Allpress coffee founder Mike Allpress can sense the sweet taste of success.

By March 2010 he has plans to sell his New Zealand espresso in London, in a nation he says is full of tea and bad-coffee drinkers.

"There is a huge hole in the market, I don't think it is a secret that opportunity exists within the UK market.

"There is a huge influence of expat Kiwis and small roasteries," Allpress said.

Together with friend and business partner Tony Papas he will spend between $800,000 and $1 million bankrolling a new flagship "working billboard" roastery and espresso bar.

This will help to lift the profile of the Allpress brand and spread word in the hospitality industry.

Allpress coffee has come a long way in 22 years. It has about $20 million in combined turnover for Australia and New Zealand and supplies about 500 hospitality outlets in each market.

It also has several landmark roasteries and espresso bars in both markets, but most revenue comes from supplying wholesale beans.

The company is also one of five finalists in the University of Auckland Business School Entrepreneurs' Challenge, in which a share of $3 million and business mentoring is up for grabs. Winners of the Dragons' Den-style competition, which was created by expat New Zealand businessman Charles Bidwill, will be announced in November.

Allpress said a win for his company would aid development plans both in London and further afield.

He has spent the past three years looking at opportunities in Europe and Japan and has recently applied for international trademarks.

"Once we get a foothold in London in the next 24 months, we will be approached and there will be opportunities potentially for licensing agreements and joint ventures with other territories like Ireland and possibly Spain," Allpress said.

"There is a consumer demand for a better quality coffee and even the chain stores - Starbucks and Costers - are starting to realise they have to lift their game because there are a lot of independent companies starting up and delivering a better-quality product."

Allpress met Papas at Westlake Boys High, when school work was not a high priority.

"We probably spent more time wagging school and surfing than actually attending class."

Papas is well known in the international hospitality industry and has been the driving force behind the company's 10-year success in Australia.

"We see a lot of similarities [in the UK] to the market in Australia 10 years ago when we first started," Allpress said.

Despite a reduction in consumer discretionary spending, Allpress said their sales have not suffered.

"[The recession] hasn't really affected us at all, consumption is up.

"Two or three dollars is an affordable luxury.

"There is also an element of addiction, I guess - people need their caffeine fix."

Allpress said the passion of a few small companies created New Zealand's thriving coffee industry.

"The people that got involved with it early on, as Kiwis tend to do, we embraced something and really focused on the quality.

"We are a small nation. A few small companies can influence the consumption habits of four million people."

THE CHALLENGE
* Run for the first time this year.
* Offers one or more companies a share of $1 million in funding.
* Money to be paid back in three years, creating an evergreen fund.
* Established with $3 million donation from businessman Charles Bidwill.
* The winner will be announced next month.