How important is “brand authenticity” for specialty coffee roasters?

Kahwei Yoong
July 12, 2021
authentic coffee brand

In the digital age, consumers have become increasingly tech savvy and resourceful when it comes to making purchasing decisions. They are adept at navigating through a sea of information, while making conscious and selective decisions about the brands they interact with.

Rather than being swayed by bold advertising claims, they tend to look for the most reliable, trustworthy, and genuine brands to serve their needs. A recent survey on consumer behaviour highlighted this when 90% of its respondents mentioned authenticity as an important factor in deciding which brands they like and support.

As a result, one of the best ways for specialty coffee roasters to market themselves is to promote their authenticity. Not only does this help build consumer loyalty and trust, it can also help them stand out from more “artificial” competitors.

But what counts as “authentic”? And how can coffee brands achieve it without coming across as forced? To find out, I spoke with 2018 Hellenic Barista Champion and Head of Quality Control at Samba Coffee Roasters, Michalis Katsiavos.

rows of coffee beans
Brand authenticity falls into four broad categories: continuity, credibility, integrity, and symbolism

What is brand authenticity?

The Journal of Consumer Psychology states that brand authenticity falls into four broad categories: continuity, credibility, integrity, and symbolism.

Continuity reflects a brand’s ability to consistently stay true to its values; credibility refers to honesty and the brand’s ability to deliver on its promises; integrity relates to a genuine commitment to social, ethical, and environmental concerns; and symbolism refers to the way in which brands cater to the needs of consumers.

Therefore, an authentic brand can be defined as one that stays true to itself, shows honesty, fulfills on what it promises, and provides value to its consumers.

Michalis has worked in the coffee industry for more than a decade. A regular competitor in barista championships around the world, he was crowned Hellenic Barista Champion in 2018. He currently works as head of quality control at Samba Coffee Roasters in Athens. 

He tells me that for him, an authentic brand is predominantly one that inspires consumer confidence in their products. 

“When I think about brand authenticity, I think of brands that have expertise in what they do,” he says. “They’re brands that I feel safe buying products from and that provide confidence in the relationship I have with them.”

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coffee pour over
Authenticity is key to building long-term consumer trust

Why does authenticity matter?

Today, brand authenticity is more important than ever. According to a survey by Cohn & Wolfe, 52% of people would recommend a brand they felt was authentic, while nine out of ten consumers would be willing to take action to reward brands for their authenticity.

For specialty coffee roasters, there are a number of reasons to create an authentic brand.

Build long-term consumer trust

“Brand authenticity allows customers to trust you, and trust is one of the most important aspects of a business,” Michalis explains. “When trust is present, it contributes to sales and also helps create a respectful consumer-brand relationship.”

Indeed, research shows that brand authenticity has a substantial effect on both perceived value and brand trust.

Appeal to young people

In the US, there are more than 139 million people who fall into the category of millennial and Genz, with a combined spending power of $350 billion. Therefore, for specialty coffee roasters it’s crucial to appeal to these groups.

In addition to sustainability and transparency, one of the most important qualities they look for in brands is authenticity. Around 90% of millennials and 85% of Gen Z say authenticity is an important factor when deciding which brands they support.

If specialty roasters ignore the call for authenticity from these two groups, they could find themselves falling behind their competitors.

Powerful marketing tool

The content of authentic brands – whether an article, a video, or an image – is far more likely to be shared by consumers than content from brands that appear “fake” or self-interested. 

While paying money for adverts and sitting back used to be effective, people now want brands with which they can form a connection.

If brands take care to be authentic in their words and actions, customers will do the marketing for them via word-of-mouth, social media sharing, and positive online reviews.

sustainable coffee packaging
Product packaging needs to align with a brand’s values

How packaging can help build an authentic coffee brand

The role of packaging has extended beyond its protective function to become a useful marketing tool for brands. As well as communicating product quality, it can be used to convey values and brand authenticity.

However, for packaging to be effective in this respect, it needs to be consistent and align with the company’s voice. Inconsistency or mixed messages can make consumers lose trust in a brand as they’ll see the approach as disingenuous.

Michalis tells me that Samba Coffee Roasters has always set out to be a simple, lighthearted company, so they make sure their packaging reflects this.

“Samba is a minimal and funny brand,” he says. “We want to share friendly coffee and be friendly to our customers. So, we use happy colours, as well as cute imagery on our packaging to reflect our branding. For example, we use a little penguin cartoon drinking coffee on our cold brew bottle.”

“For packaging to be effective, it needs to be consistent and align with the company’s voice.”

As well as consistent branding, research by Label Insights shows that providing detailed product information is key to building trust and loyalty with consumers. They found that 81% of shoppers say transparency is important or extremely important to them both online and in-store.

A good way of offering customers information without overwhelming them is with the use of scannable QR codes. QR codes allow roasters to maintain a minimal packaging aesthetic while ensuring more information about the product is available.

This can help further boost authenticity as it allows consumers to form a closer connection with the product by reading about it on the company website, on social media platforms, or through videos.

recyclable coffee packaging
Sustainable coffee packaging can help showcase a genuine commitment to the environment

In essence, brand authenticity is about being real and genuine to establish trust with consumers. With packaging serving as one of the main touchpoints between roasters and their consumers, it presents a great opportunity for roasters to send the right message about who they are to form meaningful connections with consumers.

At MTPak Coffee, we offer a range of sustainable packaging options that can be fully customised to accurately reflect your brand identity. Our team of expert designers can help you design compelling packaging that tells your brand story and promotes your authenticity.

For more information on our coffee packaging, contact our team.

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