After investing £4 million in new premises, one of Dundee’s oldest businesses is ready for the future.
Private label packing group Aimers Coffee and Tea was founded in 1884. Its former Milnbank Road factory was regarded a Dundee landmark.
Last year, it relocated to new 35,000 sq ft factory at Dryburgh Industrial Estate. The firm spent close to £4m on the facility and new equipment.
The firm has prepared for the move since 2018 as its old premises did not allow for the strong growth it was seeing.
Chairman Eric Duncan believes Aimers is now ready for whatever the future brings.
“In the middle of a pandemic moving premises and investing heavily in the business, it’s not necessarily the best thing, “It’s a difficult period for the whole economy,” he says.
“You have to be brave to go forward
“This is an investment for the future to allow us to go forward.”
Tea and coffee market is safe
The investment in equipment has gone towards automating the production process as much as possible.
Mr Duncan explains this gives a guarantee of a consistently good product.
With just under 30 staff, the Faraday Street facility produces in excess of 1,000 tonnes of tea and coffee each year.
Even with Brexit and the Covid-19 pandemic hitting at the same time, Aimers managed to weather the storm.
The chairman says: “Tea and coffee is still a product people consume no matter what happens.
“The coffee-to-go market has been phenomenal during the pandemic, so things were actually OK for us.
“But it did have its challenges, like every business had.”
Aimers one of Scotland’s largest roasters
As a private label producer, Aimers is found mostly at cafes, hotels and restaurants rather than kitchen cupboards.
Despite keeping a low profile, Mr Duncan thinks the majority of Scots have Aimers tea or coffee more often than they realise.
“Anywhere you would drink coffee out of home is where our product would end up,” he explains.
“The majority of people in the UK will consume our products, maybe not on a daily basis, but at least once a week.”I don’t know if we’re the largest coffee roaster in Scotland, but we could well be.”
While Brits still prefer tea – the expert estimates for every two cups of tea drunk there is one cup of coffee – the roasted coffee market is on the up.
Now more than ever, customers want to know where the coffee they drink has come from.
Giving back to coffee communities
To give back to coffee growing communities and encourage work in the industry, the firm cooperates with a school in Tanzania.
Over the past five years, the Dundee firm has encouraged children to stay in school so they can get a job in the industry later.
Mr Duncan says: “One of the main issues we discovered visiting various farms is children no longer want to stay within the industry.
“We started at a school with 50 children four years ago. There are still 42 involved in the project.
“Working in the industry doesn’t mean harvesting coffee, it could be working in coffee mills or administration.
“We are quite passionate about trying to improve the lives of children in these countries.”
The chairman usually visits the school once a year, but the pandemic has put a halt on his travels.
Aimers in the future
While investing in the future of Tanzanian coffee farms, he has also done his best to secure Aimers’ future in Dundee.
Mr Duncan does not see a return to normality in 2022, but hopes people will gain confidence to go back to hospitality.
However he has bigger plans than just making it through this year.
“I hope that Aimers carries on for the next 50 to 100 years in Dundee.
“I’m a custodian of this business and I may own it, but at the end of the day, I’m only here for a period.
“I’m building and investing in this for the future of Dundee.”