The Raw Liquid Sugar Co’s Sean Collins explains why just a teaspoon of sugar is never a bad thing when it’s raw, natural, and Australian made.
Many café owners and baristas will attest that aside from complex coffee orders, stirring sugar into coffee is one of the biggest tasks slowing them down in the morning takeaway rush. Whether it’s frantically ripping open a sugar stick or using an open sugar bowl at the counter, it remains a messy, sometimes unhygienic, and time-consuming process.
Sean Collins and his business partner Addison Hunter identified this concern from their own café experiences and decided to do something about it, launching The Raw Liquid Sugar Co brand and range of raw liquid products in 2013.
“We noticed there was a large gap in the café market for a liquid sugar product, especially for takeaway businesses. [Addison] had a very busy drive-thru café at the time and after a light bulb moment, realised that liquid sugar could wipe out one of the processes in one easy step,” Sean says.
After extensive searching, Addison was surprised to learn that no liquid sugar products specifically designed for baristas were available in Australia. He was determined to change that, and started making his own product.
The first few batches of raw liquid sugar were produced in the back of an old shed, using a 75-year-old decommissioned jam cooking pot to produce 90 litres at a time. Sean and Addison would then hand bottle the liquid sugar into amber bottles before placing them into milk crates. This became a regular routine for the pair at night after finishing a full day of work, with Addison at the café and Sean working in the motor vehicle industry.
When time permitted, they would take their creation to high-volume Sydney cafés and promote the little bottles of raw liquid sugar with great enthusiasm. They would demonstrate that with just one swift pump, one teaspoon of sugar could be dispersed into a coffee without the need to stir.
“At first the cafés we approached were sceptical. The pump concept was such a different way of doing things that most people thought we were made. So, we decided to leave a bottle at the cafés and let them try it for themselves,” Sean says.
Once the baristas wrapped their heads around the convenience of the product, its speed of service, and the fact that the raw liquid sugar had the exact same taste as sugar from a jar – with less mess and greater hygiene – the calls started rolling in. “Bingo, we were in business,” Sean says.
During this time, the pair began selling about 100 bottles a week in Sydney. This was until a distribution company saw potential in the product, asking Sean if they would be interested in taking on a distributor and letting them spread the product to many more cafés.
With local distribution in place, then came the opportunity to develop a “properly manufactured” bottle, with graphically designed labels and a specially designed pump.
“In a commercial environment everything has to be perfect. You can’t be over sweetening or under sweetening somebody’s coffee in the morning, and you certainly shouldn’t be stirring in sugar after it’s been made, ruining the lovely crema,” Sean says.
“We are all very much aware of how we like our coffee in this country and it’s got to be perfect. That’s why we were particular about having the correct dose of sugar for those who enjoy it with their coffee.”
Their only hurdle was that there were no such pumps on the market, in Australia or overseas, that dispensed exactly the right amount of liquid sugar Sean and Addison required. It was either too much or too little. So, the pair took matters into their own hands and designed their own pump with the exact chamber size to dispense precisely one teaspoon of raw liquid sugar per pump.
Sean and Addison were even granted an innovation patent from the Australia Patent Society because they could prove the pump was a pre-existing invention being used in an innovative way.
Six years on, the risk has paid off, with ISM now distributing The Raw Liquid Sugar Co full range nationally. ISM is a 90-year-old family-owned business and market leader in portion control café consumables. It has long established relationships with major coffee roasters, independent wholesalers, and national players. With this partnership, more consumers have access to The Raw Liquid Sugar Co’s growing line-up of products.
The company sources its sugar from the Manildra Group, an Australian company that grows its sugar on the northern rivers of New South Wales.
Recently, Manildra has developed a low glycemic index (GI) raw sugar known as Nucane. The Raw Liquid Sugar Co now uses this type of sugar because it is less refined and processed.
“It is a step in the right direction because we recognise we sell sugar and want to make it as healthy as we possibly can,” Sean says. “The low GI means it releases energy a little slower so you don’t get as much of a sugar rush. Nobody else has done this. We’re trying to be innovative in all that we do.”
The company has also completely outgrown its Sydney facility, and is set to relocate to northern NSW and set up shop in a former food factory in the middle of Murwillumbah’s sugar cane fields.
“Manildra has three processing plants within three kilometres of where we’ll be based. It’s written in the stars. It’s an enormous step for us and we’ll have 360-degree view of the very sugar cane we use in our products. It’s perfect,” Sean says.
The Raw Liquid Sugar Co’s premium range of milkshake syrups is another health-conscious product currently thriving. Despite it being a crowded market, Sean and Addison say they spotted a gap in the market with no-one producing naturally flavoured milkshake syrups in Australia.
“We decided to produce a premium range of milkshake syrups without any of the nasties: no artificial flavours or colours, only natural. The result is a super concentrated version of traditional milkshake toppings,” Sean says.
“Testing has shown that our milkshakes, when produced to our recipes, uses only half as much syrup compared to using mass-produced three-litre syrup varieties. If you’re using half the amount of syrup in a prepared milkshake for a kid – that’s where 90 per cent of these drinks are being consumed – it’s a 40 per cent reduction in sugar.”
Since launching milkshake syrups 18 months ago, Sean says The Raw Liquid Sugar Co’s milkshake range has almost taken over the business due to its popularity.
“We didn’t expect to see such an appetite for our milkshake toppings, but I suppose there is nothing else quite like it in the Australian market,” he says.
“The feedback we get from the cafés is amazing. The customers, young and old, simply love our flavours. Sales into schools, colleges, and hospitals are particularly strong right now and with summer on the horizon, it’s going to
be a busy period.”
This article appears in FULL in the October 2019 edition of BeanScene. Subscribe HERE.
For more information, visit www.therawliquidsugarco.com.au