Union Coffee

The Crema the Crop

Union – top speciality coffee connoisseurs – is a big reason why coffee has overtaken tea as the nation’s favourite brew. With new roasters popping up all the time, Union briefed us to help it retain its position as a pioneer in the coffee industry, bolstering relationships with the trade and positioning it as a craft business with one eye on sustainability.

Our plan was to extend Union’s position as thought-leaders in all things sustainable,  particularly its founders Steven and Jeremy. In doing so, we helped Union have a louder voice in the coffee industry and beyond, showing that a craft business could indeed be scaled.

pieces of corporate and trade coverage

interviews with key media

Queen's Award For Enterprise

The Client

Founded in 2001, Union Hand-Roasted Coffee is one of the UK’s largest speciality coffee roasters and suppliers.

Union was the first UK company to link sustainable development with exceptional quality coffee through its pioneering business model (Union Direct Trade) and remains a leader in this area. Union’s dedication to sourcing exceptional coffee dovetailed with the speciality coffee revolution, and the company has achieved significant year on year growth since foundation. Union won Best European Roaster in the Allegra European Coffee Awards for three consecutive years between 2014-2016, as well as numerous Great Taste Awards over the years.

They Said

Union had pioneered direct trade for the coffee industry nearly two decades. However now, amid the speciality coffee boom, direct trade had become the norm.

Union wanted to stand out from the crowd, to take ownership of its role in pioneering direct trade, and crucially show why its model – Union Direct Trade – was not only the best now, but the best for the future as well.

They asked us to build a campaign that grabbed the attention of both corporate and trade audiences, making them among the most prominent voices on the issue of sustainability.

Challenge Accepted

We began by evolving Union’s messaging, focussing on the idea of sustainability as the source of business growth. We took this narrative to the national business media, securing a shedload of interviews and widespread quality coverage, but we knew that we needed eye-catching feature pieces to get real cut through. So, we set about leveraging our contacts to secure the most high-profile slots (over the years we had extensive coverage in the FT, Guardian, Mail, Independent, Times and Sunday Times to name but a few).

We also launched a proactive thought-leadership campaign setting out the founders’ vision for sustainability in coffee. In addition, we frequently responded to relevant stories in the news agenda with ‘hot takes’, securing stellar coverage in The Grocer (which prompted a phone call from Sainsbury’s to the founder!), among other outlets.

Awards also played a role, and we co-authored Union’s Queen’s Award for Enterprise Entry which they successfully won in 2017. Off the back of a Sunday Times profile piece, Union was also listed in the ‘Fast-track 100 Ones to Watch’ list 2017.

Job Done

  • Over 400 pieces of consumer, trade and corporate coverage
  • A total circulation of 1.8bn
  • A media value ROI of 8:1
  • 28 interviews with co-founders leading to full- or half-page coverage in the FT, Times, Sunday Times, Independent and Sunday Mail
  • Campaign directly led to Union winning Queen’s Award for Sustainability and Sunday Times Fast Track 100: Ones to Watch

And crucially, our work supported Union in conversations with larger retailers and businesses. In 2018, Union announced it was to supply its high-end coffee to British Airways.

What We Learnt

In a crowded market where everyone is saying the same-old-same-old, you must think and act differently to stand out. Union were (and still are) genuine pioneers and had an amazing story waiting to be told – we were just able to help them refine their position and take their message to a wider audience. There is a huge appetite in the media for businesses that genuinely place sustainability at the heart of all they do. Communicating this can be tricky, but if you get it right, the rewards can be phenomenal.

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