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EBRD and EU help Georgian coffee roaster Mondo to compete internationally

By Nina Tsintsadze

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It all began in Rome with a cup of delicious, rich espresso. Sandro Beridze and Maka Komakhidze ­­– a young Georgian couple – became so fascinated with the culture and variety of Italian coffee drinking that they decided to bring part of it back to their homeland.

It was the early 2000s and the coffee industry had yet to be developed back home. Georgian coffee lovers were not sufficiently indulged: their choice was limited to simple instant coffee. That’s where the Georgian couple saw an opportunity.

The first step was to kick-start a company and import the finest Italian coffee into the Georgian market. With their initial success came the perfect boost of confidence: Maka and Sandro decided to roast their own coffee under the trademark Mondo.

“This name, which means ‘world’ in Italian, hints at our ambition to become a truly global company,” says Sandro Beridze.

Starting a business from scratch is never easy and nor is growing it into an export-oriented venture. That’s where support from the EBRD International Advisory Programme comes in extremely handy.

This flagship programme engages international experts, who provide small and medium-sized enterprises so much of the necessary know-how to transform their companies, attract investment and compete internationally. In Georgia, the programme is run with funding from the European Union under its EU4Business initiative.

Why engage international expertise?

“After visiting many coffee factories and participating in sector fairs and conferences, we had a feeling that we knew it all. So when the EBRD proposed to consult a coffee technician, it came as a surprise. But then, it started to make sense when we realised we were learning so much: how to properly taste coffee, differentiate the flavours and much more. All this knowledge led to introducing new products to the market,” says Maka Komakhidze.

Sourcing green coffee beans, setting up a quality control and creating the winning product and customer strategies were some of the key directions in which the international experts steered the project.

“The story of our company might have turned out differently without assistance from the international experts. We might have achieved our goals, but it would be harder, we would have made more mistakes,” says Maka Komakhidze.

Reaping the rewards

A year has passed since the EBRD project with this company ended: it is time to reap the rewards. The company introduced a variety of new products from classic espresso and filter blends to the innovative Japanese coffee packaging technology, drip coffee, which is filter coffee in single serving packaging. Mondo coffee occupies most of the hotel, bar and restaurant sector in Georgia, and is sold both in major supermarkets and online.

The right advice helped the management to transform the company from an importing business to an exporting one. Mondo coffee is sold in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Russia and Turkey.  But the plans don’t end here: not to spill all the beans, but the “Made in Georgia” coffee will soon be available in the United States of America and the United Kingdom.

“We are confident in our product. Entering the US market is an ambitious step, but Mondo coffee can win the hearts of coffee lovers there too, as it did in Georgia and our other export countries,” says Sandro Beridze.

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