Meet the Maker: Matthew Algie

Coffee-to-go expert explains the appeal of Smokin’ Bean

Alastair McGrath-McElhoney, coffee to go expert at Matthew Algie
Smokin’ Bean offers retailers many benefits, says Alastair McGrath-McElhoney.

Who are you and how did you find yourself at Matthew Algie?

I’m Alastair McGrath-McElhoney and I have worked in the coffee industry for the last 15 years, but I have been with Tchibo and Matthew Algie for the last seven years.

Last year, I moved into the coffee-to-go channel and more recently started my role as head of coffee-to-go & workplace.

What’s a typical working day like for you?

I work with a team of eight account managers who manage over 2000 individual customers throughout the UK.

These accounts vary from forecourts, convenience shops and a variety of workplace environments.

Smokin’ Bean produces a sustainable, affordable, high-quality drink and we’re finding more and more sectors are using our coffee-to-go solutions for this very reason.

What was the inspiration behind Smokin’ Bean?

Smokin’ Bean was launched in 2018 to challenge existing UK-based coffee-to-go brands.

Our focus was to provide the consumer with a top-quality, sustainable and great-tasting coffee. The market at that time left consumers with no insight into what was in their cup.

There was no mention of origins or certification and there was a huge absence of accessible speciality coffee. We deliberately have our full supply chain up front, so consumers know exactly where their coffee comes from.  

Our first Smokin’ Bean coffee-to-go concept was in Galashiels at the Esso Garage run by the Dalglish family and they have been with us ever since, so we must be doing something right.

Can you tell us a bit more about Smokin’ Bean?

Our coffee is roasted at our Glasgow roastery, which was the first in the world to achieve ‘One Carbon World’s Carbon Neutral International Standard’.

We source our beans from coffee farm co-operatives across the world, and our supply chain network is fully traceable. In other words, we are proud of the coffee we make and never hide from telling our consumers how and where their cup came from.

Two cups of Smokin' Bean branded coffee

Why has Smokin’ Bean been so successful?

Most importantly, our solution is profitable for retailers while offering consumers a great product.

Our models, Profit Share and Pay by Day, give retailers flexibility based on how they would like to operate and works in line with their projected cup sales. 

One key element is that there is no requirement for an up-front capital investment. The machine, branding, furniture unit, installation, and maintenance is all included. 

Retailers are billed based on the number of cups they sell. The feedback we’ve received from our existing customers is that these elements were a critical factor in them choosing Smokin’ Bean as their coffee-to-go partner.

What does Smokin’ Bean offer that your competitors do not? 

It is our flexible offering. Whether you are a business that sells a handful of cups a day, right up to well over 100 cups, we have a machine, a pricing structure, and a customer support team to ensure you have the right product for your business.

Our service is tailored to support your business, so if you need to alter or change anything, we can assist with that.

Retailers are facing ever-increasing operating costs and our monthly invoicing system helps companies not just increase their profits but also maintain cash flow.

A business selling 50 cups per day will make around £20,000 in profit per year, so the more solutions we can provide that help businesses do business, the better the result for everyone. 

So, what is the next for Smokin’ Bean? 

We are proud to be launching our new Rainforest Alliance certified coffee range – Miriam’s Blend.

This is named after one of our young coffee farmers who is also a participant in Smokin’ Bean’s ‘Project Next Gen’. Our new coffee solution utilises powdered milk, which is hugely beneficial for retailers.

It has eliminated fresh milk costs and the labour required to maintain this type of solution is also reduced. Less resources and more profits are always welcomed by our customers. 

The key thing is the quality of the coffee. It’s exceptionally high, so it is a real game-changer in the market.