in terms of the handling of documents, it’s taken care of straight away.”
Allpress Espresso is a privately owned company established in 1986 by Michael Allpress
Originally a small coffee-cart business, it now roasts locally in New Zealand, Australia and the UK, supplying beans to cafe customers
The company imports over 800 tonnes of green beans each year sourced direct from origin
BNZ Partners provide Allpress Espresso with finance facilities and risk-management policies to purchase its coffee beans
To find out more about BNZ Partners, phone 0800 955 455