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Sustainability Hero of the Month: Owens Coffee

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Food Drink Devon
Posted on
28 Sep 2021
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Food Drink Devon’s ‘Sustainability Hero of the month’ is Owens Coffee!

We asked the team at Owens Coffee to tell us more about how they produce coffee, with  sustainability at its core.

About Owens Coffee

Owens Coffee is 100% organic, 100% Fairtrade and 100% Freshly roasted in Devon.

Since 2010, Owens Coffee has roasted a 100% certified organic & Fairtrade coffee range in Devon. Sustainability has been at the heart of the business from day one, and for Owens, that covers the protection of the people and communities involved in producing the coffee they roast, as well as protecting the environment.

What have you done to make your business more environmentally friendly?

Sustainable raw product

Sustainability starts with the coffee bean. Producers are organic farmers, which means no chemicals used in production and beans which are usually shade-grown. This makes production slower, which, as it happens, benefits the flavour as well as the land and environment; demonstrated by the fact that Owens Coffee won the Best Organic Coffee in the UK in the Soil Association’s BOOM Awards.

Owens is certified organic and that involves extensive work to gain certification from the UK’s Soil Association, who monitor the coffee product, from farming to the roasting process and all the way to the cup.

Owens’ coffee range is 100% Fairtrade, supporting farming communities who grow the beans by ensuring a fair price is paid, together with a Fairtrade Premium. This helps producer communities to thrive and become even more sustainable through the development of diversification, training and expansion programmes.

Sustainably roasted

Owens Coffee is ‘clean-roasted’. The business invested in ‘clean technology’ when it recently replaced its roasting equipment. The new Loring Kestrel eco-roaster is a leader in its field for energy efficiency. It uses 80% less energy than other roasters and reduced greenhouse gases in every roast, compared to its conventional counterparts.

Sustainable packaging

Packaging is an important environmental concern at The Roastery. The impact of packaging on transportation has been considered: jars and tins take up the same empty space when full as they do empty and need twice as much transportation capacity than flexible packaging, hence coffee is supplied in pouches. The environmental credentials of the pouches have improved over many years and these are now 100% recyclable, which includes the valve (we are advised this is no small achievement!).

Sustainable premises

At the same time an investment was made into the eco-roaster, Owens moved into purpose-built premises, built using latest tech to make it as energy efficient and low-impact as possible. The building is an impressive, contemporary facility.

Reducing waste

Finally, waste is taken very seriously. Since 2010, Owens has only ever sold 100% compostable takeaway cups, reducing landfill. The business uses a zero to landfill local waste contractor to reduce its carbon footprint and promote a sustainable business community. Waste coffee grinds are taken weekly to the garden centre based next door, who mix the grinds with composting. Pallets are collected to be reused and Owens provides coffee sacks to Dartmoor Zoo for animal enrichment experiences, as well as selling them in the shop to customers, encouraging them to ‘get creative’!

What would you like to change in the future to improve your sustainability credentials further?

Owens will continue to meet all the standards set out by the Soil Association and Fairtrade Foundation which provide an excellent guide to ‘best practice’.

The business recently introduced a wider food range in its shop and takeaway at Ivybridge, sourcing local food and cold drinks.

Over many years, the management at Owens Coffee has actively lobbied the packaging industry. Labels are used instead of a printed pouch, which means the business can react quickly (and without wastage) to changes in product information and to adopting new packaging innovations. Owens will keep pushing for developments and supporting businesses making inroads towards a more sustainable product.

What tips do you have for other businesses that would like to become more sustainable?

All of the above is the result of an initial commitment to sustainability goals. Lorraine Bridden, Managing Director for Owens Coffee explains “Everyone in the business needs to know that this is something you stand for. After you’ve set a clear intention for your business (which needs to be as clear as your financial goals), it is important not to rest on your laurels. We are always looking out for new developments.

Having built a loyal following amongst a group of people who consider the environment and traceability of the goods they and/or their customers consume, our customers now give us great feedback and insights. We listen to them and have an internal system for escalating ideas. As an example, we’ll soon be partnering with an app to sell any surplus fresh foods in our shop. The app was recommended by a customer who happened to come into The Roastery one day and left us a direct message on Instagram. That was fed right back to me and one of my colleagues is now making this happen!

Speaking regularly with other businesses who have a similar interest in sustainability as a core business value is invaluable. Where possible, make those connections in your networks. Talk to them!

Finally, don’t lose sight of the fact that every small change towards sustainability is a leap. It can take a long time to build sustainability into the very DNA of your business, but it has to start somewhere and every positive step has a ripple effect on the world around us!”

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