The rise of independents

Housewives up and down the country will be taking their morning coffee with a hefty dose of saccharine from now on, as ITV’s This Morning becomes the first UK television programme to feature product placement. From today, a Nespresso cappuccino machine will reside in the kitchen area of the studio, in a deal reportedly costing Nestlé £100,000.

Product placement – the practice of broadcasters being paid to place products on set in exchange for cash – has only just been legalised in the UK. However if you’ve seen a recent James Bond film, an episode of American Idol or the scene in Desperate Housewives where Bree Van de Kamp enthusiastically gushes about her new Lexus, you’ll know exactly what it is.

Whilst I’m sure our subtle and tasteful approach to advertising (Cillit Bang’s Barry Scott or Go Compare’s opera singing moron, anyone?) will ensure that product placement will be far more refined and elegant than our Transatlantic cousins, Nestlé’s foray into product placement speaks volumes about the way we enjoy coffee these days.

Big brand coffee just isn’t as hot as it used to be. Gold Blend may have been the classy cup to end a dinner party with in the 80s or even 90s, but in these Come Dine With Me times I’m sure it’d be a case of nil points to anyone serving it up these days.

It’s a similar story on the high street; the omnipresent Starbucks may have helped stimulate our desire for coffee which comes with more choices than simply “milk and sugar?”, but with its homogenous approach to quality and service across every store it means you could be in any Starbucks in the world and not even know what country you were in.

We’re still becoming more sophisticated in our coffee tastes, with the curiosity and willingness to try new things. That’s where the UK’s new breed of independent coffee shops are able to provide what Starbucks now can’t hope to – interesting coffees you’ve (hopefully) never tried before, all served with tasty shot of charm and personality.

Because we’re small we can employ people who are passionate about coffee and serving customers. We can also train them better, so they understand the coffee and where it comes from. If you’ve had a Latte made by our head coffee connoisseur Jamie, you’ll know his latte art is some of the best in the business. But all our Urbanistas will try and give him a run for his money if you order one – just one example of something you’ll probably never see in Starbucks, as it’d cost them millions to train their staff to be even semi-proficient at it. And when they’re not brewing up your cup, they’re probably bantering with you on Twitter.

It’s little wonder then that the big beasts of coffee are forced to spend hundreds of thousands of pounds on advertising to maintain their market share against the Young Turks like us snapping at their heels. So how can we compete against their marketing clout? Well actually we’re not even going to try. We’ve never spent a penny on advertising, and don’t intend to anytime soon.

So if you ever turn on your TV and see Phil and Holly fawning over a cup of Urban Coffee, you’ll know it’s because it’s actually good. Not because we’ve paid for them to do it.

Simon, Co-Founder-  filter coffee, black no sugar

Urban Emporiums | 30 Church Street, Birmingham, B3 2NP