‘Fresher by Design…’ European coffee giant Tchibo gears up for US launch

By Elaine Watson

- Last updated on GMT

CEO Thomas Linemayr: 'Consumers working from home want to enjoy moments of reward, moments of luxury and indulgence ...' (picture: Tchibo)
CEO Thomas Linemayr: 'Consumers working from home want to enjoy moments of reward, moments of luxury and indulgence ...' (picture: Tchibo)

Related tags Coffee Tchibo

German coffee co Tchibo (‘CHEE-bo’) – one of the world’s leading coffee roasters with a strong presence in the European market – is gearing up for a US launch this fall with a dedicated line of products developed for the US market reflecting its ‘röst frisch’ or ‘fresher by design’ philosophy.

Tchibo will initially launch with ground and whole bean products (distributed by Rainmaker Food Solutions​) with dark, medium, and light roast options at retailers from Jewel Osco to Hy-Vee in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Ohio, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri and Wisconsin ahead of a national rollout next year.

While the fact that Tchibo is a long-established brand in Europe definitely opened doors with retail buyers, they are also looking for differentiated products that will deliver incremental growth to a mature category, CEO Thomas Linemayr told FoodNavigator-USA.

“For us, coffee is religion. We’re a family business that has been roasting coffee for more than 70 years and we focus on indulgence and superior taste.  

Tchibo is bringing a cleaner, more sustainable and fresher coffee experience to the US, where consumers are enjoying more coffee at home as we’ve seen this shift to at-home consumption and they are craving something new and exciting,​” added Linemayr, who is based in Hamburg, but spent 17 years in the US between 1999 and 2016 as president of premium chocolate brand Lindt & Sprüngli.

Consumers working from home want to enjoy moments of reward, moments of luxury and indulgence as they are so restricted in what they can do due to COVID-19​.

The feedback from retailers has also been extremely positive and they basically cut us in ​[instead of making the brand wait until scheduled category resets], which was very exciting.”

‘The freshest coffee experience’

He added: “In America, coffees are much darker roasted than they are in Europe, and when you roast that intensively, you can lose some of the complexity of aromas and so our focus was to match the desire for darker roasted products, but at the same time maintain the complexity of aromas and depth of taste and deliver our coffee in the freshest possible way.

 “We are also launching a US website​ ​where we will sell the coffee and Tchibo ‘bean to brew’ machines​ ​[which require no pods and create no waste… users pour in whole beans at the top and hit ‘play’] that deliver the freshest coffee experience.”

The packaged products, meanwhile, feature Tchibo’s patented ‘Aroma Protect Technology’ which preserves the fresh roasted aroma and taste of coffee by locking freshness in and keeping oxygen and light out via a one-way valve that allows gas and moisture to escape while preventing air from entering, he said.

“Oxygen destroys the flavor and aroma, and we keep it out, and the freshness means you get a better, deeper aroma profile."

Tchibo images
‘Tchibo’ is an abbreviated combination of co-founder Carl Tchiling Hiryan’s name and ‘bohne’ which means ‘bean’ in German

The go-to-market strategy

Tchibo – which has been working on a US strategy for 18 months - will support the launch with an initial teaser campaign and will then launch a 360-degree advertising campaign starting October 18, said Linemayr, who predicts the brand will be in around 2,000 stores by the end of the month. 

When we go national we will set up a marketing sales organization, and consider investing in local manufacturing, as right now the products are coming from Europe.”

Dr James Richardson at Premium Growth Solutions, author of Ramping Your Brand​, told FoodNavigator-USA that “The Germans are known for methodical product launches that attempt to eliminate most risk up front."

But he added: "This offering is still unfocused for such a competitive market as the US coffee category. I would urge the owners to slow down and figure out in the market what truly is the real competitively advantaged attribute. I suspect it is related to the machine, not the coffee.

"No one yet has taken on the Kcup/ pod packaging waste problem, yet Tchibo offers the most obvious solution. However, Americans don’t use ground beans. And yet this could absolutely change, much as we used to drink light roast Robusta coffee before converting back to darker roast Arabica offerings in the 2000s.

"A more patient, exponential ramp based on spreading fresh brewing directly from whole beans might just be the real idea here for Tchibo. And, if sustainability is the actual lever, then the launch states are very poorly chosen.”

Tchibo coffee machine
Tchibo ‘bean to brew’ machines require no pods and create no waste… users simply pour in whole beans at the top and hit ‘play.’

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