Instant coffee is considered by baristas and enthusiasts to be the black sheep among the preparation methods: not enough freshness, not enough taste, not enough style. So much for the prejudices.
The founders Dennis Adler (40) and Sönke Strauch (33) started their start-up Lösmich to polish the image of instant coffee powder. For almost a year now, they have been selling four different types of organic and fair trade-certified instant coffee under the brand of the same name.
The preparation is the same as with conventional products: pour hot water over a spoonful of ground coffee, stir, done. But that’s it with the similarities, promise the founders.
High-quality coffee beans and an optimized manufacturing process in which fewer aromas are lost should ensure a better taste.
The packaging is made of paper and a thin layer of plastic more sustainable in production than the classic jar with a plastic lid; In addition, the coffee is processed, bottled and packaged in Germany in order to keep transport routes as short as possible. With this concept, Strauch and Adler not only want to compete with other instant coffees, but also with capsule and pad machines that produce a lot of waste.
dissolvingFounders lived on Hartz IV
But let’s start at the beginning: The two founders actually work in the cultural sector. A few years ago they founded a booking agency for concerts and events together. Business was good, say the business partners in an interview with “Gründerszene” – until the pandemic came.
“We’ve gone from several hundred concerts a year down to zero,” says Strauch. At first, the forced break actually felt quite good, Adler recalls. “But then came the idle.”
Because no more income comes in, the two have to for a while live on Hartz IV. “That was essential for us, but it wasn’t a nice feeling either,” says Adler. Her way out of the tribulation: ride a bike. They go on long tours together and are on the road for days. Due to a lack of alternatives, the usual instant coffee was always included, say the passionate coffee drinkers. “At some point the question came up: Isn’t there a better way?”
The idea quickly turned into a serious project: the two of them founded Lösmich GmbH together in June 2021 and spent months working on the recipe with a barista friend of theirs. They research manufacturing methods, producers and packaging materials, set up the online shop and talk to potential sales partners. Adler and Strauch financed the foundation with the remaining capital from the agency, only shortly before the start of production did they get two teams of investors on board.
This also includes Alexander and Natacha Neumann, who have already established a successful food start-up with Freche Freund. “It was important to us to find people who could help us beyond money. The two have a lot of expertise in the food sector and a good network,” says Strauch. “And it also harmonized on a personal level, that was very important to us,” adds his co-founder.
Instant coffee’s bad reputation was an advantage
The launch will finally follow in April 2022, initially in the company’s own online shop and later also in individual supermarkets. “In the beginning we were really nervous about whether the coffee would sell,” the founders recall.
The bad reputation of instant coffee might even have been an advantage, Strauch suspects. “We often get the reaction: Awesome, instant coffee can taste good too! When expectations are low, the aha moment is much bigger.”
Of course, instant coffee can never keep up with a freshly brewed espresso from the portafilter machine, says Adler, “but that’s not our claim either.”
Rather, the coffee is made as a mobile alternative, for example for travellers, campers or for the hotel industry – i.e. wherever there is a lack of equipment and time, but you still don’t want to do without high-quality coffee.
At 30 to 50 cents per cup, Lösmich is slightly more expensive than other instant coffees. According to the founders, in addition to the still low production volumes, this is mainly due to the high quality of the beans and sustainable production: “We want to take our social responsibility seriously. If you really try to live that, there can’t be such a product under a certain price.”
50 percent of Lösmich customers buy again
The growth of the young start-up apparently proves the founders right: According to their own statements, they already made as much turnover in the first quarter of 2023 as in the whole of last year, the resale rate is 50 percent. From June, the instant coffee will be available in almost three dozen supermarkets in eastern Germany, and talks are underway with other sales partners and investors.
Strauch and Adler are still running their agency, albeit less extensively than before the pandemic. They each currently put about half of their time in their two companies, they say. Due to the income from the agency, Hartz IV is now history again.
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