Costa’s Cotta Sees A Robust Future
Jason Cotta, Managing Director of Costa Coffee UK and Ireland, talked to OOH editor Henry Norman at the FPA Annual House of Commons Lunch. He talks about the success of the brand, room for growth, tackling the challenge of recyclable cups and why he thinks the future is bright…
It was just seven years ago that Costa Coffee overtook Starbucks as the leading retail coffee brand in the UK and since 2010, the year Jason Cotta arrived as MD, the brand has experienced 56 consecutive quarters of like-for-like growth. That’s impressive by anyone’s standards, but what’s the secret to Costa’s success?
Jason says it lies firmly in beans and baristas – a belief that forms the basis of Costa’s new Never a Dull Cup advertising and marketing campaign. Costa invests heavily in barista training to the exact standards that the company demands and the processes required to produce the perfect cup of coffee, hand-crafted at the point of order, whilst under the watchful eye of the Costa customer.
A fundamental part of this process is the Costa Barista of the Year competition, celebrating global barista passion and skill. The annual competition runs amongst 50,000 employee baristas from 30 countries, first identifying national champions, then regional and finally global. The competition is highly competitive and the accolades highly sought after. Each year just 10 finalists are invited to London to compete for the title Champion of Champions. “It’s not just about technical skills,” says Jason, “but also about creativity and passion.” This enthusiasm for perfection and passion for coffee is infectious and spreads throughout Costa’s barista teams and through them to the consumer. Both skill and passion matter”.
When it comes to coffee beans, Costa is no less picky than it is over its baristas. All Costa beans are hand selected and imported green into Tilbury, London and roasted in Costa’s Roastery in Southwark to Costa’s exact specification to ensure consistency and quality. The Costa formula is a unique blend of both Arabica and Robusta beans which, Jason says, gives the taste profile a unique depth, smoothness and quality. It’s a taste that is particular to Costa and consumers love the coffee taste profile. Jason is quick to emphasise that Costa takes nothing for granted – consumers are ever more discerning and coffee standards are improving all round. Indeed, Costa’s first “finer coffee” concept stores recently opened in Covent Garden and Wandsworth.
Technology also plays a critical role in Costa’s continuing growth. Costa acquired the Coffee Nation business in 2010 and converted the estate to Costa Express. Since 2010 the business has grown from 700 units to more than 6000, driven by state-of-the-art telemetry. This type of brand extension is where the support of parent company Whitbread is critical, providing resources and backing to facilitate brand developments. Jason sees Costa Express continuing to grow strongly over the next five years and Costa itself rolling out to more countries around the world.
Digital developments are also driving business with pay and collect fast gaining pace. This enables consumers to order on the go, say on the train, through their smart phone app and collect from a convenient Costa store they pass on their way to work. This saves time and increases efficiency both for the consumer and the barista team.
Like the beans, Costa’s food offering is constantly under review, looking for new and creative ideas that can easily be prepared and served with limited kitchen facilities. Although Costa’s traditional heartland is a coffee and a cake, breakfast, lunch and all-day snack occasions are all important to the food offering, be it eat in or take-away. Innovation to create great-tasting healthier options for those who want them is also a key driver and Costa Fresco – the brand’s “handcrafted food” offering, is seeing further roll-out. Put all this together and it’s clear that Costa is aiming to give consumers a credible choice, enabling them to pick what is right for them whatever the occasion.
Another area high on Jason’s agenda is packaging and recycling. Fit for purpose packaging is critical for consumers on the go, but Cotta is keen that Costa tackles the issue of recyclable cups head on.
Says Jason: “Costa is the UK’s leading coffee shop and as such we remain concerned by what is an important issue. It’s why we were the first to sign the Paper Cup Manifesto – an industry wide agreement to create long term, lasting change. Unfortunately, it is a complex issue which requires the support of our competitors, manufacturers, waste companies, local authorities and customers.
“We have partnered with a leading university to help us understand the true scale of the issue and share solutions on how we can address it with our fellow competitors. Alongside this we are also trialling a number of in-store recycling initiatives, customer awareness programmes and waste disposal programmes to understand what delivers actual results. The findings of these trials and studies will help us in creating real change across the industry.”
So, for Costa, Jason paints a bright future. A future driven by innovation across all areas of the operation, integrating new ideas that will keep leveraging the much-loved Costa brand for many years to come.
Issued on behalf of the FPA by Leapfrog PR. Editorial contact for the FPA is Felicity Read on 01242 282000 or email firstname.lastname@example.org