The Niche Zero has become an icon of the home coffee enthusiast. The father and son founders James and Martin Nicholson kindly agreed to do a short Q&A round.
When did you first have the idea for the Niche Zero We had a large interest in coffee but became tired of using other home use grinders.
We wanted a grinder that was quiet, easy to use and didn’t retain grind.
Have you ever designed and manufactured a consumer product before the Niche?
Martin worked for many years at Kenwood so has been involved with lots of home appliances.
Most people have ideas that they never action. What was it about this situation that convinced you to make this a real product?
As martin had been involved with so many other projects, he had a passion to create on himself
What were the key ‘must have’ elements of the design that you wouldn’t sacrifice no matter what
Quality materials, quiet, zero retention, full range of grind settings,
Where there elements in the original design that you dropped or couldn’t fulfil.
Yes and no – there were features that could have been added, but it wanted to make it as simple as possible for the customer.
How far was the end product from the original idea?
The final design took 32 prototypes to reach.
You’re manufacturing in the UK? was that choice out of national loyalty, or practical considerations? If practical, what are they?
The grinder is manufactured in China, but the first 1000 was built in the UK by the Niche team to show we could do it.
Did you expect to have the success that has followed?
Not at all! We never expected it to be as popular and in demand as it is now.
Some people report a supply problem – do you feel this is a problem, or does it make the product more desirable
It is something we are working on but there are also factors that play a big part in this such as covid.
How did you work out the pricing – did you have an initial price point you wanted to build toward, or did you work out the costs and add a margin on top?
We saw there was no real grinder in the price point between 400-1000£, so we set that our goal.
Is there a Niche 2 in the pipeline
Not at the moment.
What did you learn in the process
We learnt a lot about how to grow your audience and to find the right people to push your product into the market.
What would you do differently if you were starting today
More focus on the pre build up prior to releasing the product.
You chose conical burrs, I guess because the design lends itself to minimum retention, but do you have an opinion on the discussion about flavour and flat vs conical burrs?
We understand there is a difference in taste preference between conical and flat, but we found the conical was better suited for low retention.
You tackled a specific problem with the Niche. What other problems do you see in the coffee industry today?
We think the market is pretty well covered at the moment but we are always looking at opportunities to innovate.
Bonus Question. as a UK manufacturer, has BREXIT impacted you and does it affect your thoughts about manufacturing in the UK?
The Niche is manufactured in China, but we are a British business.