Mondo’s American Miracle | Interview with Giorgi Beridze

Mondo’s American Miracle | Interview with Giorgi Beridze

In Italian, the word mondo means the world. It is also the name of a Georgian brand that has been producing premium quality coffee since 2014. Its twenty varieties are exported to several countries across three different continents. However, Mondo justifies its name in more ways than one. It already has a café in the heart of California. The company’s co-owner is 23-year-old Giorgi Beridze, who came to the United States to study and decided to expand his father’s coffee business to the American market. He firmly believes that California is only the first step in a long journey towards attaining the global brand status that Mondo deserves because of the magical flavour of its products.

It has been a year and a half since you opened the first Mondo café outside Georgia, which is in Beverly Hills. How did Mondo find itself in California?

Mondo’s coffee products first appeared on the US market in 2018. As sales grew, we established a company branch in the US. We then decided to open a café to further increase brand awareness. We wanted our first location to be known for its diversity and innovation, and so we settled on Beverly Hills, where we have access to a wide range of customers who are constantly on the lookout for new premium-class products. This is more than a café. It is a social space where we serve different varieties of coffee to our clients and listen to their feedback. This is very important for us, as we are surrounded by top businesses and startups with whom we can potentially establish partnerships and exchange ideas. The US coffee market is highly competitive. Gaining the trust of American customers requires a huge effort.

Have you achieved positive results?

The café is doing very well. For example, we recently signed an agreement with a private jet hire company that will serve our coffee on their planes. This story started at our café –the head of the company came for a visit, tried different coffees, was impressed, and decided to work with us.

Are you planning to open Mondo cafés in other locations?

We operate several cafés in Georgia, so we know how the local system works. A couple of locations will not help us achieve significant results. Therefore, our initial plan for the US market included at least five locations. Although we were hampered by the pandemic, we did not give up on our plans. We intend to open two new cafés over the next twelvemonths – one in central Los Angeles, and the other by Santa Monica beach. Our total investment in these three locations amounts to $1.2 million. We spent $500,000 on the first café alone.

The pandemic speeded up the global growth of e-commerce. What effect did this have on Mondo? What percentage of your sales is conducted online?

Our company felt the growth of e-commerce during the pandemic, as we operate online stores in Georgia, Russia, and the United States. Online sales in Georgia account for no more than 10% of total sales despite the increase. The opposite is the case in Russia, where 80% of our sales are conducted online. The recent period was important for us, as we studied the habits and needs of our customers in detail and learned a great deal about them.

Since 2019, different varieties of Mondo coffee have also been available on Amazon. How are sales on this platform, and who are the buyers?

We always maintain a high level of customer satisfaction on Amazon. Mondo’s products receive positive reviews, with our drip coffee being particularly popular. This is a great achievement for us as a new foreign coffee brand in the competitive American market. Our first year on Amazon was profitable. We even managed to find our niche on the website in the shape of our drip coffee. We did this by offering high quality at the best prices. As a result, our Amazon sales are growing by an average of 13% each month. Our coffee is also sold online in the US by Walmart. As for our customers, they represent a broad spectrum with one thing in common: they are all looking for high-quality products.

Based on your observations and experience, which are the markets where Georgian coffee is competitive?

There are markets with centuries-old coffee traditions that are difficult to crack. One example is Italy, where all foreign brands find it difficult to establish themselves. Nevertheless, I think there are many markets where Georgian coffee products can become successful, especially in multicultural and diverse countries such as the United States.

We know that European countries do not cultivate coffee. They import raw materials just like we do. Therefore, product quality is so important, and quality is the main advantage of Mondo coffee. I believe that if we can increase our exports to competitive markets, we can popularize Georgian coffee as a brand.

What are your main export destinations, and what other markets are you aiming for?

We began exporting our products in 2017. Since then, the volume of our exports has been growing each year. This year we expect to achieve 7% to 8% growth. We have official branches in Russia and the USA, which is why these two countries are our main export destinations. Furthermore, we are represented in Greece, Azerbaijan, the United Kingdom and Germany. We are also cooperating with several Gulf countries and will soon be entering Kazakhstan. Talks are ongoing with a distribution company in Spain. We often take part in international exhibitions to enhance our popularity and will continue to do so. Mondo is an Italian word that means the world. We, therefore, intend to be represented across the globe.

Mondo is a member of the International Coffee Organization. What are the trends in the global market?

One of the more interesting trends is the growing market share of natural coffee. In contrast, demand for instant coffee is gradually decreasing. Manufacturers are also increasingly focusing on quality improvement. On the other hand, the global coffee market has been facing numerous challenges recently. For example, the production of raw materials in Brazil fell due to drought and COVID-19. The pandemic also made it difficult to transport raw materials and sea containers. Higher costs led to price increases. We also have to pay more for the transport of raw materials, but we decided not to raise product prices.

Tell us about Mondo’s future projects and plans.

Let us start with Georgia. The coffee culture is growing in our country, and so is the demand for high-quality coffee. This is a very good trend. We are constantly working on improving quality, creating new flavours, and so on. At the same time, we are increasing our product sales and expanding our export markets, including Russia, the United States and EU countries. We are planning to open a mini enterprise in the US under the Mondo name, focusing on the production of speciality coffee. Additionally, we intend to make our drip coffee available to supermarkets. Most shops in the US stock similar products by well-known brands, but there has been nothing new in the drip coffee category for quite a while. We believe it is time to change something, and our brand can introduce those changes. We already started working on this and came up with an alternative product in the shape of drip coffee in packets that are like tea sachets and are used much in the same way. We will soon offer this product in limited quantity and await customer feedback.

Additionally, as our exports are growing, we are starting to face the need to increase our output. We are currently producing two tonnes of coffee per day, but we need more. We recently obtained funding under the Enterprise Georgia programme for a second time. The sum of one million lari will help us add new automated Italian brands to our enterprise, increasing our output by 45%.

We firmly believe that Mondo will grow to become a brand that can float its shares on the stock exchange one day.

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