Tag Archives: drinks

Will brand giants such as Starbucks capitalise on ‘independent’ thinking?

I was talking about customer demographic yesterday, and about how McDonald’s (in the UK, at least) has managed to capitalise on a broad cross-section of society more than any other outlet I could think of.

I used Starbucks as an example of a global company that doesn’t seem to have managed the same feat, and perhaps it’s all for the better.

When I go to the US, most of the Starbucks branches I come across are generally untidy places that could use some TLC, and they’re often set up ‘to go’ rather than to sit and relax and let the pressures of the day unfold around a short cappuccino.

In the UK, Starbucks feels different. The branches seem to be larger and take into account a number of factors, such as a section for getting in and out quickly, plus a large room (sometimes two or three rooms) with various seating options for comfort and laptop use.

You could argue that the Starbucks demographic, which I officially know very little about, is quite different when it comes to the UK and the US, yet the clientele can often seem similar: business types in sharp suits, students with friends, couples, middle class families, and trendy hipsters looking for a place to chill out or work. You don’t often see children, which you’re more likely to see at McDonald’s.

Espressamente illy is another kettle of fish, being designed with white surfaces, clean lines and shiny tables. You won’t find much in the way of wood panelling here, and design/art is very much the theme this company would like to convey while you sip on tremendous coffee (I’m biased – I love illy coffee when it’s well made). Who comes here, you may ask? I look around and I see older couples (20+) and small groups of friends, travellers with suitcases in tow. It’s well lit, proud of its art and its Italian heritage, but also welcoming to its sometime technology partner Samsung. (In New York last year, I visited a Samsung popup that had an illy coffee bar in the middle, and drinks were free. Likewise, in London a few months ago, the new Espressamente had a section that enabled customers to use Samsung tablets free of charge.)

Espressamente illy at Park Plaza Westminster Bridge in London.
Espressamente illy at Park Plaza Westminster Bridge in London.

Costa Coffee is going through subtle changes at the moment, seemingly in an attempt to break the mould that’s been unashamedly copied by many other coffee shops (chain or independent). You can walk down any major high street in the UK and see identikit coffee shops that reveal a lack of originality, yet this perhaps plays safely into the hands of a certain coffee-consuming demographic.

Some independent coffee shops are trying a few different things, such as Mokoko in Bath, which is small (no inside seating) and only two or three tables outside. It’s set up for ‘to go’ coffee, yet still serves its sit-down customers with proper cups and saucers, and the cake is delicious. The proposition is simple so far: cake, coffee and croissants; the decor is simple and clean, and the bar is dominated by the large coffee machine and the friendliness of the staff. I hope winter isn’t too hard on them.

Artist's render of Mokoko in Bath.
Artist’s render of Mokoko in Bath.

This is where ‘chains’ start, just like Pike Place in Seattle, where Starbucks first proffered coffee and became the business goliath it is today. Same for Costa; everyone starts small, don’t they? So, let’s take a look at Starbucks’ new stores in its Seattle birthplace, to see how the company is stretching its European design ethos across the US.

For example, just a mile away from its original Pike Place Market location is a new store in an old bank building near a college, other restaurants, pubs and boutiques. I’m a sucker for dark, broody design that contrasts textiles such as wood with steel, stone and brick. I find it warm and inviting, and would much rather spend time working in a place like this, or entertaining friends, or simply enjoying some solitude.

Seattle Broadway Pike Interior shot of the new Starbucks.
Seattle Broadway Pike Interior shot of the new Starbucks. Photo by Starbucks.

The University Village outdoor shopping mall near the University of Washington is the location for a new Starbucks Reserve. (Did you see my video of the Starbucks Reserve in Amsterdam, where the barista Evert demonstrated the Clover Brewing System?) The ethos here is to tell the ‘coffee story’: Angled mirrors behind the bar bring light into the space and allow customers to watch as baristas create their beverages. Rich displays of coffee artefacts invite discovery and hand-stitched printed maps connect customers to the farms around the world that grow Starbucks coffee.

