This year Focus Friday is teaming up with the SuperValu Food Academy to bring you the best new Irish food producers, and tell you all about their products. Today, we chat to Mark Bergin of Ponticelli Coffee.
Can you tell us a bit about your product?
Ponticelli coffee is an Artisan hand-roasted coffee. It’s a unique blend of 100% Arabica coffees roasted and blended in Waterford in small batches of 15kg (industrial roasters tend to roast in batches of 60/120/250kg, and we don’t believe you can have the same level of control over what is going on in your roaster with that much coffee in it).
What inspired you to create your product?
Ponticelli Espresso was born in 2009 out of one family’s love of quality coffee. Mark and Stephen Bergin, a father and son team in Waterford, had been in the coffee industry for several years as agents for imported coffee brands, when they grew tired of the lack of a quality local offering in the south east of Ireland. So they decided to do it themselves and set about researching roasting equipment and coffee recipes.
Countless gallons and kilos of coffee later and they had their first and still most popular blend, Cafe Creme. Cafe Espresso soon followed, and from there Cafe Milano, and Cafe Roma, Superiore and San Marco— the ever-evolving and growing Ponticelli range soon grew a reputation for quality coffee, roasted locally.
Ponticelli, literally meaning little bridges, was named after a suburb of Naples visited on a family holiday many years before. Now a known and trusted brand in the South East, we are working with Supervalu and Bord Bia through the Food Academy programme to bring Ponticelli to a wider audience around Ireland.
How has your product evolved since it has launched?
When we originally launched Ponticelli it was just servicing the food service sector— hotels and restaurants etc. We had two blends, Espresso and Café Crème, but our range is ever-evolving and growing and we currently have seven different wholebean blends from all over the world which are constantly available, as well as seasonal and single origins.
We have always worked closely with our Local Enterprise Office and they advised me of a new programme called Food Academy, where our LEO works in conjunction with SuperValu and Bord Bia to ‘give small producers a big chance’, and get their product to the supermarket shelves. We had wanted to find a way to make our product available to a wider audience, and the support we received from everyone involved in the Food Academy process has been fantastic.
Who is your customer?
One of the most valuable mentoring sessions we had through the Food Academy programme was about understanding the customer and identifying them. In order to help create brand awareness of our coffee, we can often be found (along with many other Food Academy producers) offering tasting samples at your Local SuperValu. The feedback we receive from all our customers, which covers a wide spectrum of our society, has been fantastic and it helps us with product development as well. For example we will have a new blend coming out at the end of February as a direct result talking to our customers at tastings.
What tips would you give to someone who is starting out and wants to launch a food-related product/business?
For anyone considering launching a food related product, firstly I would say that you’ve got to passionately believe in your product. Once you know that you’re happy with what you are going to produce, the next thing to do is talk to your Local Enterprise Office. They’ve been brilliant for my business and I know that we wouldn’t be where we are today if it wasn’t for the assistance, mentoring and advice they provided to us as we have grown (and still do). They are an invaluable resource to every small and start up business in this country. Enquire about the Food Academy programme, because like the LEO’s, SuperValu has also been a great support to small producers like me. Food Academy is at the heart of SuperValu’s core beliefs: Quality, Value and Local, and Ponticelli Coffee, like all other producers in the Food Academy, represents those values well.
Where can you buy this product and how much will it cost?
Ponticelli Coffee is available in the Food Academy section of your local SuperValu. It is packed in resealable zip-lock bags of 227g each. Both our Gourmet and Continental blends come in whole-bean and fresh-ground form and are priced at €4.95.
What does the future hold for your business?
2015 is an exciting year for Ponticelli. We have been chosen to move onto the next phase of Food Academy, called Food Academy Advance, along with 30 other producers as having the potential and capacity to grow from a local listing to a regional listing and possibly more. So watch out for Ponticelli Coffee coming to a SuperValu near you. Being part of this project has seen our sales grow, and has been directly responsible for creating two new jobs in our company with more to come we hope, so the message from us is shopping in the Food Academy section of your local Supervalu is creating real, tangible and sustainable jobs.