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It’s now been about two years since the world faced the brunt of the COVID-19 crisis, and for Kim Thompson, the co-owner and Managing Director of UAE-based RAW Coffee Company, just getting to where we are today in 2022 -when the pandemic is slowly but surely becoming a thing of the past- is something she is especially happy about the year that was, for both herself and her business. “Realistically, surviving the COVID-19 crisis has to be the first highlight,” Thompson says. “Working and living with masks, social distancing, no events– it’s just so good to be out the other end of it. We feel fortunate that we have been able to retain our team at RAW, and with the pause in normal operations, we’ve had the time to concentrate on internal trainings, and to make changes on areas of the business that needed improvement, as well as time to focus on what we could do to improve our customers’ experiences.”

RAW Coffee Company
Kim Thompson, Co-Owner And Managing Director, RAW Coffee Company

Launched in 2007 by Thompson and Matt Toogood, RAW is known for being one of the first specialty coffee roasters in Dubai- it started out as a small roastery in the Emirate’s Al Quoz neighborhood, and it has since grown into becoming a full-service roastery and café, as well as a supplier to several other independent cafés.

Caffeine enthusiasts will swear by RAW’s coffee beans, which are all organically certified and roasted in small batches, either as single origins or blends- the enterprise also happens to be one of the few local roasters roasting premium-grade Arabica coffee that is both organic and direct-trade, right here in the UAE. In 2022 though, RAW decided to broaden its offerings. “We founded a new company called RAW Beverage Trading, as we had the luxury of the pause in normal business, and while looking at new opportunities, we realized, we were missing non-coffee beverages of a similar quality to the specialty coffee we deliver– sourced ethically, high quality, healthy, and no added nasties,” Thompson reveals. “So, we have partnered with New Zealand-based Bon Accord to now offer premium single-origin drinking chocolates, ceremonial grade matchas, beautiful fruit pulps for smoothies and frappes, iced teas, and dehydrated ice-cream bases, which has really added to our offering, and strengthened the commercial partnerships we have with our customers. We were looking for these items at RAW, so we felt confident that our B2B customers were too, which has proven correct.”

Source: RAW Coffee Company

2022 also saw the company launch ReadyRAW, its convenient coffee solution that enables you to brew your own coffee, quite literally anywhere. “All you need is a kettle, a cup, and some good quality water; super simple, hassle-free brewing that delivers consistent exceptional quality, and retains freshness,” Thompson explains, adding that ReadyRAW can be seen as a showcase of her company’s 15 years of expertise in specialty coffee. “I am super proud to be celebrating 15 years of RAW, along with 51 years of the UAE, this amazing country we call home; so, we have created an anniversary blend called 15:51,” she adds. “This very special coffee is a celebration of diversity; it is complex, surprising, and evocative. We have done the unthinkable and used a beautiful washed Colombian Gesha varietal with one of our bestselling African sundried naturals for this blend, with amazing flavors of mangosteen, guava, and sweet pear.”

Related: Off The Beaten Path: Kinoya Founder Neha Mishra On How She Got To Where She Is Today (And Where She’s Headed Next)

RAW has thus been clearly hard at work on growing its offerings in 2022. But Thompson reveals here that her company has also been working on a refresh of its brand, an undertaking that will see it launch, in 2023, new packaging made out of sustainable, recyclable material, as well as a new interactive website. “We have also reached the threshold with our expansion into other MENA markets, and we will be building our new roastery in KSA,” Thompson adds. “This is a decisive step for us, which we have organically been working towards for a number of years. We have been really cautious and taken our time to forge strong relationships with the right businesses, and the timing is now good for us.”

Source: RAW Coffee Company

Reflections 2022: Kim Thompson, Co-Owner And Managing Director, RAW Coffee Company

Communication is key “We’ve realized the importance of strong communication, both internally within our team, but also to our ‘tribe,’ our customers, both B2B and B2C. We’ve felt the need to focus on connections, looking at all areas of our supply chain, from the farmers and producers at origin, all the way to our end consumer– and trying to put ourselves in their shoes, to best understand how we can support each other, or do better.”

Efficiency and efficacy go hand-in-hand “We have become way better at having efficient shorter meetings, coming up with solutions for best- and worst-case scenarios, to always be prepared for what was coming next. We knew there would be a flick of the tail after the COVID-19 crisis, so we had already planned solutions to ensure continuity, factoring longer shipping times and additional costs, for example.”

Stay strong on maintaining core values, and not compromising on quality of your product/service “We lost a large percentage of our B2B consumers over the course of the COVID-19 crisis. In our industry, there are many new players, and there is lots of noise and disruption in the market, which is a distraction, and there is always the temptation to concede margins, or reduce costs. But we have held on and slowly clawed back, increasing production, capturing new customers, and have had old customers return to us, as they now understood and valued the total solution of what we offer.”

Related: 2022, The Year That Was: Lynn Lin, Co-Owner, Electric Pawn Shop

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