Recently I was at the grocery store looking at the coffee and noticed a bag with a great brand story. It went something like this, “in the 70s, our founder visited Europe and tasted the best fresh roasted coffee he had ever had, so he brought the concept back to the US in the 80s by being one of the first to care about roasting quality and freshness!”
Awesome. A coffee pioneer committed to fresh, quality roasts.
There is only one problem – I was holding a bag of undoubtedly stale, pre-ground coffee.
You may not be a coffee fanatic (we roast our own coffee at The Sky Floor, email me your address, and I will mail you some), so I will do a quick lesson in coffee based on my experience: Coffee is best 1 to 10 days after roasting; it is best to keep it whole bean until right before brewing; if you make espresso, consume it before the shot dies and gets stale. Basically, the air is the enemy. Sort of like wine, coffee oxidizes and changes as it is exposed to air. So when you grind it, you uncover a million tiny surfaces to that oxygen, quickly changing its essential qualities. Furthermore, grocery store coffee is already typically much older than it should be. So in this bag of pre-ground coffee, you have a double-whammy of potential for a pretty bland cup of coffee – far from the commitment to freshness peddled on the packaging.
(I have to throw in a side note: there is nothing wrong with drip coffee, Starbucks, or even pre-ground, depending on where you are and what you want. I reject coffee snobbery, but I recommend enjoying freshly roasted coffee, brewed well, when available.)
Back to the story, here is a brand telling the consumer that they care about freshness and selling something objectively not fresh. When they started selling in the 1980s, I think they probably did have the edge over the grovery store competition when it came to freshness. The brand is local to where I live so they could’ve blown away Folger’s quality. But the coffee industry has changed and evolved, and many Americans are used to a freshly-roasted whole bean product.
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If I were this company, I wouldn’t change the brand story; I would adjust how it operates to match it. For example, having a shelf limit for their bags or only supplying whole-bean. Or maybe they can still sell their pre-ground product but advertise ordering freshly roasted coffee online on the bags – “if you want the freshest coffee we make, visit us online.”
Their original commitment to freshness may have been genuine at one time, but markets and expectations change. Will you change with them to live out your vision, or will you keep telling a story that no longer rings true?
Your why might not change, but you may have to adjust how you bring that to the world for it to stay authentic.