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Starbucks Jumps on the Sustainably Sourced Wagon with New Origins Campaign

Image credit: Starbucks

Continuing a positive trend of transparency in the food industry, Starbucks' latest campaign focuses on the quality and sourcing of its coffee beans, as sustainability and health concerns continue to motivate consumers to ask, "Where does this come from?"

Launched on Sunday during the Emmys, the new documentary-inspired TV ad shows the heritage of the cafe chain's Arabica coffee beans. "The bean matters, because you cannot roast in quality, you cannot roast in complexity," the voiceover says as black-and-white footage of coffee plantations and the roasting process runs. 

The longer-form videos, dubbed “origin stories,” will run on the Starbucks website in October for four of its 20-plus coffee brands, including Veranda Blend, Pike Place Roast, French Roast and Ethiopia. The campaign will also include print ads that will run in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and the New Yorker, among others, while the TV spot will also be show in a handful of "higher-end" movie theaters.

"We recognize that the story of what it takes to go into farming and selecting and roasting our beans hasn't been told for some time," Starbucks Global CMO Sharon Rothstein said, according to Ad Age. "We wanted to give a real voice to the pursuit of finding those beans. It just seemed like there is a deep, rich set of stories and conversations that we could have. While we've told them, they're probably not as well known to our customers."

The move towards more transparency in the sourcing process comes on the heels of similar efforts launched by McDonald's, Chipotle, and others. 

McDonald's launched a campaign in 2012 that profiled several of its beef and produce suppliers, showing customers the fields where its potatoes are grown and the hills where its cattle graze. And most recently — and ironically — the fast-food chain launched a video about the sustainability of its own coffee, which has seen a significant expansion with the addition of McCafe beverages and locations. 

Chipotle, largely a supporter of GMO-free produce and responsibly-raised meat, recently released a short film, "The Scarecrow," that takes an animated look at the perils of factory-farming and the role of Big Food in today's production process. The effort, which has reached nearly six milion views on youTube, follows up a similar short film in 2011, "Back to the Start," which focused on a pig farmer who has a change of heart after seeing the effects of Big Food and modern-day farming practices. The video, which has garnered over 7.8 million views on YouTube, helped establish the fast-casual chain's reputation for social and environmental consciousness. 

This post first appeared on brandchannel on September 20, 2013.

SB Issues in Focus For more examples of how brands are using #Communications to share their values with consumers, check out our Issue in Focus: Communicating Sustainability.

Sheila Shayon, President of Third Eye Media, is a senior media executive with twenty five plus years in television and new media including expertise in programming, production, broadband, start-up models, creative and branding strategies, digital content and social networking. 

[Read more about Sheila Shayon]