We set up camp in the barbeque area at Chester Zoo’, Pete said. ‘We set up five coffee machines and asked the public to taste the five espressos on offer, two of which were the incumbent brands. As a ‘thank-you’, we made them a drink of their choice using their preferred espresso as a base.’
Evaluation cards had been prepared in advance and the results were so startling that Pete – and Chester Zoo – elected to keep them under wraps. Suffice to say that the specially created blends were ‘very well received’ by the public…
‘Based on the findings of our research, we got to work and the Shuka blend was born within three weeks, right down to the brand design. As for the name ‘Shuka’? ‘It’s the name given to a wrap worn by the Masai tribal women in Africa’, Pete says. So Shuka is another brand name with credentials of its own that ticks the ‘creative’ box…
For the coffee offer to work, two blends would be required, as Pete explained: ‘we needed two because high-speed self-service machines create a slightly different flavour than traditional barista machines. Bean-to-cup machines tend to use a coarser grind than traditional machines, due to differences in temperature, water pressure and extraction times, so using an identical blend in each would create two distinctive flavour profiles. My job was to ensure that different machines delivered the same taste experience.’
Also high on the agenda was the ‘consumer experience’, so Pete worked closely with the food area designers, both to create the required ambience and to specify the right machines to deliver the full potential of Shuka.
‘We specified self-serve bean-to-cup machines and ‘traditional’ barista operated coffee machines, as required’, Pete confirmed.
Immediately after the ‘go-live’ at Easter 2011, there was ‘a significant rise’ in Coffee consumption at Chester Zoo, and ‘lots of positive feedback’ as regards the quality of the coffee and of the peripherals, such as branded sugar sticks, paper cups and crockery.
The scope of the project – creating the brand, creating the blends; taste testing; designing the logo; specifying, sourcing, purchasing and installing almost 30 coffee machines – makes the timescales achieved seem miraculous.
Ultimately, Chester Zoo got far more than just a new coffee offer for its discerning customers. In fact, it has a new brand of its own. ‘Chester Zoo owns the Shuka brand’, Pete acknowledged, ‘and the opportunity is there for them to sell Shuka branded products, particularly coffee, for customers to take home.’
With 45,000 active members and trustees, all of whom are eager to support the zoo’s work, the potential market for Shuka products must be considerable? ‘Absolutely’ Pete agreed. ‘There’s massive potential and we are really excited about what could be achieved.’