Starbucks brings elevated coffee tastings into a Toronto home

The coffee brand is educating customers about getting cafe-quality drinks at home to promote a new line of grocery products.


Starbucks Canada is promoting a new line of grocery store premium whole bean coffee products with an out-of-store activation aimed at educating customers on how to replicate cafe-level coffee experiences at home.

The Starbucks “premium select collection” consists of two high-quality coffee bean varieties, one Kenyan and the Costa Rican, available exclusively through Amazon, Walmart, Loblaws, Sobeys and Metro, and coming soon to London Drugs and Shoppers Drug Mart.

KenyaBlendTo promote their arrival, Starbucks is hosting of a three-day “Bean ‘N Brew” coffee tasting activation this weekend inside a Toronto home, offering participants an “elevated, at-home” coffee experience, says Tara Chetkowski, marketing director for Starbucks products at Nestle. Last year, Nestlé acquired the rights to market and sell Starbucks products globally for $7.15 billion. At that time, Chetkowski and the Starbucks CPG marketing team transitioned into roles at Nestlé.

“We have a built-in sampling system with our cafe presence across the country,” she says. “But what we’re really trying to nail down with this is the at-home space and building up the equity for Starbucks in grocery – that’s our biggest opportunity.”

Guests were invited to register for one of ten free public tastings at the home, where they will learn brewing tips from experts and taste the products first-hand. Chetkowski says the activation is meant to offer an immersive experience revolving around at-home coffee prep and grinding techniques.

Seeing as in-store customers have come to associate Starbucks with customization and personalization, she says, the “Bean ‘N Brew” effort is meant to teach them how they can replicate those experiences inside the comfort of their homes.

The fully-booked tasting event will see a total of 150 people partake in the activation in blocks of 15 guests at a time. Starbucks will also be hosting additional media and influencer sessions, and driving awareness through its own social and digital channels. The effort is being led by Narrative on PR, with help from parent agency Bensimon Byrne on a website.

Starbucks-BNB2Whole bean products represent about 8% of the CPG coffee segment, and growth across the category is being driven by premium offerings, according to Chetkowski. That is expected to continue as younger customers who have come of age visiting coffee shops begin to transition into an at-home drinking routine, she says. Similar to the craft beer segment, the trend is arising out of demand for fresh products whose origins are presented up front and in which consumption becomes a kind of “ritual they can enjoy on the weekend.”

Premiumization is more predominant in certain regions of the country, such as the West coast. So while “Bean ‘N Brew” is the first activation of its kind, the company will consider doing others in markets like Vancouver, depending on its success.

The company is currently selling a Kenya blend in coffee shops that is slightly different from the retail product. Chetkowski says the difference is due to the retail product being less regionally restrictive in its bean sourcing to align with the distribution and consistency requirements of mass retail. The Costa Rica blend is not currently offered in Starbucks cafes.