Gorman: Tis The Season For Starbucks (But Not For Plastic)

GORMAN

Marie Gorman is Account Planner for quench food & beverage marketing agency (part of Pavone Marketing Group) and develops the quench annual Food and Beverage Trends Report, researched and published by the agency since 2009.

 

Starbucks dropped its annual holiday cups on November 8th — along with its litany of sweet and sugary seasonal beverages – as the much-anticipated and unofficial start to the season. A host of harvest, holiday, and fall/winter-appropriate snacks are also returning to Starbucks display cases, including the Turkey & Stuffing Panini and the Gingerbread Loaf.

Classic. The modern staple of the season.

Except this year, there’s a twist: Anyone who ordered a holiday beverage on the drop date (November 7) received a free, limited-edition reusable red cup. Recipients can bring the cup back throughout the season for discounted coffee. When customers in the U.S. and Canada purchase a drink after 2 p.m. between November 7 and January 7 with their reusable cup in hand, they’ll get 50 cents off the order. The only catch: It has to be a holiday drink, sized grande or larger.

The initiative has already received some attention from such major outlets as CBS News and USA Today. Industry publications – marketing and food and beverage alike – have also picked up the launch. Other companies, such as Alaska Airlines, have played off of the occasion and developed promotions surrounding the “event.”

Why It Matters: The cup is an easy way to get customers coming back, but also represents a hot company and industry topic: sustainability.

Starbucks made headlines last year with its decision to eliminate straws and incorporate new, plastic cups; however, its commitment runs much deeper. Starbucks owns and operates more than 28,000 stores worldwide. The coffee behemoth announced in 2018 that by 2025, it’s aiming for 10,000 of these – some existing, and, some yet to open – to meet a new set of sustainability requirements. The Greener Stores Framework, as Starbucks is calling it, lays out six key standards that these more sustainable stores must abide by, ranging from waste management tactics to design upgrades. And the company is making its new framework open-source, in the hopes that other retailers will follow their lead.

The program could divert around 50 million meals’ worth of food to people in need in the U.S. per year, and reduce water usage across its 10,000 “Greener Stores” by 30% (the exact stores will be determined after an audit of all stores later this year). In the long term, John Kelly, SVP of global affairs and social impact says, the investments in infrastructure and design upgrades could also save Starbucks $50 million over the next ten years in utilities expenses.

This is just par for the course in the food and beverage industry: brands are standing up and saying no to plastic. The world’s biggest food and drink companies signed the New Plastic Economy Global Commitment to reduce plastic pollution in January 2019. More than 250 packaging producers, brands, retailers and recyclers have committed to the global plan, including Nestlé, Unilever, The Coca-Cola Company and Pernod Ricard. Altogether, these organizations represent about 20 percent of all plastic packaging produced globally. In signing up, these brands have pledged to eliminate unnecessary packaging, move from single-use to reuse packaging models, and make sure that by 2025, 100 percent of plastic packaging can be easily and safely reused, recycled or composted. The New Plastic Economy Global Commitment is setting up regular targets to be reviewed and annual data publishing.

Across industries, companies are coming together and forming similar coalitions in the larger interest of the planet as plastic becomes more and more of a taboo. Mintel predicts these practices becoming the universal standard in the next five years, as brands ditch one-use plastic and look for bigger, better – and more systemic – ways to prove their sustainability chops.

According to Mintel analysts: “In pursuit of more advanced and comprehensive sustainability solutions, we are going to continue to see companies banding together in order to instigate change. Another perk of making a coalition? Shared responsibility. It’s not lost on these brands that some of the risk is mitigated by having a larger cohort involved.”