Mergers and acquisitions are the seasonal latte of the month in the specialty coffee world right now. Taking inspiration from the tech and telecom industries, where this sort of thing is the norm, conglomerates and holding companies are collecting coffee brands like baseball cards. And it’s not only happening in the US—as JAB and Nestlé battle it out for the right to take on Starbucks, in the United Kingdom a growing specialty coffee chain just quietly added another business to its ranks.
Since it began in London way back in 2010, Department of Coffee & Social Affairs has grown to encompass 20 of its own cafes alongside a ream of other businesses across the country, and even expanded to the US in 2017. Per The Independent, their latest acquisition is Baker & Spice, an upscale bakery and deli with five locations in London, purchased from the bankrupt cake chain Patisserie Valerie for £2.5 million.
With Baker & Spice, Department of Coffee is adding to its roster of independent brands around England—in December, it completed the purchase of the London-based tea and cake shop Bea’s of Bloomsbury, and earlier in the year acquired two Bristol coffee shops, The Crazy Fox and Tradewind Espresso. Rather than bring these companies underneath its own brand, Department of Coffee has allowed each to remain individual, at least in name, while it focuses its attention on expanding its own cafes across the country and into the US.
The main difference between the spate of glitzy takeovers in the US and Department of Coffee’s smaller-scale expansion is that the latter has happened, for the most part, under the radar. It might point to a future where, instead of coffee companies expanding fast in hopes of being snapped up by a venture capital firm, smaller regional brands combine for long-term stability.
Illustration by Zac Cadwalader.