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Santo adds a new dimension to instant coffee

April 2019

Like many others in the city of our company’s headquarters (Melbourne, Australia), we at Cubery love our coffee. So when we caught scent of Santo offering a funky new way to consume our favorite beverage, we were intrigued.

Santo is a fresh startup founded on the crowdfunding platform Kickstarter, offering preservative-free Colombian coffee in a novel cube format. While coffee sales in the grocery channel have exploded thanks to the advent of pods, the instant segment has remained largely stagnant in comparison – generally derided for its poor quality and flavor.

Given our natural predisposition toward cube-shaped innovations, we were curious to see whether Santo Coffee Cubes could revitalize consumers’ interest in the instant coffee category. Given Santo is an entirely new brand, we used two of our three C’s to evaluate its in-market potential:

  • Captivate: Does it stand out and elicit a positive emotional response?
  • Compel: Does it pre-dispose people toward purchase?

Captivate

People were drawn to Santo’s novel cube format – with its distinctive shape immediately setting the product apart from other instant coffee. The flavor range was also attention-grabbing – with the familiar varieties emboldening coffee drinkers to give the product a go. The 3-dimensional approach to the often-neglected category left many people amused at the playful design and amazed at the convenience they offered.

Compel

While the form-factor led some to conceptualize new consumption occasions, others felt Coffee Cubes were more a case of “style over substance” – a gimmick which wouldn’t live up to Australian’s lofty coffee standards. Despite assurances of the product’s Colombian origins, many people were skeptical about how Santo Coffee Cubes would taste – specifically how they’d stack up against fresh and instant coffee alternatives.

While some people considered Santo’s unconventional product format ‘new’, ‘different’, and ‘fun’, others described them as ‘gimmicky’ and ‘strange’. Being tarnished by the reputation of the instant coffee category meant the vast majority (three-quarters) considered the price point of $9.85 for 6 cubes to offer poor value for money.

Conclusion

While the novelty-factor associated with Santo Coffee Cubes prompted some to consider instant coffee again, Australia’s sophisticated café culture left the majority unconvinced and steadfast in their reluctance to consider the category. While the stigma associated with instant coffee is one of the significant barriers the brand needs to overcome, another is making the economics of the product work – with their considerable premium resulting in most people outright rejecting them. While any cubed-shape product is something we here at Cubery hold near and dear, Santo Coffee Cubes unfortunately aren’t meaningfully different enough for the logistics of the product to work amongst the mainstream.

This is a self-funded case study using our Innovation Testing solution.

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