Five years of BRWing success

April 5, 2024 | By Rupkatha B

Laura Manning, Managing Director & Founder, BRW Society

Launched in 2019 by Laura Manning, UAE-based homegrown brand BRW Society completes five years of being operational in 2024.

The backstory that began “from a dining room table” goes like this…After moving to the UAE from the UK, Manning was keen to find a way to encourage tea lovers to slow down and savour small moments while sipping a nutrient-rich cuppa. At that time, she noticed a gap in the local market for specialty tea, herbal blends and premium loose-leaf options. Spotting a business opportunity, she founded BRW Society, initially with a range of loose-leaf teas before expanding to a wider selection of teas and now coffee bags too.

What’s more, the brand secured an initial round of funding in 2021 and is currently on the verge of initiating the second funding round to expand into new markets and broaden its customer base.

BRW Society at a Glance

  • Product range: Offers 24 functional tea bag blends and 7 freshly ground coffee packs.
  • Retail footprint: Presence in the UAE through its own e-commerce website, while stockists including Carrefour, Grandiose Supermarket, Kibsons, Spinneys and Waitrose, among others.
  • Regional expansion: BRW expanded into the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in 2023 in collaboration with Panda Hypermarkets.

On a “remarkable” growth trajectory

BRW Society has seen “remarkable growth,” especially over the past 12 months. On the product side, a big one has been the launch of its coffee bags, tailored for discerning coffee enthusiasts who are looking for convenience without compromising on the flavour. Available in a range of flavours, these coffee bags are perfect for those on-the-go as well as for those looking for low calorie options while enjoying some unique flavours such as dark chocolate.  “No grinder, no machines, no mess, just great coffee” – that’s how Manning described BRW’s coffee bags.

“Our expansion into Saudi Arabia in August 2023, in collaboration with Panda Hypermarkets, has brought the essence of BRW Society’s lifestyle to over 55 stores nationwide,” she added.

Secret to success

One of the factors that played a big role in driving BRW’s success was winning the first edition of the Spinneys-driven incubator programme. “It helped in driving brand awareness, building a solid product range and opening up collaboration and networking opportunities for us,” Manning acknowledged.

Asked about top learnings from operating in a crowded market segment, she said, “Its essential to remain agile and always carry out in-depth market research to ensure we do everything with a purpose. We’ve always placed a strong emphasis on customer feedback, constantly seeking inputs to improve our offerings and ensure that we’re meeting the needs of our customers. Happy customers are the most loyal customers and loyal customers are the best ambassadors for a brand.”

Having said that, achieving success hasn’t been a cakewalk, with BRW having to pivot very quickly after it launched. “BRW first launched into retail stores as a loose-leaf tea brand. While people loved how our collection of whole ingredient teas tasted, they were seeking a more convenient solution, which is when we developed our plastic-free tea bag collection. Another pivot was to move our manufacturing facility from the UAE to the UK,” Manning shared.

“As a small but growing business one of the advantages is that we can move and pivot very quickly which enables us to not only improve our products but always put customer experience at the core of what we do,” she added.

[Look out for IMAGES RetailME TV’s exclusive interview with Laura Manning on pivots, funding, sustainability and more]

Balancing purpose and growth

“We have ambitious plans at BRW Society for the next two-three years. Our objective is to launch new product lines, including wellness-focused blends and specialty coffee varieties; reach a million new customers; expand into all GCC markets; and establish stronger retail and HoReCa channels in the region,” Manning revealed.

Importantly, sustainability will remain a top priority for BRW Society, with initiatives aimed at reducing its environmental footprint through innovative packaging solutions, supply chain optimisation and sustainable sourcing practices. For instance, BRW has mindfully collaborated with a tea garden in Assam, India that’s known for sustainable cultivation practices. Moreover, by sourcing tea from these gardens, BRW is supporting economic empowerment of women working in these estates, while also organising workshops on safety, self-defence, menstrual hygiene and entrepreneurship.

Staying true to its sustainability goals, on the product and packaging side, BRW produces its tea and coffee bags in pouches made from renewable wood pulp called Natureflex. It’s a sustainable alternative to oil-based plastic packaging that’s 100% recyclable. “We’ve also introduced a home compostable packaging solution, aligning with eco-conscious consumers’ desire for sustainable living, particularly in hotel environments,” Manning concluded.

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