A well-known local is setting the benchmark for business in the region, recently winning the StartUp Business Development Program Innovation Award 2011 at the North Coast Innovation Festival. Greg Cacace sees a positive future for his winning product – Namaste Chai
What led you to develop Namaste Chai?
Our business background is in cafés – Crema Espresso, located in the middle of town. From there, we developed cafe beverages, including the Little Perks Organics range of caffeine-free and chemical-free beverages, Namaste Chai and with partners, our own coffee brand ‘Holy Goat Coffee’.
We saw that there was a niche in the marketplace for a quality Chai powder for the café and retail market that covered a number of criteria: gluten-free; dairy-free; caffeine-free; and organic.
Most chai powders in the marketplace contained milk solids, some sort of gluten component and were full of artificial colours and flavours. We weren’t comfortable selling products in our stores that had a half-page of ingredients – many of which we couldn’t even pronounce.
We worked with a blender in Sydney and came up with a recipe that has just a single line of natural ingredients. The final formula is Namaste Chai – and that’s the product we entered the StartUp Business Development Program with.
We’re marketing Namaste Chai to the café market, roasteries, health food stores and distributors around the country and some exports.
Speaking of the StartUp Business Development Program – a program that provides support for new businesses during their first twelve months of operation − how did you find out about it and become involved?
I’d first heard about the StartUp program by going to one of the Chamber of Commerce meetings. Rob from Excel Shades was giving a talk about his experiences and that made me aware of the program – and I went and investigated.
It’s been a fantastic assistance – it’s a great initiative on the part of the NSW Business Chamber, the Council and North Coast TAFE. It allows a lot of small businesses in the region to gain a bit of direction and a sense of purpose, and it will hopefully get a lot of new businesses on the way to success, and being potential employers. It’s great for the region.
How long have you actually been working on developing your Chai product?
It’s been a long process; I guess it all started about a year and a half / two years ago now. It’s only recently ready for market.
How many Chai products do you produce in the Namaste range?
We currently have two blends. They’re the same recipe – same flavour – but we’ve gained Australian Certified Organic certification for our Organic blend. The other product is our All Natural blend. Both blends are marketed at a different price point and to different markets.
What competitions / awards has Namaste Chai been entered into?
We took the product to the last Fine Food Fair down in Sydney, and we’ll be heading down to Melbourne towards the end of this year. We’ve had success with the formula. The confidence we have in the product has been consolidated by winning gold at the Royal Hobart Show and a Bronze for the Organic Chai at last year’s Royal Easter Show in Sydney, as well as taking out this latest award.
What are the processes behind marketing your product?
We’re contacting distributors and coffee roasters around the country. We’ve been taken on by Gershgoods down in Sydney, Coastal Fine Foods in Coffs and espresso Botero. Other distributions are also being sought.
We have our own website: www.uab.net.au and Namaste Chai has its own portal as well: www.namastechai.com.au so we have quite a few different ways of marketing our product.
Where did the name ‘Namaste’ come from?
Namaste is a commonly spoken greeting originating from the Indian subcontinent. It’s basically a blessing from one person to another “the divinity in me bows to the divinity in you” – it’s well known in Yoga circles, apparently …
What criteria were you judged on to win the Innovation Award?
The Awards were based on four main criteria: the uniqueness of the product; the marketability; the sustainability; and the commercialisation aspect.
We entered the competition on those four criteria, and I think ticked all the boxes nicely.
What does winning the Award mean for you and your business?
It adds to the confidence we have in Namaste Chai and what we’re doing and lets us know we’re on the right track. We will continue to be guided by the StartUp Business Development mentor program as long as possible and ensure we’re running the business with long-term goals in mind – making sure we’re on the right path to success. The $500 winner’s cheque will go towards promoting our product further.
What has the reaction been like from customers who’ve tried Namaste Chai?
There have been fantastic reviews from both retail and wholesale customers. It’s been especially nice to be appreciated by those with special health needs (Coeliac and dairy allergies).
So, where would you like to see the business heading over the next twelve months?
We’ll continue to promote the product and get it out there in as many coffee roasteries and cafés throughout Australia. We’d also like to further pursue overseas markets.
Final words …
Drink more Chai!
Thanks Greg – and congratulations on your win.
Interview by Jo Atkins.