Second Cup moves to ‘Clean Label’ beverages

The coffee chain embraces clean living and transparency by eliminating artificial additives from 70% of its beverages.

Second Cup is looking to help ingredient-conscious Canadians meet their clean living goals, announcing that it has eliminated artificial additives from the majority of its beverage menu.

Beginning today, 25 beverages representing 70% of the chain’s menu now meet the “Clean Label” standard, meaning they are free of artificial colours and flavours, preservatives and high fructose corn syrup. The menu items that meet the standard include its non-flavoured brewed coffee, latte, cappuccino, smoothie, hot chocolate, vanilla bean latte and moccaccino.

Second Cup has been quietly testing the reformulated menu items for several months to ensure there was no change to the taste, and now those items will appear on the menu next to a “Clean Label” symbol.

Second Cup has attempted to differentiate itself in a highly competitive coffee category, in part, by focusing on quality and premium products. One way it has done that has been to also speak to environmentally or socially conscious considerations, as most of its coffee is either Rainforest Alliance Certified, Fair Trade Certified or Certified Organic.

Vanda Provato, VP of marketing at Second Cup, says the “Clean Label” announcement is a similar step in maintaining its status as a leader in quality and innovation in Canada’s coffee category, only this time speaking more to the considerations of health-conscious consumers.

“[Consumers are] looking for more transparency, and they’re challenging us, as foodservice companies, to do better when it comes to the products that we craft,” she says. “We think we’ve achieved that here – removing artificial colours and flavours, preservatives and high fructose corn syrup from these beverages without changing the great taste.”

Though she couldn’t get into specifics, Provato says Second Cup will continue to reformulate other menu items to meet the Clean Label standard.

In addition to messaging and signage in all Second Cup locations, the changes are being promoted through a social- and PR-led campaign. Provato says Second Cup will be launching video content on Facebook that tells the “Clean Label” story “in a fun and engaging way,” but adds that it will be a major part of its brand communications going forward.

“This isn’t a short-term campaign, it’s a long-term commitment,” she says. “And so you can expect to see us tell our Clean Label story in additional ways going forward.”

While overall revenues have yet to level off at Second Cup, the company’s EBITDA more than doubled in Q3 and same-store sales are now flat after several quarters of decline. Provato says that in addition to product innovation like the “Clean Label” change, Second Cup is planning to continue to try new cafe concepts in high-traffic locations and multiply its points of distribution to help continue to transform the business.