The Rise and Fall of Coffee Logs: From Richard Branson’s Backing to Bankruptcy (Updated Nov 2023)

The Rise and Fall of Coffee Logs: From Richard Branson’s Backing to Bankruptcy (Updated Nov 2023)

It's no secret that the UK wood fuel industry is incredibly conservative and slow-moving. It is very rare that you will see a new, innovative briquette fuel on store shelves.

In fact, only two truly innovative wood fuel products appeared on the market in the last decade:

The success of Night Briquettes is very easy to explain. This long-burning wood fuel can burn up to 4 times as long as conventional briquettes. As a result, it helps UK households save money on heating by lowering their overall fuel consumption.

Coffee Logs, on the other hand, are popular for a very different reason. The unique innovation of this product was that you could turn recycled coffee grounds into burnable briquettes. The product proved popular with environmentalists and coffee lovers alike. And investments from people like Richard Branson almost guaranteed success.

Comparison chart of bio-bean Coffee Logs and Lekto Night Briquettes

Comparison chart of bio-bean Coffee Logs and Lekto Night Briquettes

However, a tragic event cut the manufacturer's life short just as they were nearing success. So what happened to coffee logs? Where can they be purchased? And is anyone still manufacturing them?

In this article, we delve into the events surrounding the collapse of Bio-bean Limited, the UK’s leading supplier of coffee logs.

We’ll chronicle their rapid rise, victory in Richard Branson’s Virgin Media Business Voom 2016, first signs of mainstream success, and the tragic event that led to their downfall.

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Coffee Logs: Understanding Bio-Bean's Pioneering Offering

The coffee industry is starting to take its environmental impact more seriously than ever. Coffee drinkers now expect their beans to come from sustainably-run farms. Reusable cups are slowly displacing single-use plastic cups in many coffee shops. In-house coffee roasting is becoming more common than ever. Energy-efficient coffee makers help coffee shops save energy and water. And coffee production-related waste is being battled industry-wide.

It is this last aspect that Bio-Bean's Coffee Logs helped combat. Instead of being thrown into the bin, coffee grounds could now be sent to Bio-Bean and recycled into a briquette fuel. These briquettes were designed specifically for use in regular log burners and multi-fuel stoves.

The manufacturer even claimed that they burned 20% hotter and longer than traditional wood logs. This made them a good alternative to traditional sawdust-based briquettes, although they couldn't boast the high heat output of hardwood heat logs or fire logs, nor could they compete with Night Briquettes when it came to burn time.

Environmental Benefits of Coffee Logs

The benefits of Coffee Logs don’t end with reusing coffee shop waste. Another positive environmental aspect of these logs is in mitigating the harmful effects of coffee ground disposal. The UK sees about half a million tonnes of wet coffee grounds head for landfills each year, leading to plenty of harmful greenhouse gas emissions.

Product Shot of Bio-Bean Coffee Logs by Lekto Woodfuels

Coffee Logs were advertised as an alternative for conventional Ready to Burn logs and briquettes.

Emissions Reduction From Coffee Logs

By transforming these grounds into Coffee Logs, Bio-Bean claimed to reduce overall emissions by 80% compared to the grounds being landfilled. This is comparable with the emission reductions we see when recycling hardwood sawdust to create Sawdust Briquettes or Hardwood Heat Logs and when recycling softwood sawdust when creating Night Briquettes and Fire Logs

Where Did Bio-Bean Source Grounds For Their Coffee Logs?

They were sustainably crafted from waste coffee grounds from cafes, offices, coffee factories, airports, train stations, and universities all over the United Kingdom. 

How Much Coffee Is in a Coffee Log?

Manufacturing a single coffee log got rid of the waste generated by about twenty-five cups of coffee. A single pack of Coffee Logs contained 16 logs. This means that purchasing a single box of coffee logs saved 400 cups worth of coffee from being sent to the landfill.

Coffee Logs Win Richard Branson’s Virgin Media Business Voom

The innovative vision of turning coffee grounds into sustainable fuel didn't just impress coffee lovers and eco-conscious consumers. It also caught the attention of business moguls, including Britain’s most famous business magnate, Richard Branson. The accolade that truly marked Coffee Logs’ success was their triumph in the Virgin Media Business Voom 2016 competition.

Set against the backdrop of 20,000 contest registrations, 750,000 votes, and an exhaustive 29-hour 'pitch-athon', Coffee Logs emerged as a beacon of sustainable innovation in the consumer space. Judged by an esteemed panel, including the likes of Sir Richard Branson and Tyra Banks, Bio-Bean's unique proposition of turning coffee waste into an eco-friendly energy source resonated deeply.

Why Did Coffee Logs Succeed at Virgin Media Business Voom?

Founder Arthur Kay—who conceptualized Coffee Logs during his architectural studies at The Bartlett, UCL's Faculty of the Built Environment—envisioned a future where waste coffee grounds fuelled cities, buildings, and vehicles.

This vision wasn't just about creating yet another eco-friendly way to produce briquettes. It was about reimagining waste and visualising a second life for the coffee grounds that would otherwise end up in landfills, emitting harmful greenhouse gases.

Portrait of bio-Bean founder Arthur Kay

Portrait of bio-bean founder Arthur Kay.

How Much Did Coffee Logs Win at the Virgin Media Business Voom Contest?

