Sustainability From Plant To Cup: V3 Gourmet Sets The Standard For The Global Mass-Affluent Market
Bumpy trips that start out speeding along dusty highways that soon turn into winding roads, then dirt tracks that tunnel deep into mountains, leading higher into the mist, clouds and biting cold. Such is the journey to tea plantations and coffee farms that Taha Bouqdib, CEO of luxury group V3 Gourmet makes on his annual pilgrimage.
It’s a beautiful image, steeped in the majesty of nature. But it’s one that places us firmly in the mindset of Mr. Bouqdib.
The group he founded runs lifestyle brands like TWG Tea and Bacha Coffee which has flagship tea salons and coffee rooms, distributorships and an extensive e-commerce platform that delivers to the world.
But they’re looking to do more.
V3 Gourmet is seeking to earmark traditional brands and reshape them into sustainable legacy marques for the fast-growing accessible luxury and prestige sector. Over the next three years, V3 Gourmet plans to invest a further USD 100 million into developing and managing gourmet lifestyle brands with an eye on the global mass-affluent market. The challenge, as the business grows, is to be a responsible giant that cares about the planet and the communities it works with.
“Our long-term commitment to responsible tea and coffee sourcing has led to the establishment of dedicated gardens on the estates of iconic partners.” says Bouqdib. “Sustainably grown tea and coffee also depend on a dedicated and skilled workforce, and an understanding of their history and the customs of the people who call the plantations home.”
SUSTAINABILITY BEGINS AT THE FARM
To protect and develop access to the ingredients needed to run a global empire, V3 Gourmet is providing long-term investments and support for its best suppliers. Its work to encourage sustainable practices has transformed the tea industry, making the firm leaders in their field.
For starters, TWG Tea supports reforestation programmes through its partners while also providing for the community. In Rwanda, its partner tea estate has planted over 157,000 trees in 2020 alone as part of reforestation efforts. Over on the Okayti tea estate in Darjeeling, its partner distributes cows to plantation workers at no cost, provides milk for the workers’ families and enables any surplus to be sold for additional income.
The sustainable journey then takes to the road, transporting the very best tea leaves and coffee beans to the company’s headquarters in Singapore. There, the beans and leaves are blended and packaged for the boutiques, tea salons, and coffee rooms. Singapore’s location places it at the epicentre of source gardens for tea in locations such as Darjeeling in India and Yunnan in China, and reputable coffee-producing countries, from regions like Asia, and the Arabian Peninsula. This was a strategic decision, to reduce freight and keep tea leaves and coffee beans fresh without going through multiple ports of shipment.
Sustainability considerations in stores
The sustainability practices also extend to its brick-and-mortar stores, numbering (at the time of writing) at 70 tea salons in 18 countries for TWG Tea and 9 stores in 3 countries for Bacha Coffee. Standard operating procedures in all stores are applied across the globe to operate sustainably.
For example, all TWG Tea salons practise water conservation, where proprietary designed water dispensers are used to automatically turn the water spout off when it is not in use, greatly minimising water wastage. This helps to conserve approximately 5,800,000 litres of water — equivalent to two Olympic sized swimming pools — each year.
Both TWG Tea and Bacha Coffee have eliminated the use of plastic straws and replaced them with recyclable glass straws in their tea salons and coffee rooms. Customers are also encouraged to return to the stores to refill their existing tea or coffee tins with loose tea leaves or coffee beans, reducing the need for new tins and packaging.
E-Commerce: A new frontier in sustainability
By 2020, V3 Gourmet saw growth in every market the company has an online presence in. In August the same year, TWG Tea started expanding its digital retail footprint globally, focusing on establishing new official online stores in third party marketplaces. By the end of 2020, TWG Tea had surpassed its target of launching 20 new official online stores, with a total of 28 new official online stores in third party marketplaces. The brand also doubled the size of its eCommerce team to support its growing online business and operations.
“We have noticed that this new online shopping trend is remaining consistent even in instances when social distancing measures were lifted, proving that consumer behaviour has evolved,” says Bouqdib. “As the brand grows in this area, it is important for us to ensure that we put sustainable practices in place so that we maintain long term growth.”
A six-figure sum was invested in an e-commerce warehouse and fulfilment centre located in central Singapore, adopting responsible back-end practices. V3 Gourmet avoids using packing materials unnecessarily when delivering eCommerce purchases, and uses customised 100 percent recycled carton boxes to protect the products while reducing the need for additional cushioning. Minimising the extra volumetric weight of packing materials also potentially reduces its carbon footprint. It also uses plastic sparingly — with the exception of its most fragile accessories. Although dreamy, the journey tea leaves and coffee beans take is an arduous journey. V3 Gourmet believes that it can make a difference in making this journey a sustainable one so that generations to come will be able to enjoy the same quality of tea and coffee we do today, making it better for business in the long term.
“Coffee and tea exists everywhere,” says Bouqdib. “Everybody drinks some form of it, so it’s vital that we take care of the planet, so it will in turn, take care of us.”