Seattle's Best Coffee Hits 30,000 Venues


Seattle’s Best Coffee reached its distribution goal this week. The Starbucks-owned premium brand is now available at 30,000 venues nationwide, including Subway Restaurants, AMC Theatres, Alaska Airlines and Royal Caribbean cruises. The milestone is part of Starbucks’ vision to grow and revitalize the 40-year-old brand by expanding it to both national and international markets. Under the leadership of Seattle’s Best president Michelle Gass, the brand has been growing in popularity with consumers outside the West Coast. While 30,000 is a significant number (a ten-fold increase from the number of venues Seattle’s Best had in March), Gass has her sights set on as many as “100,000 or more” venues, she said. The former Procter & Gamble alum, who helped launch Via and grow Starbucks’ Frappuccino brand into a billion-dollar business, recently chatted with Brandweek about her vision for Seattle’s Best. 

Brandweek: Now that Seattle’s Best has hit the 30,000-point distribution mark, what’s next?
Michelle Gass:
We are extremely pleased with how our efforts have played out over the last year. The milestone we set earlier this year—to increase distribution by ten-fold to 30,000—we have checked the box on that. We have achieved that milestone and it is the beginning of great momentum that we see into the future with all of our plans. The 30,000 milestone [equates to] 30,000 points where [consumers] can get a cup of fresh coffee, through existing partnerships with [companies] like Alaska Airlines and Royal Caribbean, and new partners, like Subway and AMC Theatres, to name a few. [Of course,] we’ve just begun and we’re setting our sight on more [points of distribution].

BW: Has consumer perception of the brand changed? Or it is still a work in progress?
We’re still in the very early [stages], but in the weeks and months to come, that is when our brand story will be unfolding. So, a few examples of how we tell our story in all the ways that our customers touch our brand: In our stores and cafes, our cups, napkins, stoppers and paper goods—those will be ways for us to express this new brand voice of fun, optimism and simplicity. [Starting January] on our cups, for example, we’ll have our signature red [brand] color, and the back will be a canvas where we’ll bring our voice to the consumer, [through sayings like]: “half full.” We’re talking in that [tone] of optimism and sharing our voice with consumers, and we’re doing it with a wink and a smile.

BW: And how else?
[Another way] is through traditional and untraditional marketing. Our 1000 Cups platform [a 10-day trip to document people’s coffee experiences while sharing a cup of coffee with them] is a great example of our new voice coming to life. [After all], it’s not just what you tell [consumers.] It’s also the behavior through which you express yourself. To me, the 1000 Cups example [highlights] both our business and our brand strategy, which is to bring bright spots and simple moments of joy and pleasure through coffee to people around the world. That is representative of where our brand came from, and we have to create new assets for this brand. It’s a 40-year-old company, but it’s, in many ways, a new brand. And so, we have to figure out how we are going to show up in this world. (Creature is the agency behind the 1000 Cups campaign.)

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