AN up-and-coming Glasgow coffee importer has secured the support of one of the biggest names in Scottish hospitality as it pursues its ambitious growth plans.

Guatemala-born Javier Gutierrez Abril founded Caribbean Goods, which specialises in “responsibly sourced and incredibly flavourful” coffee, after moving to Scotland to study at the University of Strathclyde in 2017.

The firm currently imports nearly £200,000 of “green” coffee to the UK from the Caribbean per year, in turn supplying 28,000 kg of the commodity per year to speciality roasters such as Thomsons, The Brew Project, Faodail Roastery, Cult Espresso and Black Pine.

With a target to achieve growth of up to 50 per cent per year for the next 10 years, Mr Gutierrez Abril has appointed hotel industry veteran Maurice Taylor, founder of Chardon Hotels, as chairman.

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Mr Taylor gained renown after opening the ground-breaking French brasserie La Bonne Auberge in Glasgow in the 1970s and went on to become one of Scotland’s best-known hospitality figures as he and his family built up the Chardon hotel business.

He met Mr Gutierrez Abril through the University of Strathclyde’s entrepreneurial hub, Strathclyde Inspire, where Caribbean Goods is based. Mr Taylor was the university’s entrepreneur in residence.

Mr Gutierrez Abril, who achieved a master of science (MSc) in finance with merit from Strathclyde, has big ambitions for the social impact he hopes his company can achieve.

He said: “Growing up in Guatemala, I witnessed poverty, extreme violence, and a lack of educational opportunities from a very young age. 

“I consider myself an activist working towards a greener and more educated world. I want to help lift up struggling communities in Latin America by selling agricultural goods from the region. 

“Our fairly priced, responsibly sourced, and incredibly flavourful specialty green coffees have been selected by some of Scotland’s best coffee roasters, who we are extremely proud to work with. 

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“We are very lucky to have Maurice on board. He is an exceptional man; he took the time to listen to me and help me. Given his experience and expertise, that is priceless. He is the motor that will help us spin faster - the faster we grow, the more we can source, the more people we can employ and the more farmers we can help. 

“Maurice choosing to support our cause is indicative of the help I’ve received from everyone in Scotland from the moment I arrived.”

Mr Taylor’s appointment marks a return to the business fray after his family sold Chardon, which for many years had been led by daughter Nicola Taylor, to Atlas Hotels in a multi-million-pound deal in February 2022.

At the time of its sale, Chardon had owned six hotels trading under the Holiday Inn and Holiday Inn Express brands in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Dunfermline, and Perth.

The Taylor family had previously owned Chardon Management which by the time of its sale to Interstate Hotels & Resorts in 2013 was operating around 50 hotels for different owners under a range of major brands, including Hilton, IHG and Accor, with an employee base of around 2,500.

Mr Taylor, who had founded Parklands Country Club in Newton Mearns and has been awarded a CBE for his services to business and charity, hopes to help Mr Gutierrez Abril achieve his ambition of becoming the UK’s “most prominent” importer of green coffee from the Caribbean Region, while making farming fair for producers.

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He said: “I have a passion for building businesses but I’m too old to do it myself. With the Chardon Group now sold, I have time on my hands, but I love working. I want to help young entrepreneurs like Javier - I see myself in him. 

“This shows the benefit of universities welcoming foreign students. Javier has brought his experience, work ethic and insight into Scotland. He has put his heart and soul into his brilliant business. By growing their exciting companies in Scotland, entrepreneurs like Javier boost our economy. 

“He has ambition and passion for what he does - and he’s not frightened to work. I want to be on his team. 

“A lot of entrepreneurs quit or leave our country. We need zealous, ambitious, passionate people to light a fire under Scotland’s entrepreneurial ecosystem.” 

Mr Gutierrez Abril said coffee suppliers must fulfil the “three pillars” of business, fair pay and social well-being before Caribbean Goods buys coffee from them. This year it will import 11 coffees from Guatemala from a mix of private farms and small farm owners who form co-operatives.

He said: “I meet every farmer we trade with and visit their farm to vouch for what they offer. The furthest I have driven to cross-reference farmers is the Cuchumatanes mountains in the highlands of Guatemala; I did an eight-hour drive to reach those farmers from Guatemala City.

“We choose great quality coffees with strong well-being and sustainability values behind them.”

Caribbean Goods has been supported by Royal Bank of Scotland, the University of Strathclyde, and Business Gateway. It has also received Young EDGE funding from Scottish EDGE, the business funding competition.

Evelyin McDonald, chief executive of Scottish EDGE, said: “With Javier’s passion and enthusiasm for the business, as well as his strong environmental and social purpose, the judging panel could see great potential.

“Scotland’s vibrant and developed business economy is one of the country’s most vital assets in that it encourages overseas entrepreneurs, like Javier, to start their high-growth potential business ventures here, and we are proud to be playing a small part in supporting that journey.

“Globally, the coffee market is vast and therefore very competitive, but also poses an incredible opportunity for those with something unique to offer. Caribbean Goods' willingness to explore innovative new approaches whilst remaining committed to sustainable and ethical sourcing is commendable, and we look forward to supporting the company’s development.”