“From machinery, utensils and after-sales service to food consumables, ingredients and also packaging, we aim to provide an integrated service to our clients,” said Catherine Yu, General Manager at Kolb (HK) Ltd.
The firm supplied bakery machinery when it was founded in 1986, and has expanded its range of products and services over the years to satisfy the ever-changing needs of the market.
“Just before 2000, we introduced the induction cooker as an environmentally friendly and cost-saving alternative to flame cooking,” said Yu. “In the past 10 to 20 years we have added raw materials and ingredients for baking. We also set up RR Shenzhen to deal with imports to the Mainland and help our clients with factories there with orders and installation.”
The company now also exports food packaging through the Mainland to new rising markets including the Philippines and Myanmar.
To ensure that Kolb is ahead of the game when it comes to the latest product developments, Yu and her team often participate in exhibitions around the world.
“We are like pioneers,” she said. “We want to see how new technology and machinery are used in foreign countries. Then we can bring the knowledge back home and provide better and quicker solutions to our customers.”
Selling equipment is just part of the process, Yu explained, and the company’s role does not end once the customer has received their product.
“What distinguishes us is our after-sales service,” she said. “We value the trust of our clients. Good after-sales service, such as efficiently repairing the machines, allows our clients to trust us even more.”
With the growing demand for coffee in Asia, and Kolb’s already-established position as a supplier of machinery and products in the food sector, it was a natural step to move into the coffee field. Kolb Coffee supplies coffee-making machinery, and a range of other food and beverage items in addition to coffee.
“We have been in this industry for more than 15 years,” said Astrid Lai, Senior Sales Manager at Kolb Coffee. “We saw the growing demand in the market, especially in Asia.”
Lai explained that coffee has become part of the modern lifestyle in Asia, with many people now starting their day with a cup of coffee.
“Coffee also has an important role in the business world,” she added. “Hotels, F&Bs and even offices need good coffee to greet their customers and for their staff to stay energetic. Essentially, coffee serves to initiate communication and bring people closer together.”
From time to time, Kolb Coffee also holds tailor-made workshops for its clients. “There are workshops for latte art, tasting, grinding and brewing, with the latte art being the most popular,” said Lai. “What is best is that they can take photos of the coffee and share it with their friends.”
Like many others in the food and beverage world, Yu’s passion for food was what initially attracted her to the business. The ever-changing nature of the sector means it is always interesting.
“There is always something new,” said Yu. “I have been working in the industry for 17 years and it is always eye-opening to see how new machines and technology are being developed to help solve our problems.”
Lai’s career path, on the other hand, was driven by her experience of seeing coffee culture in action overseas.
“Everything started eight years ago when I was on my working holiday in Sydney, where I was amazed by the vibe created by the coffee shops around me,” said Lai.
“The determining moment was when I drank a cup of good coffee and I felt happy for the entire day. I realized that coffee can make people feel wonderful. That was why I started to look into coffee and decided to workin the industry.”
But even successful companies face bumps along the road, and managing a business is never easy. Hong Kong’s manpower challenges are among the hurdles that Kolb faces.
“Like many other firms, the biggest problem is the loss of talent,” said Yu. “We once lost an account manager who was responsible for looking after accounts both in Hong Kong and in the Mainland.”
Until they found a replacement, Yu had to take up the role herself, travelling back and forth to the Mainland to ensure the business continued to run smoothly. But for the most part, working at Kolb provides a great deal of satisfaction for both Yu and Lai.
“It is really rewarding when our clients specify that they only want our machines, services and coffee beans,” said Yu. “We do our work with passion and it is encouraging to see that we have established a connection.”
Rewarding experiences don’t come only from business success. In 2017, Kolb organized an event where they served coffee to people who were working through the night on Labour Day – called “Made in HK – Salute to the fighting spirit of Hong Kong with Coffee.”
“We were giving out our coffee at the airport, at the wholesale fruit market, near the Tsim Sha Tsui pier and to kiosk keepers,” Lai explained.
“It was humbling to see that there are people working very hard at night, while most of us are probably sleeping in bed. Our interaction with them also reminded me of how coffee is a means to facilitate communication.”
The passion to better serve their clients is what drives the firm to strive for excellence, from their products to staff training.
“Our short-term goal is to look for new technology and keep up with the latest trends,” said Yu. “In the long run we aim to upgrade the skills of our staff. Staff members are our most important assets. We hope to equip them with skills and knowledge by sending them to factories to understand the production process. Subsequently, they can use what they have learned to help our clients.”
The firm has also expanded its coverage to include tea.
“Last year we collaborated with The 1872 Clipper Tea, a Singaporean tea company,” said Lai. “A lot of people want to have a cup of refreshing tea in the afternoon, after a cup of coffee in the morning.”
The vibrancy of the F&B industry and the enthusiasm of the people who work in it means that the sector has always been attractive to the younger generation, although Lai cautions that people in the industry should be ready to work hard.
“Be prepared to keep making cups of coffee every day,” Lai said. “It is very important to keep your passion alive.”
Company : Kolb (HK) Ltd
HKGCC Membership No.: HKK0379
Established : 1986
Website : www.kolb-hk.com / www.kolbcoffee.com
Sign up for the latest news & offers.