Leschi Starbucks branch in Seattle, with bike theme.
Leschi Starbucks branch in Seattle, with bike theme. Photo by Starbucks.

In Leschi, five miles south of the last location, Starbucks’ Seattle heritage takes yet another design turn in celebrating the community’s tradition of cycling, with a wall of upcycled bicycle tubes. This is as individual and thoughtful a space as you can get from such a massive brand, and I like it. It demonstrates that corporate brands can be just as thoughtful as independents when it comes to embracing a community ‘look and feel’, and I think it’s this strategy that will help the giants of the high street stay competitive.

What designs are you seeing in your new coffee shops, cafes and fast food restaurants in your hometown? Let me know by leaving a comment below, wherever you happen to live.


What happened to food & drink sales when England left the World Cup?

First of all, don’t get me started on poor team management, the rewarding of mediocrity and the instability of an autocratic football hierarchy. Let’s talk food and drink instead.

I’ve just found out that the England football team has cost UK supermarkets up to £55m in lost sales over the two weeks since they were unceremoniously booted out of the 2014 World Cup. (This is according to analysis of sales data from global market and shopper intelligence firm IRI.)

Compared with the four weeks preceding the start of the World Cup, sales of alcohol, soft drinks, bagged snacks, pizza, chilled party food and bread rolls, in the first week of matches, shot up by over £50m. After England lost to Uruguay, the sales peak of these products in the following week slumped by £38m.

So, not only did the England team fail to match our already low expectations in Brazil, they ruined the party mood so much that we decided to stop buying lots of unhealthy, yet tasty snacks and stuff just after their first game. I confess, I bought a new shirt that week instead of the usual Coca-Cola, Peroni and M&S cheese puffs (oh, they’re so good).

During the third World Cup week (week ending 28 June), after England’s Costa Rica match, sales dropped again, almost back to where they started. IRI estimates that the lost sales caused by ‘World Cup fatigue’ over the last two weeks could be worth between as much as £55m and £60m.

In some depth, here are more highlights from the IRI analysis:

  • The value growth for soft drinks reduced significantly, from 18% in week one to 9% in week two, and just under 6% in week three. Sales were £5.2m lower in week three of the World Cup than they were in week one.
  • Altogether, value sales of bagged snacks, pizza, chilled party snacks, bread rolls, baguettes, coleslaw, chilled salads and dips were £3.3m lower through the UK’s major supermarket chains in week three than they were in week one. Only sales of Scotch eggs grew, higher by almost 5% in value.
  • Ale and stout had sales volumes increase by 13.9%, the highest in sales volumes.
  • Champagne and sparkling wine continued to grow strongly, with volumes up by 13.3% and value up by 15.7%.
  • Cider maintained its momentum with volume and value sales in the last week, still up on the four weeks immediately prior to the World Cup (volume +2.7%, value +6.9%).
  • Net sales for beer, wines and spirits in week three were up by £5.7m compared to the same week in 2013. However, this was a £37.1m reduction in sales value compared to week one of the World Cup.

So, there are some positives to take from all of this analysis, such as Scotch eggs being cold comfort for our misery (who knew?) and Champagne sales increasing (I didn’t know there were so many Uruguayans in the UK). Otherwise, Mr Hodgson, you have a lot more to answer for than I first thought.

If you piled your cupboards high with football snacks and a few beers/softies, what did you get? I’d love to know what the most popular World Cup F&B brands were!

Bowser Beer for dogs in PET bottles

You may have been reading about Coca-Cola’s launch of Life in Great Britain today, but a very different success story has been ‘brewing’ for the past few years, and it’s a dog’s life.

Bowser Beer from 3 Busy Dogs has emerged as a popular pet product that has enjoyed strong US growth. It was created in 2008 by Jenny Brown in Seattle, and is an all-natural chicken or beef broth drink that contains malt barley (B vitamins) and glucosamine for joint health. The doggy drink doesn’t contain hops, which can be toxic to them.

