The UK’s largest coffee chain, with more than 2,000 shops nationwide, is dedicated to meeting the changing demands of consumers and believes it can make a powerful and positive contribution towards customer health and wellbeing.
Jane Treasure, head of food and beverage development at Costa Coffee, says: “Costa firmly believes in listening to our customers and putting their needs at the heart of everything we do.
As consumers embrace the health trend, we see it as an opportunity for us to do better and improve our offering
“We are committed to providing customers with credible choice and that’s why we’re taking proactive steps to reduce added sugar across our beverage range and improve our overall nutritional profile.”
Since August 2014, Costa has worked closely with independent experts to create a nutritional calculator grounded in scientific research. The framework allows Costa to assess each product recipe against set predetermined criteria and, where needed, either remove, reformulate or replace with a credible alternative.
Ms Treasure explains: “As consumers embrace the health trend, we see it as an opportunity for us to do better and improve our offering. Customers like credible choice, so we sat down and asked how we could address their needs and wants practically.
“Our nutritional calculator has allowed us to take a broad, sensible approach to providing our customers with the choice and information they need to make the right decisions for them. It’s important for us as a business to ensure that our customers are listened to and continue to enjoy coming to Costa.”
Costa’s commitment comes amid ongoing debate in the UK on how to tackle the sugar issue. Earlier this year, the government unveiled plans to introduce a sugar tax on drinks in a bid to combat the growing obesity problem.
The sugar tax, which will come into force in 2018, will be imposed on companies according to the volume of sweetened drinks they produce or import. There are two bands to the levy: one for total sugar content above 5g per 100ml and one for drinks containing more than 8g per 100ml.
In addition to Costa’s commitment to reduce the added sugar content across its drinks range by 25 per cent, it has also pledged a 30 per cent reduction across its ice range. Despite the sugar tax not coming into force for another two years and the need for confirmation of what drinks will be included, Costa’s far-reaching initiative is well underway.
Since 2014, Costa has removed 123.2 tonnes of added sugar from its ice drinks. The ice range now contains 15 per cent less added sugar than in 2014, while its 2015 fruit cooler range had 30 per cent less added sugar than the previous year. Costa has also removed its Red Berry Cooler and its largest sized creamy coolers as part of its drive to improve its nutritional product mix.
It is an approach that is likely to be well received by Costa’s loyal customers. In a 2015 survey by market analyst Mintel, results showed that 46 per cent of participants questioned had taken at least one course of action to monitor or reduce their sugar intake in the last year. Weight management was their primary concern, closely followed by future health worries.
Kerry Parkin, Costa’s communications and corporate social responsibility director, says: “As the nation’s favourite coffee shop, we take our investment in safe-sourcing, new product development and consumer education very seriously. We have set ourselves ambitious targets because we are deeply committed to developing and evolving as a business, and we’re very proud and excited to see this work come to fruition.
“We believe our wideranging commitments to sugar reduction, recipe formulation and, in some cases, product removal are right for our customers and our business, and believe our commitment is the most far reaching of anyone operating in our sector.”
This year Costa was the first in the market to launch a range of SuperDay Smoothies containing no added sugar and counting as one of your five a day. A decision was also made to reformulate some drink recipes with the use of the sweetener, stevia, instead of sugar.
Costa has also committed to reducing the salt content of its sandwiches by 5 per cent by 2017 as part of its drive towards providing a nutritionally balanced mix of menu items, and is introducing new portion-controlled food products and low-calorie alternatives.
But while consumers might demand healthier options, unsurprisingly they don’t want to compromise on taste, so the challenge for companies is to strike the balance.
“It’s important to educate our customers on healthier options, but still deliver on taste expectations. For us it’s about providing our customers with credible choice in tandem with proactive reduced-sugar and salt content, so that ultimately they have all the information to hand to decide,” says Ms Treasure.
While customers will often opt for the healthier option where possible, the food and beverage industry has a responsibility to communicate those options. In today’s fast-paced world, it is little surprise that consumers want to gather information quickly and with ease.
Ms Treasure says Costa takes its commitment to informing customers very seriously. As well as published information in store and on the website, baristas in every store are provided with a full breakdown of the nutritional content of drinks to advise customers.
She says: “We have communicated our ways of working throughout the entire business and across our suppliers as we see it as important to practise what we preach.”
Costa might be on track to meet its targets, but the journey doesn’t end there. The company has vowed to analyse its product range continually to ensure it continues to improve and meet the demands of its customers in the future.
For more information please visit www.costa.co.uk/nutrition