For Bennetts Managing Director Scott Bennett, trading coffee and tea has always been part and parcel of what his family does.
The company was founded by Scott’s grandfather Horace Albert Bennett in 1918 to import coffee, tea and cocoa, following in the footsteps of his own father who had been in the industry since 1881.
H.A. was appointed as Australia’s Tea and Coffee Controller from 1942 to 1955. He ensured access to the popular beverages when rationing was introduced as a result of limited supply during and after World War 2.
Scott’s father Bill was the youngest of Horace’s six children and with his older brother Peter incorporated the business in 1955, continuing on the legacy of H.A.
As Bill’s children grew, international visitors were brought to the family home and the children were included on trips to origins.
“For a young child, it was an extraordinary experience,” Scott says.
He has followed that tradition with his own sons, two of whom work in the family business part-time while studying at university.
The business remains 100 per cent family owned and retains customers it has been dealing with since Scott started working in the business over 30 years ago.
In the century Bennetts has been in business, there has been a constant state of change in the coffee industry, with shifts in consumption habits, new bean varieties, fluctuating prices and new technologies bringing with them new challenges and opportunities.
Scott has grown with the business, from a seven-year-old forming indelible memories in the plantations of Asia, through to a young adult starting at age 19 working in the warehouses of Papua New Guinea’s largest coffee exporter, where he was running operations after three years.
“It was very good hands-on experience because I was exposed to coffees from all over [Papua] New Guinea coming into our warehouse,” he says.
That experience set Scott up for his current role as the head of the family business.
“When I was in [Papua] New Guinea, I spent approximately six months collectively working in coffee mills and on coffee farms and estates, so I saw the processing from cherry through to green bean, and with the export company, I handled the blending of the green bean for export,” he says.
Scott’s personal career path adds to all Bennetts has experienced over the past century, during which it has learned there is no substitute for extensive knowledge of the industry.
The company is proud of its long history in Australia’s coffee and tea importing: “We bring legacy to the industry,” Scott says. “What we try to do is deliver quality consistently and sometimes that’s not because of price. It’s about supplying coffee or tea throughout the year reliably.”
Bennetts also brings an alternative supply line to the industry, Scott says, sourcing much of their green bean from cooperative producers. That allows small farmers to have a larger market presence through the cooperative, he says.
Bennetts continues to build on its history, embracing the future while never losing sight of its central values – integrity, an encyclopaedic knowledge of coffee and the commitment to help its partners prosper.
When asked the most important things he learned from his father, Scott quickly identifies them as honesty, integrity and accountability – “don’t promise something you can’t deliver, and if things happen, admit mistakes, be open and truthful.”
In the year the business turns 100, the question remains about the following generation.
Scott says that he would like to see his sons remain in the family business, but he also learned from his father not to pressure them to do so.
“It would be nice to get the fourth generation involved, but I learned from my father that it’s not, ‘you must’ but ‘if you want’.”
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