Bio-Bean was awarded £50,000 to expedite the market introduction of Coffee Logs. But it wasn't just about the monetary benefit. The company also secured mentoring from Virgin StartUp and VOOM Professionals, facilitating invaluable industry insights and guidance. Additionally, the award granted them a £250,000 marketing campaign featuring on JCDecaux's Waterloo Motion, which is the the largest indoor screen in Europe.

For Arthur Kay, the victory was more than just a business achievement. As he mentioned, pitching to Richard Branson was a standout moment in Bio-Bean's journey, showcasing the potential and promise of their innovative idea.

Richard Branson's sentiments echoed the optimism and confidence in the company's future. His appreciation for entrepreneurs brimming with passion and conviction was evident as he lauded all the finalists of the competition for their unwavering dedication. 


Coffee Logs’ Popular "Wonderfuel" Ad Campaign

With the win came the opportunity, and Bio-Bean wasn't just content with the accolade. They saw it as a stepping stone for greater market penetration and brand evolution. With £250,000 worth of prime Out-Of-Home advertising space awarded by JCDecaux, Bio-Bean kickstarted its first major, nationwide ad campaign.

Tom Bage, the company's head of marketing, teamed up with Studio of Art & Commerce to birth a comprehensive brand strategy. The campaign revolved around the idea that Coffee Logs are a 'wonderfuel' that helps reduce waste. While this is true for all types of biomass briquettes, this advertising angle proved popular for coffee logs.

Their advertising campaign, amplified with designs by award-winning illustrator Andy Smith, was strategically launched to light up the winter nights, focusing on the warmth and energy briquette fuels bring. The vibrant campaign graced the UK's largest indoor advertising screen, Waterloo Motion, while also making its presence felt on social media platforms.

How Successful Was Coffee Logs at Its Peak?

This nationwide ad campaign ushered in Coffee Logs’ Golden Age. At its peak, the company proudly supplied sustainable Coffee Logs to such major retailers as Tesco, Waitrose, Morrisons, and ASDA. It also secured partnerships with such major coffee shop chains as Costa Coffee.

Interested in supermarket Logs? Read Best Supermarket Logs: Asda, ALDI, Tesco, LIDL, Sainsbury's

The Downfall of Coffee Logs: Bio-Bean's Collapse

The downfall of Coffee Logs was as lightning-fast as its rise. In April 2023, Bio-Bean was forced into administration following a fire at their coffee recycling factory in Cambridgeshire. At first, the company had attempted to secure funding to rebuild its facilities, but no buyer could be found as the company had never managed to become profitable.

Are Coffee Logs Any Good? The Reviews & Feedback

Many customers across the UK had expressed satisfaction with coffee logs, finding them a sustainable heating solution. They were often available across major supermarkets like Tesco and Asda. The reviews frequently highlighted the eco-friendliness and efficiency of the briquettes.

What Are Some of the Best Alternatives to Coffee Logs?

Customers value Coffee Logs for two main reasons. The first is the fact that they help greatly reduce landfill waste. The second is the fact that they burn longer and hotter than traditional wood logs. Here is a selection of the best Coffee Logs alternatives that possess both of these properties.

The Best Alternative to Coffee Logs: 8-Hour Night Briquettes

By far the best alternative to coffee logs currently available, Night Briquettes are by far the UK’s longest-burning and most economical briquette fuel. Made from 100% recycled softwood bark, Night Briquettes can burn for as long as 8 hours, which is 4 times as long as conventional briquettes. They’ve already helped thousands of UK households save money by reducing their wood fuel consumption.

Read our Ultimate Guide to Night Briquettes.

Product shot of Lekto Night Briquettes, a briquette fuel made from all natural softwood bark.

Being sustainable, efficient, and long-burning, Night Briquettes are the perfect alternative to Bio-Bean Coffee Logs.

Sawdust Briquettes

The most similar product to Coffee Logs, Sawdust Briquettes are made from 100% recycled hardwood sawdust. Just like Coffee Logs, they have superior burning characteristics to traditional fire wood logs. Sawdust Briquettes are superior to Coffee Logs when it comes to their burn time and heat output.

Hardwood Heat Logs

Hardwood Heat Logs are by far the UK’s hottest-burning wood fuel. Thanks to their high energy density and chimney-effect-producing shape, they can heat up any room in just five minutes. They’re made from 100% recycled hardwood sawdust and can be split by hand to reduce fuel waste.

Fire Logs

The perfect balance between the long-burning properties of Night Briquettes and the high heat output of Hardwood Heat Logs, Fire Logs are the perfect heating fuel for almost any occasion. Simply place them on top of hot coals and they’ll provide you with up to 4 hours of steady and reliable heat.

What Makes Lekto the UK’s #1 Wood Fuel Supplier?

    • The UK’s most highly-rated wood fuel supplier. Lekto Woodfuels boasts of ver 16,000 positive reviews on its Trustpilot page and has an impressive average rating of 4.6 stars.
    • Full Ready to Burn Certification. All Lekto products are fully certified according to Defra’s Ready to Burn wood fuel quality certification scheme, ensuring that you're not only getting a quality product but also contributing to a sustainable environment.
    • Free UK Delivery. Lekto offers free, fully trackable UK delivery on all orders over £75. Delivery services are provided through our national delivery partner, DPD.
    • 2 Loyalty Rewards Per £ Spent. What’s more, Lekto customers get a generous 2 loyalty points per every pound spent at the Lekto online store.

This article was updated on November 29, 2023.