Change is brewing
As concerns for our climate flood our newspapers and television screens, Bray is jumping on an eco-friendly path thanks to Catalyst, a new sustainable coffee shop.
Noticing a gap in the market, local lads Luke Gorman, Nathan Walsh, and Ross Nolan created their first business venture, specialising in artisan coffee with environmental sustainability at the heart. Co-owner, Luke Gorman, tells IF&CR how it all got started.
“Catalyst Coffee really started with Nathan, Ross and I wanted to get into business together. I was finishing my degree, and always wanted to open up my own coffee shop, plus Ross and Nathan always wanted to run their own business, so the three of us just came together and decided we were going to go for it.
“We were confident in the idea seeing that there was a gap in the market for a grab-and-go style coffee shop here. We knew that our hometown, Bray, needed a place where people could get speciality coffee, but we also saw a gap in the market for an eco-friendly store, seeing how our society is moving forward into a more environmentally friendly mind frame.
“We sell eco-friendly, sustainable products, that help reduce the amount of carbon footprint and therefore make an impact on climate change.”
“Personally, I’ve been involved in the hospitality sector for over seven years, working in kitchens, catering and cafes. There have been so many changes over the years in the food and convenience industry. Automation has become a bigger priority, especially around coffee. Precision and efficiency, especially again when it comes to coffee and food, are key today.
“I think people are a lot more aware of where their food is sourced from today. This can be a good and bad thing. Negatively, it can hinder some of the creativity in getting foods from all over the world, but it’s a good shift in the sense that customers know they can rely on safe, quality foods that are sourced right here in Ireland.”
The store, which opened 10 weeks ago, has already been seen great success, welcoming queues of customers on a regular basis to try their “unreal” coffee. As well as serving up an array of vegan friendly meals, they also retail sustainable, eco-friendly products such as floor cleaners, soaps and even tablet toothpaste.
Luke adds: “Our regular customer base includes young professionals and students who are usually willing to pay that little bit extra for a speciality coffee. However, we also get an influx of mothers coming in after they’ve dropped their kids to school. We hear a lot of mothers wanting to try something vegan or gluten-free because their kids have tried it and it’s making an influence on them.
“Flat white coffees are our best sellers. It gives the best of both worlds because you get that creamy coffee texture but can still taste the actual coffee, where’s with lattes and cappuccinos the coffee taste is usually diluted.
“We also sell sustainable convenience products like bamboo toothbrushes. They’re really popular because I think a lot of people get overwhelmed when they start to think about the ways they have to change their lives to be more eco-friendly. But swapping a regular toothbrush for a bamboo one is a small, yet effective way of stepping into a more environmentally sustainable lifestyle, and I think our customers are really responding to that.
“Domestic products fly out as well. We sell Lilly’s Eco Clean products, and it’s extremely popular. It’s also another Irish business, and we love that because we want to support as many local businesses as possible.”
Over the years, the rise of ‘grab-and-go’ establishments in urban areas has taken over the food and convenience sector. More and more consumers are looking for fast, convenient food solutions, with little time to waste. However, the challenge for many retailers is combining top quality products that taste great, with speedy, convenient service.
“We see a lot of people just grabbing food and going back to the office. We strive for a good balance of convenience and quality for all our consumers, so we’re always testing quality. We have close friends and family who know what a great cup of coffee should taste like, so we seek out expert advice from them and others to make sure we’re producing the best brew we can.
“I think what makes us stand out the most amongst our competitors the most is our passion for sustainability and our acute eco-consciousness. We make sacrifices in our business to encourage our customers to get behind the sustainable movement. As well as using compostable takeaway cups, we charge less on alternative milks that are better for the environment, and give discount to people coming in with re-usable cups. It’s the small things that make such a big difference.
“Being young and local also makes us stand out I think. We’re more prone to take creative risks compared to bigger, corporate companies. We started serving our ice coffee in actual glasses. It costs us more, but it’s an ethical decision, and our customers seem to really love that.
“By next year, we want to be taking our business to the next stage by travelling around and having a mobile business so we can spread the news of our ethos and provide speciality coffee and snacks to music festivals, gigs, and other events.”
With a thriving social media presence, and a packed out shop during most hours of the day, customers are clearly getting behind the sustainable movement that the boys behind the business are advocating for. As more and more businesses seek to find ways to bring eco-friendly changes to their operations, the team at Catalyst Coffee hope that their model and ethos will spark inspiration and change.