If there is one mar­ket that food and bev­er­age es­tab­lish­ments have been try­ing to keep up with, it’s the mil­len­ni­als. In past F& B Re­port is­sues, a num­ber of con­tribut­ing writ­ers have tack­led mil­len­nial food habits and why restau­rants are con­stantly adapt­ing to what these con­sumers want. Peo­ple have called them in­de­ci­sive, picky, and un­able to pay at­ten­tion, but among all their char­ac­ter­is­tics and stereo­types, it is their in­cli­na­tion for good de­sign and aes­thet­ics that F& B busi­nesses are try­ing to tap.

Com­mer­cial cof­fee op­er­a­tors are no stranger to these mar­ket­ing schemes. What good can an In­sta­gram- friendly drink do? Plenty, ac­tu­ally. The best case in point had ac­tu­ally oc­curred in the mid­dle of this year, thanks to com­mer­cial cof­fee gi­ant Star­bucks. A few months ago, the es­tab­lish­ment launched the con­tro­ver­sial Uni­corn Frap­puc­cino, a blue and pink- col­ored fruity drink that broke both the In­ter­net and café sales, quickly sell­ing out across Star­bucks branches in the United States. The frap­puc­cino it­self drew mixed re­views on­line, but that didn’t stop ne­ti­zens from post­ing pho­tos of it on their so­cial me­dia ac­counts and fran­ti­cally at­tempt­ing to get a taste of the highly talked- about drink.

Are com­mer­cial cof­fee es­tab­lish­ments here in the Philip­pines play­ing the same game? Star­bucks and The Cof­fee Bean & Tea Leaf Philip­pines say yes. In an era when third wave cof­fee shops are pop­ping up left and right, both Star­bucks and The Cof­fee Bean & Tea Leaf have been con­sis­tently brew­ing new ideas to catch young din­ers’ at­ten­tion— hook, line, and sinker.

On one hand, Star­bucks is rec­og­nized for their in­no­va­tive sea­sonal drinks cater­ing to var­i­ous trends all over the globe— which, of course, have to look gor­geous for the good old ’ gram. Star­bucks Ja­pan cre­ated buzz last spring when they put out their Sakura Blos­som bev­er­age, a pink drink made with tra­di­tional Ja­panese in­gre­di­ents, topped with bright pink rice pops, and served in a special Sakura Blos­som cup. As of writ­ing, Star­bucks Philip­pines is cur­rently en­dors­ing its Vanilla Sweet Cream Cold Brew, a drink with an in­tox­i­cat­ing swirl of light cream and dark cof­fee fit for cap­tur­ing with the Boomerang app. Star­bucks has also in­cor­po­rated exotic or so­cial me­dia- trend­ing in­gre­di­ents in bev­er­ages, like salted caramel, açaí berry, Tahi­tian vanilla, and Va­len­cia orange.

So­cial me­dia be­comes a weapon and vi­ral con­tent never fails to reel a mar­ket in. A few years ago, a se­cret Star­bucks menu con­sist­ing of off- menu items ( a Harry Pot­ter But­ter­beer- fla­vored drink among them) trended on­line, prompt­ing cus­tomers to ask café baris­tas to make these special bev­er­ages for them.

The Cof­fee Bean & Tea Leaf, on the other hand, claims that its sig­na­ture drinks have al­ways been the ice blended bev­er­ages. Cus­tomers in the Philip­pines are nat­u­rally drawn to cold and dis­tinctly fla­vored sweet drinks. The Cof­fee Bean & Tea Leaf has also been us­ing so­cial me­dia and aes­thet­ics as a means to in­ter­act and en­gage with the mil­len­nial mar­ket. Re­cently launch­ing Mex­i­can Hot Choco­late, they cre­ated an on­line con­test for cus­tomers who could draw the best Mex­i­can- in­spired cus­tom­ized art on their blank cof­fee cups. Par­tic­i­pants are asked to tag their of­fi­cial ac­count as they post their own cre­ations on In­sta­gram. No­tice that branches of the es­tab­lish­ment have word art on their walls, best for tak­ing pic­tures on so­cial me­dia.

“We treat our so­cial me­dia plat­forms as a key re­source for cus­tomer

“We treat our so­cial me­dia plat­forms as a key re­source for cus­tomer in­sight and com­mu­ni­ty­build­ing. We use them to ini­ti­ate con­ver­sa­tions

with our grow­ing mar­ket, lis­ten to what they say about

our brand, and fine-tune our mar­ket­ing

ini­tia­tives around it,” says Nina Gre­go­rius.

in­sight and com­mu­nity- build­ing. We use them to ini­ti­ate con­ver­sa­tions with our grow­ing mar­ket, lis­ten to what they say about our brand, and fine- tune our mar­ket­ing ini­tia­tives around it. Its abil­ity to reach po­ten­tial and un­tapped con­sumers is in­com­pa­ra­ble, and we make sure that our con­tent strat­egy in­volves en­gag­ing the cus­tomer and show­ing that they are the most im­por­tant part of our brand- build­ing,” says Nina Gre­go­rius of The Cof­fee Bean & Tea Leaf ’s pub­lic re­la­tions arm.

Com­mer­cial as both es­tab­lish­ments are, they are also con­cerned with sus­tain­abil­ity, sin­gle ori­gins, and projects with their cof­fee grow­ers and farm­ers. The Cof­fee Bean & Tea Leaf ’s Car­ing Cup ini­tia­tives stem from their di­rect re­la­tion­ship with the farm­ers who metic­u­lously cul­ti­vate the beans and tea leaves they source. Star­bucks has also built Farmer Sup­port Cen­ters that help sus­tain their com­mu­ni­ties.

In the end, in­no­va­tion is al­ways a good way to el­e­vate the cof­fee ex­pe­ri­ence for the cus­tomers of these es­tab­lish­ments. Dif­fer­ent or trend­ing drinks are bound to make it on­line, and word of mouth on so­cial me­dia can spread like wild­fire. Star­bucks and The Cof­fee Bean & Tea Leaf aren’t the only ones in it. Ne­spresso will soon join the game as it opens its very first café in Rock­well this year, so its mar­ket can gain sim­i­lar on- site ex­pe­ri­ence as well. Gre­go­rius says, “In­no­va­tion is at the heart of what we do and we like to keep our cus­tomers on their toes. Our ef­forts are al­ways con­cen­trated at mak­ing sure that there is al­ways some­thing new that will keep them com­ing back– with­out giv­ing away too much, of course.”

(This page, top) Be­fore busy hours at The Cof­fee Bean & Tea Leaf's SM Jazz branch; A cus­tomer takes an In­sta­gram photo of their drink at Star­bucks (Op­po­site page, clock­wise from up­per left) Star­bucks’ new ni­tro cold brew in­cor­po­rates ni­tro­gen into...

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