Why are YouTube coffee brands becoming more popular?
When you think of coffee and YouTube, a number of popular content creators – including James Hoffmann and Morgan Eckroth – may come to mind. In some cases, these channels can receive hundreds of thousands of subscribers – showing that there is rising consumer interest in learning more about coffee.
However, correspondingly, we are also seeing more and more YouTube content creators market and sell their own-branded coffee products, which range from signature blends to capsules to single-serve bags.
Celebrity endorsements, as well as partnerships between coffee brands and prominent figures in the entertainment industry, are not new to the coffee sector. However, the popularity of YouTube-branded coffee has noticeably been growing over the last few years. For instance, YouTube influencer Emma Chamberlain’s coffee brand raised US $7 million in Series A funding in August 2022, which was used to support brand expansion and product development.
To learn more about this growing market, I spoke with three industry professionals. Read on to find out more.
You may also like our article on whether coffee & sports partnerships are becoming more popular.
An overview of the YouTube coffee market
YouTube is one of the world’s most popular video sharing and social media platforms. According to Statista, the site has over 2.5 billion active subscribers.
Since it was launched in 2005, YouTube has become a popular platform for social media influencers – which Cambridge Dictionary defines as “someone who affects or changes the way that other people behave”. However, in the 21st century, it has increasingly come to refer to online content creators.
It’s common for some of these figures to gain large followings on social media platforms, which has led many of those who do to sell merchandise – including coffee products.
David Sievers is the CEO of Akira Coffee, a private label company which works with content creators to develop and market coffee products. David tells me that the company has partnered with several YouTube content creators including “GrayStillPlays”, “Jacksepticeye”, and Super Carlin Brothers.
“Different content creators want to try different approaches to [developing and selling] coffee,” he tells me. “Over the last couple of years, more and more creators have been building their own consumer product brands to increase revenue and diversify their income.”
David adds that it’s important for content creators to remain on brand when developing their coffee products.
“A coffee-specific content creator is likely to focus more on educating consumers,” he says. “Other creators who have built their audience in other topics may have to find more creative ways of developing their coffee products.
“Either way, all creators have to capitalise on trust they have built with their audience over time,” he adds.
Jonathan and Benjamin Carlin run the movie-themed YouTube channel Super Carlin Brothers, which has over two million subscribers on the platform.
They explain that marketing and selling coffee products allowed them to go beyond the standard range of merchandise that YouTubers typically sell.
“Our audience resonated well with our coffee products,” Jonathan and Benjamin tell me. “The branding is in line with the kind of content we produce, which focuses on Disney, Pixar, Star Wars, Harry Potter, and Marvel.”
A wider view: Why are more celebrities becoming prominent in the coffee industry?
Marketing is a huge part of the coffee industry, and for a long time now, celebrities have formed a part of this.
One of the most well-known examples is George Clooney’s brand ambassador role at Nespresso. Clooney first partnered with the Swiss capsule manufacturer in 2006, which helped to drive the brand’s growth immensely.
It’s estimated that Nespresso alone manufactures 14 billion capsules per year – largely a result of its “luxurious” marketing which is in line with Clooney’s public image. In fact, Nespresso launched a new television ad campaign which features the American actor in November 2022.
However, Clooney is not the only famous figure partnering with coffee brands. In September 2021, De’Longhi launched the Perfetto campaign with US actor Brad Pitt. At the same time, we’ve also seen more and more big names in entertainment and sports launch their own coffee brands.
One example is National Basketball Association player Jimmy Butler, who launched his own coffee company in partnership with Shopify in September 2021. Butler started selling US $20 cups of coffee to his NBA teammates during the pandemic, which then led to him officially launching the BIGFACE coffee brand the following year.
BIGFACE also purchased more than 1,000lbs of the highest-scoring coffee at Cup of Excellence El Salvador in 2021 – showing that some of these brands also have a growing interest in sourcing higher-quality coffee.
How do YouTubers sell coffee?
David tells me some common ways for content creators to market their coffee on YouTube.
“Creators need to talk about their coffee products in a way that makes sense to their audience,” he says. “Since the creator has built their own community, they know what type of content is important to their audience.
“One important decision to make is how in-depth they need to be about coffee,” he adds. “Not all of their audience wants to watch content about the details of coffee, [including how to brew it in different ways or where it came from].”
Jonathan and Benjamin, meanwhile, explain that they often include a few key details when marketing their coffee products to subscribers.
“We emphasise the differences between how our beans are roasted and how the coffee you buy in the supermarket is roasted,” they say. “We also emphasise that our coffee is sustainably and responsibly sourced.”
Sustainability and responsibility is a key focus for marketing in the coffee industry, too. According to Global Data, 43% of global consumers choose their coffee based on environmental and social sustainability factors. This is especially apparent among millennial and Gen Z consumers, who often place more value on these purchasing factors.
David, meanwhile, adds that the language which YouTube coffee brands use often needs to be more accessible.
“Most creators who sell coffee products don’t explain the nuances of Q grading and the coffee flavour wheel, or what small batch roasting and ethical sourcing are,” he says. “However, many content creators sell specialty-grade coffees because they want to protect the trust they have built with their audience.
“By saying that you only sell specialty-grade coffee, it’s an indication that quality matters to your brand,” he adds.
What about sourcing and roasting coffee?
When it comes to sourcing and roasting coffee, there’s a clear indication that most YouTubers and other influencers are moving to work closely with private label companies, thereby leveraging their experience and infrastructure. These partners can also assist with the packaging, marketing, and sales of these coffee products – sometimes through integrating ecommerce sites on existing platforms or creating new ones altogether.
“Most content creators work with an established coffee roaster,” David says. “It’s very rare for a creator to want to invest in setting up their own in-house coffee operation.
“Almost all YouTube-branded coffee is sold online, and then the coffee is shipped to the customer,” he adds. “Darker roast profiles tend to sell the most, but more experienced customers are interested in lighter roasts with more unique flavours.”
A growing number of content creators are also expressing interest in certifications for their coffee products. These include USDA Organic and Fair Trade.
“Some content creators express interest in certifications to ensure that the products meet consumer expectations for quality and sustainability,” David says. “However, YouTube coffee brands mainly need to focus on marketing their products as high quality.”
Although YouTube by no means makes up a huge percentage of all specialty coffee sales, it is clearly growing, and it is an intriguing segment with the potential to drive awareness on a colossal scale. Alongside this, we’re also seeing signs of an emphasis on quality, sustainability, and product diversification.
Ultimately, while YouTubers might not sell the highest-quality coffees or really hone in on the scientific side of coffee extraction, they could certainly introduce more people to specialty coffee.
Enjoyed this? Then read our article on why themed coffees are becoming popular.
Photo credits: Carlin Brothers Coffee
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