Our Take

Musings on the Foodservice Industry

Sourcing as Branding: Smell the Coffee

There are tons of academic papers that analyze how sourcing products can be aligned with branding.

But we don’t need to read those to understand the growing value of sourcing specific products from specific places as a way to heighten one’s brand. 

Academia equates sourcing with the straight-forward and boring science of purchasing; but they miss the idea of a new kind of branding that ties the where and why of a purchase to the overall personality and attractiveness of a company and its products.

This is most evident in coffee shops with probably the best example being Starbucks and Caribou Coffee.

Starbucks makes a big deal about its 100% ethically sourced coffee.  It promotes an idea it naturally calls C.A.F.E. (Coffee and Farmer Equity).  The cornerstone of C.A.F.E. is sustainability verified by third-party experts. This is not just about affecting the lives of its customers but of its farmers.

So, when we drink a cup of Starbucks coffee we are told that we are also supporting farmers, maintaining social responsibility and positively impacting the environment.  Basically, Starbucks aligns its coffee with goodness but not like Folger’s did in the old days.

Starbucks coffee doesn’t just taste good, it IS “good”.

Caribou Coffee, the second largest chain of coffee stores in the country, promotes the fact that “we treat our beans right.”  Almost as if the beans were human.  But it is exactly that humane approach to sourcing that provides Caribou with a brand you want to be attached to; in this case buy some coffee from.

Caribou’s roastery and sourcing department is “filled with people who are committed to going the extra mile”, according to the company blog.

We want to drink coffee that is sustainable and provides good will and is roasted by people who care.

That is the new, true essence of branding.  It is not about fooling us with fake advertising slogans or the happy faces of people who smell fresh-brewed coffee in the morning.

Today’s branding efforts go much deeper than that.  It goes directly to the source.

We learned long ago that Brazil makes great coffee.  Now, when that coffee is sourced, we also learn that the company bringing it to us is aligned with the Rainforest Alliance in order to ensure that harvesting the coffee did not ruin the environment.

Sugar Foods recognized the importance of such sourcing and knowledge and redesigned its sweetener packages.  We have renamed our sweeteners, which we now call ‘EcoSticks” because of their slim tubular shape and their sustainable nature.  There is now more sweetness packed into a smaller package.

Sustainability.  Social responsibility.  Environmentally and economically correct sourcing.ecoStick-Globe_family-fan-227x300

These are the new catch words for branding.  The only thing is they are not just catch words.  They match up with today’s customer’s desire to eat better and do good.

We at Sugar Foods couldn’t agree more.

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