*This is an archived post from 2016. Since interviewing the team at We Are Littles, the brand has gone 100% Plastic Free!*
We caught up with the director’s of We Are Littles to learn a little bit more about the brand and to find out just what it takes to run a successful foodie business in the South West…
Can you tell us about how We Are Little’s got started?
Our journey started over 25 years ago in Finland where husband and wife team Henry and Leila Little first conceived the idea of making American style flavoured coffee. Finland? American style coffee? Yes, Leila is a Finnish national, and Henry was an American student who was studying in Scandinavia when the two met. During their travels to California, the pair had been inspired by speciality coffee roasters who were adding natural extracts to their coffee beans. Inspired by this alternative to the usual cup of joe, the couple returned to Finland, packed in their day jobs and started roasting their own beans, infusing them with flavour extracts from their favourite ingredients. Little did they know that they were on their way to becoming committed flavour enthusiasts.
Although small at first, their plan started to gather momentum, and by the early nineties they were standing toe to toe with some of Scandinavia’s most prolific coffee roasters; somewhat of a David and Goliath scenario, you could say. By 1995 the pair decided that it was time to broaden their horizons and take their idea to greener pastures, and so in August 1995 Henry and Leila, along with their two children moved to England.
My name is Will and I’m one of the children. I now run our family business with my wife Caroline. Today our products have evolved to suit peoples busy lifestyles with our flavour infused instant coffees stealing the show. They’re super easy to make (and super tasty) so you have more time to enjoy the good things in life like catching up with friends or a good game of scrabble.
How big is the We Are Little’s team?
There is a team of 9 of us in total. We are still quite small but mighty! ;)]
If you had to sum up your brand in one sentence, what would you say?
We are Little’s ‘The Flavour Enthusiasts’ and we’re here to liven up your cup. A cup of coffee should make you happy. It’s that moment in the day to look forward to and savour. That’s what our products are all about.
What is your favourite thing about being based in the South West?
The South West is a beautiful part of the world. After living and working in London we both now appreciate how beautiful (and relaxing) returning home and living in Devon is. The Moors and north coast beaches on our doorstep really do make living in this part of the world an absolute delight! I wouldn’t swap it for the world, however a little apartment in sunny California for some winter sun would be our dream…
What (if any) obstacles have you faced in running a foodie business?
I think our biggest challenge was moving our factory! We moved our factory November 2015. Will and I had been preparing for the move for almost year. The reason for moving was so we could grow the business. It wasn’t possible for us to grow and take the business to where we wanted in the premises we were in. We are now in our lovely new factory which has allowed us to get SALSA (a food certification essential for the food industry) and to employ a few new members of staff to join our little team. It has been a lot of work to get to this stage. Will and I bought a shell and designed the interior factory space and new offices. It was so rewarding seeing it all come together and now I feel very lucky to be in a brand new office!
Can you briefly tell us about the process that goes into creating a new instant coffee flavour?
I can indeed, however I can’t divulge the exact process as it’s a trade secret! We recently launched a new Coconut flavour instant coffee. We began by sourcing some new flavours in order to put together a new flavour recipe. We always try to keep all our flavours 100% natural. Once the flavour is made up we test a small batch of instant coffee with the flavour using our special techniques unique to us (that’s the secret bit!). The coffee is then decanted in to a jar and sealed. This is then shelf tested for several months to make sure the seal holds and the flavour infuses nicely with the coffee. We all try out the new flavour day by day in house and if it passes the test we get going with the first production run! In terms of a new artwork for the label, we get Will, our in house designer on the case to get this designed up and sent off to the printers. It’s quite a speedy process. We are actually working on a few more flavours right now…
Which flavour would you say is the most popular with We Are Littles customers?
At the moment Island Coconut is the most popular due to the coconut trend and the fact that it tastes ridiculously amazing. After coconut good ol’ French Vanilla takes the trophy. Classic and epic.
If you could only drink one type of coffee for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Well, of course Little’s Coffee! We also have a sister company called Roastworks. This is a small Roastery Will and I set up 2 years ago to fill a gap in the market for artisan specialty coffee in the retail market. We Roast our own coffee and sell our 200g retail packs of beans and pre ground to the likes of M&S and Harvey Nichols. My favourite coffee I’d drink all day every day is our Kenyan or Ethiopian coffee. Our Kenyan is an explosion of blackcurrant and the Ethiopian is light, fruity and has hints of Jasmine.
Do you have any plans for new products? Perhaps even a decaffeinated range?
Yes we do! We have been contemplating the decaf flavoured range for some time now so we would like to start developing this now and get this launched for the Autumn. We also have some cool new flavour ideas like Peanut Butter and Banoffee coffee. You’ll be surprised how great these taste!