How Minor Figures learned to lean back

With its irreverent illustrated characters and laidback personality, coffee products brand Minor Figures is offering a fresh take on the often divisive plant-based market. Co-founder Stuart Forsyth talks to us about challenging the challenger brand narrative

“One of the challenges at Minor Figures is: what are we? Are we an oat milk brand? Are we a coffee brand? We make merch, we make games, we make clothing,” says Minor Figures co-founder Stuart Forsyth. There’s also CBD, chai, and a dedicated music platform called MFFM (Minor Figures FM). “What exactly is it? If you read any book on branding, that’s the worst thing you could possibly do!”

It’s an existential question that’s been rumbling away in the background of the London-based brand, set up in 2014 by Forsyth, Jonathan Chiu and Will Rixon – not that it seems to bother the team much that there isn’t a clearly defined answer. One thing Forsyth is certain of? “We actually don’t really give a shit about milk,” he says – meaning dairy, of course.

Minor Figures was a natural leap over from Forsyth’s previous venture managing the London arm of KeepCup, the Australian brand founded by his siblings, which gave a name to the whole movement of reusable takeaway coffee cups. Building a network with the global coffee industry stood him in good stead for launching Minor Figures, which was originally going to revolve around coffee-based drinks that platform different roasters.

“We realised that that idea was commercially terrible, and it was not going to work,” Forsyth says (though it still has its Roaster Roster initiative that carries the torch of the idea). “So Minor Figures stepped into the spotlight and became the brand, and then we just worked on products with the same mission. An ambitious global brand that was providing access to better quality coffee probably was the simple vision for that.”

Minor Figures packaging design featuring Penny, one of Andrew Rae’s many illustrated characters created for the brand