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Pact Coffee CEO, Paul Turton on how they managed the drastic increase in speciality coffee demand during the lock down

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First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID19 times?

Paul Turton: We’re doing well, given the current circumstances. It’s a very strange time for a lot of people, having to readjust to a new way of life in a way we’ve never had to before. A silver lining for me has been that because I’m not able to travel for business and have been working from home, I have more time to spend with my family, and our new puppy.

Separating work life from my personal life however has been a struggle, as I’m sure it has for many, but we’ve been fortunate enough that we haven’t had to contend with anything worse than that readjustment.

Tell us about you, your career, how you founded or joined Pact Coffee

Paul Turton: Pact Coffee was founded in 2012 by Stephen Rapoport. It’s well documented that after fast and impressive early success and growth, Pact’s progress slowed. I joined as CEO in 2017, when Stephen decided it was time for him to step down. The company was extensively restructured and I was brought on board due to my experience in business transformation and specifically B2B leadership in order to scale Pact’s newly launched full range offering to Offices and Hospitality.

Before Pact, I’d held senior commercial roles at a range of companies including Hays plc, Office Depot inc, and PGI. By the time I joined Pact, I was experienced in managing large teams and operations, which set me in good stead to help change Pact’s fortunes.

How does Pact Coffee innovate?

Paul Turton: Pact was created to provide a new way of making high quality, ethically sourced, speciality coffee readily available in a way that it wasn’t previously. We want to change attitudes to coffee and show it’s not just a basic cupboard staple, but rather a drink with a wide range of flavor profiles that should be appreciated and enjoyed – but it also shouldn’t be difficult to to acquire. This has driven forward innovation, particularly our supporting technology and led to us operating a model that not many other coffee brands can say they do.

We offer flexibility in the way we deliver coffee to our end customers, whether through one-off purchases, or setting up a subscription service that works around them or selling directly to cafes, restaurants and offices  – we’re opening up access to speciality coffee and helping to grow this part of the market.

We also prioritize the relationships we have with our farmers at source, which means we buy directly, effectively cutting out the middlemen in the outdated traditional coffee supply chain, meaning we can pay a fair price and a premium for the world class beans we buy. We also make key investments at source, meaning we build lasting relationships over years and give credit directly to the farmers we work with for every single origin coffee.

How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business and how are you coping?

Paul Turton: Due to the nature of our business model, we’ve managed to cope very well. Our direct-to-consumer arm has seen demand almost double due to lock down, as more people than ever are wanting freshly roasted speciality coffee at home. We’ve adapted to help accommodate this and also to boost brand awareness to make the most of the current conditions in the market which are helping that part of our business to perform well.

To increase our roasting capacity and marketing activity, we’ve expanded both our Bermondsey and Haslemere teams to ensure that we can drive and meet demand and we launched our first TV advertising campaign last month. This is not only great for us, but also the farmers we work closely alongside, who receive 25% to 125% above Fair trade rates for their coffee.

We have of course had to make changes in our roastery, such as heightened sanitation and social distancing measures, so that we could continue operating in the safest way possible for our teams.

Did you have to make difficult choices and what are the lessons learned?

Paul Turton: I think every CEO has had to make difficult decisions at one time or another. Thankfully, for us, during the Coronavirus crisis, we’ve had to make fewer of those tough choices than many businesses. While we’ve seen demand rise on the direct-to-consumer side of the business, B2B demand has dropped off due to offices and hospitality businesses remaining closed for some months. Because of this, we chose to utilize some of the Government support available to us and furloughed some of our B2B team.  However, we are excited to be welcoming these individuals back to work in late July as hospitality starts to return. We want to support this struggling sector in every way we can moving forwards.

How do you deal with stress and anxiety, how do you project yourself and Pact Coffee in the future?

Paul Turton: Being a CEO of a company can be a high-pressure job. It’s inevitable that certain issues will arise and it’s something that you have to deal with one way or another. If there’s ever an obstacle I’m struggling to overcome or something is preventing me from thinking clearly, I shut the laptop and take some time out. I’ll go for a bike ride or just get out of the house for some fresh air and make sure I get a good night’s sleep. For me, that’s usually the best way to get myself back on track.

In terms of projecting myself and the company into the future – it’s all about looking ahead. Of course, it’s impossible to predict every challenge you may face, but as a CEO, it’s important to try and plan as best as you can for potential obstacles that may come your way and to be agile enough to change in response to this. Like any business, we’ve seen our share of challenges, but we have a fantastic team which has meant we’ve been able to refocus and switch up our approach when we’ve needed to, in a fast and agile way.

Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?

Paul Turton: There are a large number of competitors in the coffee world, selling either mass produced commodity or speciality coffee. Where we feel Pact is unique is that we offer a full ‘farm to cup’ solution taking our core values and proposition across multiple channels: direct-to-consumer, in hospitality, in offices, via Amazon, through partnerships etc. In all cases, our aim is to offer a range of the world’s finest freshly roasted coffee, delivered in the most hassle-free and flexible way possible.

Pact has very clear values and motivations that are the driving force behind our business and unites our team and keeps us motivated. We’ll stay true to those values to keep us moving forward. We have strong relationships with the farmers we work with and invest in ensuring that they and their communities continue to flourish, so we’re confident that we’ll keep growing and thriving in the marketplace.

Your final thoughts

Paul Turton: I’m eternally grateful to the incredible team at Pact for adapting so amazingly well and being so dedicated during such challenging times. Whether part of the supply chain, or a member of the Bermondsey commercial operation, they have surpassed expectations in every way. Like many businesses, we’ve had an intense couple of months and with most of the team not having had a real break since Christmas, I want to ensure everyone manages to take some time off to recharge their batteries sometime soon.

Your website?

https://www.pactcoffee.com

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