Bowser Beer in PET bottles from Amcor.
Bowser Beer in PET bottles from Amcor.

Sales have tripled in the last three years, and just goes to show that there’s a market for everything. It’s packaged in lightweight, shatter-resistant 12oz PET bottles (of course it is) from Amcor Rigid Plastics, which mimic the shape and colour of standard beer bottles. They are one-sixth the weight of glass bottles, unbreakable, less wasteful and recyclable, according to Kerry Drewry, sales manager for spirits, wine and beer at Amcor.

Amcor’s stock PET line for beer is also available with the KHS Plasmax Silicon Oxide (SiOx) barrier coating that seals the container from the inside to protect the contents from oxidation.

Plasmax is an FDA-compliant, enhanced passive barrier for oxygen-sensitive products. This ultrathin (less than 100nm) material is transparent and recycle-friendly.

So, don’t enjoy the 2014 World Cup on your own. Pop open a Peroni and a Bowser Beer and settle in with man’s best friend.

Food and drink launches for the 2014 Fifa World Cup

It’s World Cup week again and my mailbox has been inundated over the past few months with all sorts of football-related food and drink content. I’ll share some with you.

Ben Davies, CEO and founder of VYPR, wrote a blog at the beginning of May, posing the question, ‘Will your limited edition product for the World Cup be a success?’.

Not long after, John Nevens from Bridgethorne offered some timely advice for brands looking to increase World Cup retail opportunities by targeting shoppers.

Rob Baker from Crimson & Co discussed the difficulties with the supply chain, taking into account the delays in construction of the various stadia, advising that ‘meticulous detail must be applied to any contingency plans in the event of failure within the supply chain’. Let’s hope the tournament passes without incident (other than a few extra-special goals that us mere mortals can only dream of).

I also saw a few interesting food and drink products that were themed around the 2014 Fifa World Cup, such as McDonald’s augmented reality packaging and various metal packaging from the likes of Ball and Rexam.

Check out this special Pinterest gallery of some of the more recent food and drink products to capitalise on the World Cup, and feel free to join in and add your own.

If you’re absolutely not interested in football, yet you feel that it was important to make sure you marketed your brand for this big occasion, I’d love to hear from you. Leave your comment below!

How crowdfunding is helping BerryWhite plan for the future

Crowdfunding is such an amazing thing. It’s helping young entrepreneurs get started in their chosen field, and it’s helping established companies increase funding so that they can expand their horizons.

I had the pleasure of talking to the director of BerryWhite Organic Drinks this morning via Skype, who explained how his company’s use of Crowdcube is paying dividends in terms of planning for the future. BerryWhite will use the new investment to reach into the competitive US market, and will have new listings in Waitrose in the UK very soon.

The primary reason for using Crowdcube is to move the company’s product into PET (plastic) bottles, which Andrew says will be revealed at Sial in Paris in October.

You can hear the full interview right here.

Are you also finding success with crowdfunding? I’d love to hear from you, especially if you’re operating in the food and drink industry.

Ajay Chandran from PureCircle takes on calories and carbon footprints

I had an enjoyable Skype chat with Ajay Chandran yesterday. He’s a corporate sustainability director at PureCircle, a company that specialises in natural sweeteners for the food and beverage industry.

He talked about his role at the company, the development and marketing of stevia, and the background behind PureCircle’s ambitious sustainability targets.

Interview with James Shillcock from Vivid Drinks

Vivid Matcha Drinks

I interviewed entrepreneur James Shillcock this morning via Skype. He’s the founder of Vivid Drinks, and a nice guy to talk to, sharing plenty of useful insights into setting up your own drinks business.

He had that familiar matter-of-fact approach to explaining how a business is set up, as if we all share his entrepreneurial skills; a point of view from the perspective of someone unhindered by fear of failing, or simply sparked by something more creative and ambitious.

We talked about working with the brilliant design agency BrandOpus, and the choices he made in eventually using Tetra Pak’s DreamCap closure.

Here’s the full interview. Let me know what you think.