In July 2012 Hambleside Merchandise picked up an unusual online procurement request from Twinings for the production of bespoke tea storage jars for use in Costa coffee shops.
If you go into any of Costa’s 1,600 stores across the UK today, you can buy flavoured Twinings teas as an alternative to your normal mocha, latte or espresso. They are beautifully displayed behind the counter and made easily accessible to the baristas in new jars – or caddies as they are known in the trade.
With Twinings introducing four new tea flavours to Costa stores at the start of January 2013, time was at a premium to meet the brief for new caddies. Twinings were specific about the dimensions and usage and suggested that the caddy be made from acrylic. Hambleside Merchandise sourced a local bespoke acrylic product manufacturer and created a sample. However, an early visit to a Costa store showed that a precision engineered product was required to suit the Costa shelving units and regular handling demands.
After 15 prototypes were made for store trials over a 10 day period in August, it was established that polycarbonate would be a better alternative to acrylic. Not only is polycarbonate a third of the cost, but it is clear, robust, shatterproof and lightweight. Manufacturing the product in the Far East seemed a good option for keeping a lid on cost, but the precise specification requirements, tight launch schedule and shipping costs pointed to keeping production at home. An alternative manufacturer needed sourcing.
Hambleside Danelaw, the sister company of Hambleside Merchandise was the obvious solution. With proven in-house capability for detailed technical drawings and for seeking approval of technical data for safety certification, Hambleside Danelaw was able to undertake the manufacturing at its own British facilities in the Midlands. Before moulding machines went into action, final discussions took place with Twinings about the thickness of the caddy’s lid and dimensions were agreed which guaranteed ease of use for the barista. The end design resulted in the caddy being sloped sided to allow better grip to pull it down from the shelf. With a row of them, it is easier to get fingers between two caddies than ones with straight edges.
For the tooling, Hambleside Danelaw partnered with a Northamptonshire firm that makes high quality plastic injection moulded products. Once the tool had been made and tested, production began in early December and within two weeks, 6,400 pieces had been made to be distributed in sets of four. When the bases and lids were manufactured, a custom fit rubber seal was made to meet the exact specification in that it was tight but easy to remove. The labels were printed on clear self-adhesive vinyl and individually hand applied to the caddies by a team at Hambleside Danelaw.
Delays on the artwork for the labelling meant that we were in danger of missing the store launch of the new flavours, so we also offered to undertake fulfilment and distribution to 1,600 Costa addresses – each individually tracked. For the launch, each Costa store only received one set of four caddies. There were a few discrepancies with the deliveries – a lot of motorway service stations house two Costa stores on each side of the motorway which meant that several service stations got two sets of caddies on one side and the other side got none! We worked quickly to rectify this situation using the individual tracking system so the stores weren’t without their caddies for long.
All caddies were in place on 6th January and they are now clearly visible in the Costa outlets. The Twinings team and Hambleside Merchandise’s Bill Copland visited over 100 stores to check on quality and feedback has been extremely positive. Previously the loose teabags were stored in boxes out of view at the back of the store, but now Twinings’ profile within Costa has risen substantially because the new caddies have provided eye-catching visibility for the new flavours.
The second production run has just been completed and 400 sets of caddies have been sent out to Costa’s distribution centre to service new stores. Twinings will also be using the caddies as a standard item to display their product in hotels and leisure centres, not just in Costa coffee shops. Work has recently begun on the development of future versions of the tea caddy for Twinings and Hambleside has been granted permission to promote the jars as merchandise for storage of other products.
This project is a fantastic example of how the diverse companies within the Hambleside Group can work together using specific skills and competencies.