ENJOYING a good quality cup of fresh coffee is a ritualistic pleasure for many Scots, with devotees now becoming increasingly aware of the countless subtleties and depths bestowed by speciality beans.

And as palates have become more sophisticated, one Perthshire-based commercial coffee roaster and blender has spotted an opportunity in the market to allow aficionados to create their own unique blends.

Mark Wilson, 56, launched Blendly in 2016 with the vision of providing an online platform for coffee drinkers and baristas to produce their own distinct combinations. “When it comes to coffee, everybody’s palate is totally unique to the product that they drink,” says Mr Wilson.

“I’ve always believed that modern consumerism is based around the fact that people nowadays are looking for more products that are unique unto themselves. A lot of people are getting more discerning about the flavours associated with different types of beans.

“We have 20 different commodities, all of which are taste profiled. Online, you can select up to a maximum of six beans, we can then roast that profile, and have it delivered within three days with the customer’s name on the bag.”

Buyers can choose their preferred roasts, grinds and origins.

“Some people love dark roast coffee, some people love light Italian roast, others like South American bases, or Indian bases … there is so much variety. My go-to blend is a Monsoon Malabar Bean and a Kenya mix – 90% Monsoon Malabar and 10% Kenya bean.”

Heading out for a walk to pick up a cup of coffee has been one of the few luxuries we were allowed to partake in during lockdown. Recognising this shift in consumer habits and with much of the hospitality industry still paralysed, Mr Wilson recently began offering Blendly products to domestic customers, despite previously only selling B2B.

“The pandemic brought us all a renewed pleasure in comfort food and drink, so we also want to pitch this as fun – in that real coffee fans can use this new service to create unique blends. Which at one time seemed like a mystery open only to trained blenders and tasters,” he continues.

Mr Wilson, who has a background in management sciences, began roasting coffee 15 years ago. Being experienced in the commodities market, he recognised that for Blendly to become a success he would have to overcome what he calls the ‘traditional coffee marketplace’.

“The market of distributing coffee has always been done in the same way,” he explains. “We feel that we are unlikely to see a big return to coffee salesmen selling direct to hospitality businesses, or indeed door-to-door selling to domestic customers.

“Our greatest challenge was to show that it could be done over the internet in a much easier and simpler way … but at the same time, filling that niche became our biggest achievement as well.”

HeraldScotland:

Blendly now employs five full-time staff, and the company has just been approved for an Equity Investment Scheme. Based in Perth, the firm averages around 400 people in its customer base, with B2C sales continuing to develop.

“Blendly is currently the only coffee company in the world to aggregate all three steps needed for the production and supply of a cup of artisan coffee,” adds Mr Wilson.

“We have our own roasting facilities – our main production plants are just outside London – to custom roast the beans and distribute the coffee, with our trade customers receiving a commission through our range of flexible Barista Business plans.”

Mr Wilson credits baristas as a contributing factor in helping increase brand awareness for Blendly, as they can create their own blends and then resell the product to their customers using an online platform. “Baristas haven’t really had the tools before to prototype their own coffee product, and with it they can influence people to drink a certain type of coffee,” he says.

“We’ve applied to the Government’s KickStart Scheme to use our existing online platform to hopefully become the first online coffee business to offer a digital training environment to coffee baristas who have lost their jobs as a result of the ongoing pandemic.”

Mr Wilson credits lockdown to having a positive effect on sales for Blendly, especially since expanding operations to sell into the domestic market.

He says: “We not only increased our brand awareness and entered a market where there is huge potential to service artisan millennials keen to put their own stamp on their food and drink purchases, but we helped many hospitality businesses during the height of the pandemic that were either closed or operating at a reduced capacity. They reached a customer base they might not have normally been able to tap into.”

www.blendly.co.uk