Metropolitan Pavilion, New York |October 8 - 10, 2021

How a Specialty Coffee Cup Brand Went International

20 September 2019

Get to know the founders behind the coffee cups you'll find in the best cafes around the world⁠— and at roast masters.


Jeff Kennedy and Bridget Dunn are the owners of Acme & Co, the New Zealand-based specialty coffee cup brand that you see all over the globes in many of the world’s very best cafes. They also happen to be the cup sponsor of Roast Masters New York 2019. We sat down with Jeff and Bridget to find out more about the brand and their lives in the hospitality business.
 

you founded Acme as a result of your ‘long-standing ambition to create the cups you’d always wanted.’ Can you elaborate?

 
Jeff: Bridget and I were co-owners in a coffee company, and we imported all the things that supported café coffee⁠—espresso machines, grinders and… Italian ceramic cups.
 
Bridget: The brand was the best on the market at the time. We imported lots of them and they ended up in just about every café in the country. But they were only in white and brown, and the handles were quite hard to get one’s fingers in. 
 
Jeff: We also found that our back storeroom was full of saucers as you couldn’t just buy the cup. So, we introduced new designs, made a universal saucer for three cup styles that was sold separately and added to the colour range.
 
Bridget: A whole lot of little things that made Acme nicer to hold, easier to deal with and more versatile.
 
Jeff: The Italian company went out of a business about a year after we started Acme. So we ended up growing even more rapidly than we anticipated in New Zealand.


 

How did you approach international growth?

 
Jeff: Very straight forward, we went to our friends who had started coffee companies overseas.
 
Bridget: It’s said that there are one million New Zealanders abroad at any time. We used the kiwi coffee network.
 
Jeff: Our two first international distributors were in Melbourne and London which also happened to be the two cities leading the specialty coffee movement.
 
Bridget: Coffee Supreme in Melbourne and Caravan Coffee Roasters in London were instrumental in our success. Their early support of our cups meant that we were seen in a number of very influential cafes.
 

tell us about Prefab, your 180-seater flagship café for Acme?

 
Bridget: When we sold the coffee company we owned we also sold the café that was at its core. I missed the interaction with my customers, there’s simply nothing better than what unfolds over a cup of coffee.
 
Jeff: Bridget wanted a little espresso bar open in the mornings – I’d roast the beans and she would make coffee. Then we’d fulfil cup orders in the afternoon.
 
Bridget: Yes, that is what I wanted. And now there’s an event space where we used to store the cups and we have the biggest café in Wellington and over seventy-five staff.

 

What's the inspiration behind the colour palette of the cups and saucers?

 
Jeff: The grey is our most popular colour. I painted my VW Kombi the same colour. It’s the tone that makes it good. It has warmth to it, like the colour of a dolphin.
 
Bridget: The blue came from the masthead of a design magazine. There’s a lot of different inspiration to the colours, but tonally we make sure they look like a family.


 

What does an average day look like?
 

Bridget: I’m at work at 5am, we have to be well prepared as we’re open and busy at 7am with most of our regular customers already seated in their favourite spot and patiently waiting for it to begin.
 
Jeff: I roast coffee every morning and the roasting area has a bar around it. I’ll chat to customers as I roast. It’s the best research you’ll ever do.

 
What’s your favourite part of your job?

 
Bridget: As a host you have the power to transform and enhance a person’s day. If a customer comes in a bad mood, you can restore their day. Food, coffee and good surroundings are powerful things.
 

And your least favourite?

 
Jeff: We had quite a break from doing what we do after we sold our last coffee company. We missed it. You won’t hear us complain about any aspect of it.
 

If you could serve any coffee in the world in an Acme cup, what would it be and why?
 

Bridget: Anything Jeff is roasting. He’s constantly tweaking the blend, the roast profile. Always on the pursuit to make it better.
 
Jeff: I know that the kids who run Acme & Co day to day are keen on lighter roasted African coffees. That’s why we have just introduced a new lighter, finer cup called Roman. It shows the evolution of coffee and the move away from the traditional espresso, to a lighter style of coffee and flavours.  
  

roasters and baristas will be using acme & co cups all weekend long at roast masters. for tickets, click here.

interesting in using acme & co cups in your coffee shop or restaurant? For wholesale orders of Acme & Co products click here

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