5 minutes with Guillaume Chesneau, Managing Director, Nespresso UK

Fans of Nespresso will know already that sustainability is a major focus in their UK stores. Nespresso UK managing director Guillaume Chesneau discusses how the coffee brand and retailer ensures that, despite challenging times for the high street, sustainability needs to remain front of mind.

Nespresso UK boss Guillaume Chesneau sustainability customer experience climate change
Guillaume Chesneau is the managing director of Nespresso's UK operations.

Tell me a bit about Nespresso story.

Nespresso was founded more than 30 years ago on a simple and revolutionary idea – to enable anyone to create the perfect cup of espresso coffee, just like a skilled barista. With a simple touch of a button, you can enjoy fresh, great tasting coffee, cup after cup.

In the last three decades, we have grown from pioneer to leader, known for our quality but also, importantly, the sustainability of our product. Sustainability is in our DNA and today, we are leading the way with initiatives in this space covering everything from sourcing and consumption to recycling and waste collection.

Congrats on the recently-opened store in London Bridge! How is that store different to other Nespresso boutiques?

Over the past three years, we have undergone a substantial redevelopment of our Nespresso boutique network, with an emphasis on delivering a high quality, experience-led approach.

This is exactly what we have done with our new London Bridge location. It demonstrates our sustainability focus through its décor, including table tops made of used coffee grounds and artwork created from reused aluminium capsules.

Meanwhile, we continue to bring in technology that helps customers – often time-poor and on the move – to self-serve quickly and easily, all while enjoying a unique Nespresso boutique experience.

What gap in UK retail does Nespresso strive to address?

Both in the UK and globally, Nespresso leads the way within the portioned coffee category, enabling high quality barista-style coffees to be created easily whether at home or in an office environment.

From a retail standpoint, we are also demonstrating that portioned coffee is a sustainable choice. For example, we source 94 per cent of coffee through the Nespresso AAA Sustainable Quality Programme. This helps more than 100,000 farmers in coffee growing regions to improve the productivity, quality and sustainability of their coffee farming.

Sustainability is also a huge focus in our UK boutiques – 78 per cent of the energy used in our boutiques is renewable and we’re working towards that figure becoming 100 per cent.

We are constantly investing in ways to reduce our carbon footprint, and the recycling rate of our aluminium capsules, a material that is infinitely recyclable, is increasing constantly.

5 minutes with Guillaume Chesneau, Managing Director, Nespresso UK
The recycling rate of Nespresso’s aluminium capsules is increasing constantly.

How is Nespresso’s business model different to other coffee retailers?

Nespresso’s unique route to market – direct from the farmer and direct to the consumer – means we are involved in every aspect of the coffee value chain, providing an unrivalled, quality coffee experience underpinned by our dedication to an ethical and sustainable approach to coffee sourcing.

In retail specifically, we’re constantly innovating on the way we deliver consumer experiences in our boutiques. We want customers to leave a Nespresso boutique feeling like they have discovered something more about their coffee – about the taste, the provenance, and the quality. We do this through coffee tastings and masterclasses, and through the beautiful way we display the story behind our coffee blends.

As with London Bridge, we’re also using technology to make things easier for customers, providing a self-selection service through automatic checkout using RFID technology, enabling time-pressed customers to purchase products quickly.

What’s in store for Nespresso for 2020?

We’re going to be bringing more innovation to our customers. There will be new coffee blends and machines using the latest technology. We’ll continue to be first to market, striving to make that consumer coffee experience even better than before.

Of course, as with much of the world, sustainability will be at the very top of our agenda in 2020. For example, we’ll be doing more with our Reviving Origins initiative, a programme that is helping to restore coffee farming in regions where it is under threat, due to political conflicts, economic hardships or environmental disasters.

We launched this last year, introducing new coffee blends from Zimbabwe and the Caquetá region of Colombia, that have helped bring development and prosperity to rural communities – and a completely new taste experience for our consumers.

“Sustainability is in our DNA”

How is Nespresso addressing some of the challenges facing retail as a whole?

Retailers have to react and adapt to the changing demands and lifestyles of consumers, while staying true to their own values. We must be in a continuous state of evolution. That means knowing your customer inside and out, understanding what they want and delivering it to them.

