Bewley’s reboots for Gen Z shoppers
Maev Martin talks to Jason Doyle, managing director of Bewley’s Ltd, one of Ireland’s truly iconic brands, about its pioneering record in the Irish retail and hospitality space, its recent brand refresh, and innovations that respond to a younger and more health-focused audience.
Since the brand was established way back in 1840 it has always been a business of firsts. Bewley’s were the first to introduce tea to the Irish market, the first to introduce coffee roasting at their flagship store on Grafton Street, and Bewley’s was a founder member of the Specialty Coffee Association. They also brought latte art to Ireland, became the first company to employ barista trainers and, of course, they introduced the first Fairtrade brand to Ireland in 1997. These are impressive milestones for any business, and the brand is continuing to push the envelope in terms of its full-service approach.
“This includes the support that we provide to our baristas to compete globally at world championships, elevating the humble coffee to new and exciting levels,” says Jason. “Numerous baristas have come through the Bewley’s school of training and represented both Bewley’s and Ireland on the world stage.”
Fancy a cold brew?
Bewley’s desire to provide a full-service to consumers in both retail and foodservice is also reflected in its recent innovations around plant-based milks and coffee and espresso/cold-brew martinis.
“We introduced cold brewed coffees, espresso martinis and iced beverages in convenience stores and forecourts over the last 12 to 18 months because we are seeing increasing demand for these products across our business in the US, particularly among younger audiences,” says Jason. “A lot of food service businesses have introduced coffee as an ingredient in their cocktail menus and this is a growing trend.
“In addition, younger consumers are interested in health-based and plant-based drinks. Eighteen months ago, we introduced a self-service model which evolved out of an innovation programme that we embarked on with Alpro to develop coffee that was suitable to work with plant-based liquids. This can be tricky to achieve as some flavours and origins can become lost in plant-based liquids. However, our work with Alpro allowed us to create a separate product range for use with plant-based liquids. Those products are available in convenience stores and self-service areas where plant-based drinks are sold.”
This innovation is set to be developed further with the launch of technology that allows shoppers to customise their own iced beverages and cold drinks, including plant-based drinks. “This is a massive growth area,” says Jason. “We will launch this service in forecourts, convenience stores, and self-service environments in Ireland over the next three months, and this technology will also be rolled out to hotel foyers, convention centres, and other high traffic environments at a later date.”
Bewley’s tea and coffee has a strong presence in both the foodservice and retail sectors. “Over the years we have built a presence in all of the key selling channels in Ireland and our focus will be to continue to meet the needs of our operators, but increasingly the needs of changing consumer preferences,” he says.
“Across our teams, we are focused on making sure that our tea and coffee continues to improve and continues to form part of people’s routines and ‘the experience economy’. Our core business is a full-solution approach to over 4,500 foodservice customers in Ireland, but grocery retail is a very important channel for us. Ensuring that our consumers have a great tea and coffee experience with Bewley’s products at home is a key priority. Our range is available in all the major multiples, and we have a strong presence in key independents and speciality retail, as well as being available from our own Bewleys.com.”
Vibrant & sustainable makeover
Bewley’s recently unveiled new-look packaging for its tea and coffee. “We re-launched our full grocery range with new vibrant packs – reflecting our exciting blends and origins – in first-to-market recyclable formats,” says Jason. “We see significant opportunities in the retail channel in the coming years.”
Like their plant-based and espresso/cold brew martini innovations, the new packaging aims to refresh the brand and attract younger consumers. It was created by London agency Pearlfisher, which ‘revolutionised the previously black and dark grey branding that was felt to be recessive and not synonymous with its craft by celebrating a rich tapestry of untold stories’. A modular grid system was created, with graphic shapes and textures weaving together to create a tapestry on each recyclable pack. While the master brand colour palette is proudly white and black, vibrant colours are used for Bewley’s Kenya coffee, for example, bringing the culture and geography of the region to life.
“The redesign takes cues from Bewley’s legendary stories, from being the first company to bring tea to Ireland in the 1800s, to hosting a world of Irish talent, including James Joyce, U2 and WB Yeats, at our café on Grafton Street in Dublin,” says Jason.
“Our new visual identity has injected consistency and vibrancy into our portfolio, allowing the brand to remain ahead of the curve in the ever-changing landscape of the coffee industry. We have repositioned our brand to reinforce its role in contemporary culture and coffee leadership, to ensure relevance, and appeal to a younger and more socially mobile consumer.
