IKAWA and Panasonic: British Start-up and Japanese Tech Giant Redefine Coffee Experience

By Eve Bentley

Panasonic is now selling a digital coffee roaster designed by British start-up IKAWA. This is the story of British creativity and innovation meeting Japanese service excellence.

IKAWA’s innovative technology was the perfect match for the Japanese tech giant – allowing it to expand its home coffee roasting service ‘The Roast’, a monthly subscription service of fresh coffee beans supplied exclusively by Panasonic and a household coffee roaster based on the design of IKAWA’s roasters.

The paths of IKAWA’s founders Andrew Stordy and Rombout Frieling crossed with Panasonic in 2008 when they were trialling their first coffee roasting system at the start-up business incubator within the London Royal College of Arts in East London – a hub of design and innovation.

The ensuing collaboration with Panasonic is validation for IKAWA in terms of opportunity - to benefit from Panasonic’s technical know-how and the licensing of their patented design for use in the Japanese market.

Pairing digital technology with home based coffee roasting, IKAWA’s product has since expanded worldwide to 70 countries and completely innovated the at-home coffee experience. 

IKAWA means coffee in Kirundi, the language of Burundi. The people in Burundi are highly dependent on coffee and that is where co-founder Andrew grew up and the IKAWA concept was born – and grew from a team of 4 to now a team of 15 and soon to be 20 people, opened an office in the US, as well as expanded their production facilities and overall international distribution network.

Collaborating with Panasonic has been not only a beneficial experience in terms of providing finance for IKAWA’s ongoing growth and expansion, but it is resonant of the way that aesthetic and design in products is so essential.

IKAWA identified Japan as not only an early adopter of technology, but a country where consumers place high value on the aesthetic and design of products.

As Andrew Strody, current IKAWA CTO, has identified, developing new products involves far more than function and purpose, products must be beautiful and well designed in their appearance in order to be successful.

IKAWA has highlighted how their collaboration with Panasonic has been a learning experience, and inspired them in terms of first-hand knowledge of Japanese standards in manufacturing.

While touring Japanese factories, they recognised the importance placed on quality and precision, levels of quality control they wish to adopt and mimic in their own in-house manufacturing in London.

With Japanese consumers being highly brand and design focused, British brands are renowned in Japan for their high quality, and appealing design. For IKAWA, this partnership has exemplified the value of design and aesthetic – qualities they believe global companies are now recognising and adopting more strongly.

Through adapting to changing local fashion styles and tastes, and providing high quality, well-designed products, many British companies, like IKAWA, have successfully incorporated their products into the Japanese consumer market.

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