Revolver coffee co-operative makes small surplus as it continues to reach new markets

Revolver World Coffee co-operative has described a challenging 12 months in its annual report, but says it has managed to make a surplus and export to new countries. The co-op reported...

Revolver World Coffee co-operative has described a challenging 12 months in its annual report, but says it has managed to make a surplus and export to new countries.

The co-op reported a turnover of £36,247 for 2015, an increase from £34,237 in 2014. Gross profit has also increased from £531 in 2014 to £1,969 in 2015.

But director Paul Birch warned the society’s AGM in Birmingham that Brexit would present new challenges – and called on the co-operative and Fairtrade movements to come together to deal with future obstacles.

“In the past 12 months we have developed exports in Estonia and Poland and just last week we were in Prague pitching to firms in the Czech Republic,” he said.

“We had 50 meetings lined up with firms including Tesco, and similar-sized firms – but following Brexit only 20 turned up. We forecast that in the short term exports will look quite attractive to our European partners, because the bottom has fallen out of sterling.”

Brexit is also likely to affect the price of commodities because of the collapsing pound, warned Mr Birch.

“If forecasts are correct we could be looking at £1 being worth just $1. This will push commodity prices through the roof. Our factory has 150 tons of coffee in stock and that’s some edge against cost increases in the short term, but if Britain follows through Article 50, we are told to expect the worst,” he said.

He said the reason Revolver was set up was to give all co-operatives an advantage in buying commodities.

“At times they appear to have resisted the advantage we have tried to bring them,” he said. “Those that have previously listed us, we now find those listings have come under pressure making it more difficult to find our products in stores.

“But this is a time for co-operatives to pull together. To help each other and step up when society needs us most.”

To address the problem of maintaining listings, Revolver has been working with the University of Birmingham to help identify and overcome the barriers. The project was funded with support from by Santander and a report will be available in September.

For the year ahead, Revolver is looking to rebuild its website and social media platform to develop a subscription model for consumers to sign up by direct debit to automatic deliveries.

In the UK, the co-op’s customers include the BBC, the Birmingham Rep, M5 services North and South at Gloucester (run by the Gloucester Gateway Trust co-operative), health food stores in London and the Tiny Tea Tent. It also has close relationships with the Co-operative Group, the Central England Co-operative and the Midcounties Co-operative.

The last 12 months also brought a number of accolades for the co-operative, including Living Wage Foundation certification in November 2015 and the Fair Tax Mark in 2016. Their Ethical Consumer Best Buy mark was renewed and last year Revolver won the Great Taste Awards for the Ethiopia Yirgacheffe Fairtrade Arabica.

More than half of Revolver’s output is now certified organic by the soil association and all but its Cuba products are Fairtrade certified. They are also releasing a range of Nespresso capsules that are fully 100% biodegradable.

“In the last year we competed on contracts to supply the whole university sector, to supply Birmingham City Council and to supply Parliament,” said Mr Birch.

“At this year’s Labour Party conference we have a joint stand with the Co-operative Party. Members drink free coffee all week.

“We are offering the 10,000 delegates at Liverpool to join us and benefit from free coffee during the festival. So, friends, it will need an act of co-operation to finally establish us and I hope return our collective happiness.”

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