“We have also reawakened a latent affection for Bewley’s with current and new consumers by celebrating our history in a modern and contemporary way. In convenience stores and forecourts, we are launching our next generation of bean-to-cup coffee counters which will incorporate the new visual identity, iced coffee, and plant-based options. In our traditional barista accounts, we are focused on delivering great coffee, barista training, and elements of automation to help coffee preparation in challenging sites.”
A fiesta of flavour
Bewley’s is the official coffee partner of the Electric Picnic Music Festival. In addition to the loyal consumers that they currently have, the brand is seeking to attract a younger demographic of 25 to 35-year-olds. “We have researched this cohort intensively and one of the more interesting things they told us was that they like to discover new brands via experiences,” he says. “We are bringing them into the world of Bewley’s at both Kaleidoscope and Electric picnic via our Bewley’s Bodega experience. They can experience first-hand how amazing our coffees taste. In a festival environment, where coffee has not traditionally been of the best quality, this is even more compelling. All our measures have been very positive around the impact this has had on our brand.”
Another very positive impact on the brand is its strong relationship with organisations such as Bord Bia, Fairtrade and Café Femenino. Over the last five years, Bewley’s have paid €1.4 million in Fairtrade premiums and the business purchases 45% of the Fairtrade coffee in Ireland and just under 1% of Fairtrade coffee globally. “Our commitment to Bord Bia’s Origin Green and our Fairtrade purchases reflect our commitment to transparently striving to make a positive impact on the environment and the communities that supply our coffee,” says Jason.
Bewley’s recently launched its Café Femenino Single Origin coffee at its flagship Grafton Street store, and the product is now also available in Tesco, Dunnes and Avoca. In addition to the premium that is paid to the farmers, 50 cent from each pack sold goes towards the running of female empowerment leadership workshops in Peru. “Both Origin Green and Fairtrade encourage us to scrutinise all aspects of our business model and help us be a force for good,” he says.
“Our partnership with Café Femenino is slightly different in that it has allowed us to continue our positive impact but focus on connecting the farmers – on whom we depend – to our valued end consumers. The story of Café Femenino and the women who are making a difference for their communities is so powerful and universal. Through our communication, we hope consumers understand that the purchase of a great tasing coffee can also have big impact on communities across the world.”
Bewley’s are planning to run four brand campaigns a year around their Café Femenino partnership – ‘Feel the Femenino Effect’, ‘Fiesta of Flavour’ – their summer festivals campaign, ‘Bewley’s Big Coffee Social for Hospice,’ and their ‘Believe’ Christmas campaign.
Jason Doyle has been managing director of Bewley’s Ireland for the past five years. Prior to his current role, he led the sales function for Bewley’s in the Irish marketplace. “I am a classically trained chef and I have a passion for great taste and great experiences, something we pride ourselves on in Bewley’s,” he says. “During my progress through the business, I have championed Bewley’s values-led approach and commitments to sustainability. Over the years, I have insured that we continue to build strong partnerships with our tea and coffee farmers – these long-term relationships remain vital to the continued prosperity of our beloved coffee and tea industry.
“In terms of drinks trends, we are seeing dairy alternatives – particularly oat – growing very quickly across all demographics. Iced coffee is particularly popular among younger consumers, and we see this as one of the big growth areas for the industry. As cold coffee matures in the market, we also see a big opportunity for cold brew coffee preparation. Sustainability will be a key focus for the industry – mandatory ESG reporting and legislation around ‘green washing’ will sharpen the focus for suppliers. We see this as a great opportunity to communicate our authentic story directly to consumers.”
LOVE IRISH FOOD
Bewley’s joined Love Irish Food in September 2022. “We’ve long been admirers of the work they do and how they elevate the Irish producer network,” says Jason. “As a proud Irish coffee roaster and tea blender, we are grateful for the opportunity to highlight the craft in what we do and the positive impact we have on communities alongside other great Irish brands. We are delighted to have the Love Irish Food logo on our new packaging and cup.”
Would he encourage other Irish brands to join the organisation? “We would certainly advise Irish businesses to join Love Irish Food,” he says. “We know from our consumer research that supporting local and knowing where their products come from is increasingly important. As an organisation, Love Irish Food continue to invest in communicating their values to Irish consumers, which in turn elevates the status of their members.
“Being a Love Irish Food member has also presented additional retail exposure and advertising opportunities which have been a boon as we continue to grow our business.”