Aim­ing to make a bet­ter brew

Even in the longestab­lished tea and cof­fee trade, there’s still room for in­no­va­tion

The New Zealand Herald - - EXECUTIVE SUCCESS -

You’re just try­ing to take a prod­uct that has been around for a very long time and make sure it stays rel­e­vant for drinkers of to­day. Mark Hamil­ton

‘‘ You haven’t seen the best of me, I’m still work­ing on my mas­ter­piece.” They’re lyrics from Bri­tish pop diva Jessie J’s song Mas­ter­piece — not your stan­dard “go to” for lead­er­ship ad­vice.

But Brew Group chief ex­ec­u­tive Mark Hamil­ton, 49, says her words sum up his be­lief that lead­ers are never com­plete and there are al­ways op­por­tu­ni­ties to im­prove.

“We talk of­ten about do­ing per­sonal bests in the same way that ath­letes do,” says Hamil­ton.

“Ath­letes are con­stantly say­ing ‘I can do bet­ter than this, I can do bet­ter than this’.

“We talk about growth mind­sets as op­posed to fixed mind­sets.” The growth mind­set, fo­cused on pos­si­bil­i­ties and op­por­tu­ni­ties, says Hamil­ton, is al­ways at odds with the “evil twin” of fixed mind­set, which says “that didn’t work last time or this is the way we’ve al­ways done it or here’s the size of the pie we’ve got to carve up and get a big­ger piece of.

“It’s ac­tu­ally much bet­ter to make the whole pie big­ger and grow and pros­per and then ev­ery­one can do well.”

BrewGroup, which un­til a cou­ple of months ago was known as Bell Tea and Cof­fee, has spent the past decade grow­ing the cof­fee and tea mar­ket.

When Hamil­ton came on board as chief ex­ec­u­tive in 2005 from a ca­reer in brew­ing of a dif­fer­ent kind — he’d been a GM at Lion — the busi­ness was built around its tea brand.

“I was ef­fec­tively trans­fer­ring from one bev­er­age to another re­ally,” he says. “One’s pre­dom­i­nantly con­sumed in the evening, the other’s pre­dom­i­nantly con­sumed in the morn­ing.

“And to be fair, it’s a sim­i­lar chal­lenge.

“You’re just try­ing to take a prod­uct that has been around for a very long time and make sure it stays rel­e­vant for drinkers of to­day, whether that be cof­fee drinkers or tea drinkers or beer drinkers as the case was with Lion.”

On the tea front, most of it was stan­dard “gum­boot” tea drunk at home. That meant there was an op­por­tu­nity for the com­pany, which has the li­cence for Twin­ings in New Zealand, to get more mileage from herbal in­fu­sions and spe­cial­ity teas.

Hamil­ton says tea drink­ing was firmly rooted in the home but was un­der-de­vel­oped in cafes, which had fo­cused on cof­fee.

A range of large leaf teas that un­folded in the cup was cre­ated to bring a dif­fer­ent ex­pe­ri­ence to the cafe mar­ket that wasn’t nec­es­sar­ily avail­able from su­per­mar­ket teas.

Bring­ing tea to the cafe set was what opened the door to cof­fee.

Be­cause great cof­fee is the corner­stone of the cafe trade, Hamil­ton says the strong­est re­la­tion­ship cafe own­ers had was with their cof­fee sup­plier.

And the last thing busy cafe own­ers needed was to deal with another sales­per­son.

The com­pany ex­plored how it could work with a cof­fee com­pany, which got it talk­ing to Bur­ton Hol­lis, which was keen to break into the su­per­mar­ket trade.

That re­sulted in Bell Tea pur­chas­ing Bur­ton Hol­lis and the start of the jour­ney with cof­fee.

Brew Group has since added or cre­ated a num­ber of cof­fee-re­lated brands, in­clud­ing Grav­ity Cof­fee, Jed’s Cof­fee and Hum­ming­bird, to cover the mar­ket from su­per­mar­ket shelves, to cafe coun­ters and work­place brews. “It’s re­ally that evo­lu­tion of cafe qual­ity cof­fee wher­ever I hap­pen to be, whether that is at work or at home.”

]Brand ad­di­tions come from un­der­stand­ing drinkers’ dif­fer­ent needs and tak­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties to pro­vide some­thing new, says Hamil­ton.

“There’s al­ways go­ing to be chang­ing dy­nam­ics and as long as we stay on top of what New Zealan­ders are look­ing for in their tea and cof­fee, we’ll be able to adapt and bring out new prod­ucts.

“We should be can­ni­bal­is­ing our­selves.

“We should be cre­at­ing prod­ucts that make our old prod­ucts re­dun­dant and are giv­ing them more of what they want rather than just an al­ter­na­tive to what they had al­ready.”

Un­der the hood, the firm has changed own­er­ship.

Long-time share­hold­ers Food­stuffs — owner of the New World, Pak’n Save and Four Square stores — sold the busi­ness to se­nior staff along­side pri­vate eq­uity player Pen­car­row in 2013.

Hamil­ton says he has im­mense ad­mi­ra­tion for the Food­stuffs board recog­nis­ing that even though the com­pany had ex­panded dra­mat­i­cally through its own­er­ship, it was still not reach­ing its po­ten­tial.

Drop­ping the Bell name this year came af­ter a long pe­riod of re­flec­tion, in part be­cause it em­bod­ies so many pos­i­tive fea­tures, says Hamil­ton.

Re­tain­ing it as a su­per­mar­ket brand but cre­at­ing a new com­pany iden­tity al­lowed the busi­ness to move on to­wards its next per­sonal best.

Pic­ture / Luke Fo­ley-Martin

BrewGroup boss Mark Hamil­ton says pre­vi­ous owner Food­stuffs recog­nised the com­pany had not reached its po­ten­tial.

He­len Twose


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