For UK coffee drinkers, this tends to be a longer cup of coffee than other European countries, who tend to favour short servings such as the espresso. Understanding this desire has led to Nespresso launching Vertuo – a new coffee system that delivers coffee in different cups and styles, including larger cups for those who enjoy a longer coffee drink. Our Barista range of coffees, too, are designed to work with milk and are particularly suited to this market where over three-quarters of coffee drinkers enjoy a coffee with milk.

We also address practical needs, such as the implementation of time-saving technology installed in boutique locations that are convenient to commuting, time-poor customers.

We also listen to the values of our customers. If this is sustainability, we have to show consumers that we share those values, and that we’re constantly on a mission to make the coffee industry a more sustainable industry.

What would you say is the biggest risk for the retail sector?

Climate change is the major concern as we enter the next decade. We know that consumers will pay for a quality product, but we also know that their choices are influenced more and more by the values that a company stands for.

Nespresso is in a good place in that we have a clear sustainability standpoint, but there remains scepticism for the motives of all retail brands and market leaders. It has to be our responsibility to show customers how seriously we take sustainability, to bring them with us as we launch new initiatives and campaigns that make a positive impact to our sustainability footprint. For example, driving up the recycling rate of Nespresso capsules even further.

Nespresso UK boss Guillaume Chesneau sustainability customer experience climate change
Nespresso UK’s flagship store on London’s Regent Street.

Describe your role and responsibilities at Nespresso.

My role at Nespresso UK is focused on driving business growth in the market across all our channels. This includes our B2C performance, driven by our boutique network and online website sales as well as working on our growing B2B business supplying hotels, restaurants and offices with our B2B offering of machines and coffee capsules.

Sustainability and recycling are a huge focus of my current role, and a personal passion of mine. It is my mission to show consumers that single-serve portioned coffee is equal to, and in some cases, better for the environment than other ways of making coffee. Our precision consumption system uses only the exact amount of coffee grounds, water and energy required to make a cup of coffee. This saves resources, reduces waste and minimises the coffee’s carbon footprint – it’s a sustainable choice to make.

Tell us a bit about yourself and your background before Nespresso.

I’ve now been with Nespresso for more than a decade, with leadership roles in Australia, New Zealand and Sweden. It has been an exciting journey and a fantastic learning experience. Coffee consumption across the world is hugely varied but with one constant – we all know a good cup when we taste it.

I wasn’t always coffee. My career has involved roles in fashion, international business development and, in the early days, positions with electric companies and the France’s national rail provider SNCF.

“It has to be our responsibility to show customers how seriously we take sustainability”

What got you into retail in the first place?

I’ve always loved the close relationship that the retail industry has with its consumer. As retailers, we are face-to-face with our customer, meaning we can quickly see what they like, what works, what doesn’t work.

The thrill in retail is striving for constant innovation, looking for that new idea that will enhance the consumer experience, keeping people coming back and attracting new advocates. I’m in the lucky position at Nespresso in that, like me, my colleagues are all up for that challenge – we’re in an environment that values innovation and dedication to consumer experience.

How has your previous experience aided your current job?

As a leader in a specific market, in any industry, it can become easy to think that your world ends at your market’s borders. However, I’ve been able to build my career in markets across the world, with roles in France, Australia, New Zealand, Sweden and now the UK. They are all wonderfully diverse and culturally unique, but there is much that each market can learn from the other.

The UK, of course, is a fantastically diverse, inclusive and cosmopolitan nation, so having that wider world experience is crucial to understanding the diversity within market.

What is the most challenging aspect of your job?

The biggest challenge in my role is also one of the most exciting. The pace of change in retail, and in the coffee industry, is incredibly fast. That means there is pressure to keep anticipating, driving innovation and staying ahead.

And the most rewarding?

I am privileged to spend my working life with colleagues and partners who are dedicated to delivering positive change to our category and the coffee industry as a whole. The Nespresso mantra is about creating shared value – if we do well, our whole ecosystem benefits. That can be customers, through experiences of high quality coffee, or the wider industry, through the AAA Sustainable Quality programme, or Reviving Origins, for example. Being part of a brand that not only cares, but is also doing something about the problems we all face, is incredibly rewarding.

What advice would you give someone embarking on a career in retail?

For those starting out in the industry you must be curious, and be bold. Always remember that everything in retail starts with people. Your customers, colleagues, partners and suppliers are all people who have their own passions, interests, likes and dislikes. If you can better understand those you interact with every day, then you are in a great position to start a strong career in retail.

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  1. No need to hand out paper carrier bags Guillaume with your sustainability hat on, otherwise service standards and shopping experience great.


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