It’s November, and that means the return of limited-time holiday drinks at major coffee chains. Starbucks’ “Toasted White Chocolate Mocha” and Coffee Bean’s “Red Velvet Cocoa” are back on the menu, but Peet’s Coffee goes beyond prepared drinks to make their holiday campaign even more memorable. Each year, the California java brand rolls out a Holiday Blend—which varies annually depending on the best beans sampled across the world from the previous few months. The company also gives back to the community each season, donating tips and contributions to No Kid Hungry non-profit.

To learn more about the brand’s cause and holiday marketing strategy at home and abroad, AList spoke to Erica Brown, retail president at Peet’s Coffee. 

What is one of the most important things about a holiday marketing strategy? 

For Peet’s, effective holiday marketing must be steeped in authenticity. As community is one of our core values, we consider the Holiday Blend a natural extension of this philosophy. First, it is savored during one of the most celebratory seasons—where family, friends and colleagues gather to enjoy the festivities and reminisce about the year gone by. Second, for thirty-four years, Peet’s has supported charities and non-profits through our Holiday Blend.This is part of our mission to uplift the neighborhoods we serve.

 In 2019, we’re partnering with No Kid Hungry to raise funds for the organization’s goal of ending childhood hunger in the United States. We’re specifically timing the effort to Giving Week. Between December 1 and December 7, Peet’s will donate $2.00 USD, up to $30k, for every pound sold at coffeebars and at  

For those not familiar, Giving Tuesday and Giving Week are events that take place in the midst of the holiday season, serving as a gentle reminder to do good in the world at the same time as we’re checking our shopping lists for stocking stuffers or gifts for family and friends. The values behind this concept speak to who we are at Peet’s. Finally, we continue to honor a tradition established by Alfred, where any guest visiting a coffeebar on 12/24 will receive a complimentary small cup of coffee or tea as a thank you for their valued patronage. Any tips or donations collected at our coffeebars that day will also be donated to No Kid Hungry.

How effective would you say cause marketing is as part of a holiday marketing strategy? Or is it part of a strategic, year-round effort?

Consumers, especially millennials, expect transparency from brands on their corporate social responsibility (CSR) efforts. Essentially, they look to align themselves with companies that share their values. We recently commissioned a study conducted by OnePoll that only reinforces this position. It examined taste preferences of 2,000 American respondents, 43 percent of which identified as “coffee connoisseurs,” and found that these connoisseurs were also more likely to spend time researching coffee. Eighty-three percent also investigated if their coffee beans are grown and sourced in a responsible way. 

Since our founding in 1966, Peet’s has engaged its audience with initiatives that underscore our commitment to social good. By nature of who we are, Peet’s is always seeking ways to support our farmers, as well as the community and the neighborhoods we serve. Our Holiday Blend is one example of this, but we also give back year-round to key non-profits through either direct donations or fundraising efforts with other coffees, such as our Anniversary Blend or Warriors Grounds.

Peet’s recently opened a few branches in China. How do you approach holiday marketing there versus the US? 

In 2017, we announced our first-ever China location with the debut of a Shanghai flagship coffeebar. When the 3,900-square foot Donghu Lu coffeebar opened its doors, it was met with immense success, brewing a local cult of Peetniks. Since then, we have expanded to nine coffeebars and will have 12 by end of year, reinforcing that China is a fast-growing market with a flourishing base of consumers in pursuit of better coffee. We approach that market in the same way we foster the US, by helping consumers discover exceptionally fresh, hand-roasted coffee and introducing a variety of new formats. In terms of marketing, we know that the Chinese consumer appreciates a 360-experience and we’ve catered to that demand with unique events, such as a 1966-inspired Shanghai pop-up that honored our original Vine & Walnut coffeebar in Berkeley, California. 

Finally, what was once a historically western holiday is now globally celebrated. And, as part of the holidays, we’re taking the regionally top-selling Coffee Latte and Flat White and offering limited release with a seasonal flair for the Chinese market. Similarly, we’re launching a limited run of Café Domingo to cater to the local consumers’ preference for Medium roasts.