Novelty, innovation and a unique point of difference will help you stay competitive in an industry highly saturated by successful big players, explains Jacqueline Arias, Founder and director of Republica Coffee.
Before we came into the marketplace in 2006, the coffee industry had a lot of very big players, particularly global companies. However, many of these had the same-same Italian branding and very few had a unique offering, so we identified this as an opportunity.
We focused on the fact that a large portion of the world’s coffee supply comes from third world countries and therefore moved away from the traditions of Italian branding. We introduced Fair Trade coffee into the Australian marketplace and rolled it out across supermarket shelves in Coles and Woolworths when nobody else was doing it.
Introducing a point of difference
If you don't have a point of difference, you have no reason for being. Unless you are going to compete on pricing, you need to offer something unique to your customer.
After all, the true measure of success is how many people are buying your product and how many people are switching to your product. If you're not converting people to your product and you're not growing your sales, then obviously something is not right. And if you can’t do this through price, you need to think of something else.
We found a gap in the marketplace and offered our customers a point of difference by:
Providing 100% organic and 100% Fair Trade coffee;
Using colourful and interesting packaging to celebrate third world farmers who are growing and harvesting beautiful beans; and
Introducing recycled, locally-made packaging into the market.
Going ‘all the way’ makes you a leader
Five years on from when we first started, and a lot of people are playing in the Fair Trade space. However, we maintain a point of difference as nobody else is 100% Fair Trade like we are. This is what keeps us on top. We were also the first to market Fair Trade coffee to the wider Australian audience, which certainly helps retain an element of leadership in our space.
Aim for novelty and innovation
We also noticed a few years ago that one of the top brands did not use Fair Trade products and used materials that were likely mass-produced in China from aluminium. Again, we saw this as an opportunity. We thought we could sell the coffee in Australian made packaging using recycled cardboard that could be recycled again. For us, this was a great way of bringing innovation and novelty to the market, while creating another unique point of difference.
Focus on product accessibility, not profit margins
My position has always been: let's make Fair Trade organic and available to as big an audience as possible. While most Fair Trade products are targeted at the high-end produce market, we made the choice to sell in Coles and Woolworths so more people could access the product. We also narrowed our profit margin so that the third world farmers would continue to benefit from working with us.
Tips to set your business apart from key competitors and big shots:
Find a gap in your market and take advantage of that void;
Offer a compelling story and product to your consumer;
Focus on expanding product and service accessibility;
Be reasonable about what profits you want to make and what your margin is;
Use innovation and novelty to push your business forward; and
Do something properly or don’t do it at all.
Jacqueline Arias is the founder and director of Republica Coffee; Australia's pioneering 100% Organic and Fair Trade coffee and chocolate company that formed in 2006.