Seattle’s Best is looking better


I’m Brian from Belfast, Maine and I’m a level 2.

Seattles Best Coffee, a subsidiary of Starbucks, has released a new packaging system for their coffee. A system of levels was created to allow customers to define themselves—and their taste preference—with a simple number. This numerical system is apparently the first of it’s kind in the industry and is designed to help customers navigate through the overwhelming selections of a grocery store coffee aisle.

The packaging itself is quite beautiful. In fact, everything I’ve seen since their rebrand is of an extremely high caliber, thanks to the talented people at Creature. Back in May, when I wrote about the new Seattles Best identity, I felt like the only person on the planet who wasn’t comparing it to “the local blood bank.” Honestly, how often do people visit their local blood bank? The Apple logo doesn’t remind me of the grocery store, nor does the Nike logo remind me of a checklist. In time, I’m sure people will equate the big red uvula exposing smile, with a drop of coffee in a happy mouth.

The numbers of the system (1-5) represent the roast level, beginning with 1, “mild, light, crisp” up through 5, “bold, dark, intense.” Neither of which descriptions actually say anything about the flavor of the coffee. I participated in a Live Facebook chat with Seattles Best reps last week to try and get some more specifics. However, the best I could get—after first just repeating what was on the bag—was that “Level 2 will have more acidity and less body.” It’s sad that the complexities of a coffee’s flavor profile have been simplified to improve convenience, not understanding.

The once modest brand, existing mainly in Border’s bookstores, has expanded rapidly after recently securing deals to provide coffee at 300 AMC movie theaters, 20,000 Subway and 7,500 Burger King restaurants. The new market strategy will make the brand visible to a very large audience, very quickly.

The new Seattles Best website is also quite innovative compared with other major coffee companies—actually when compared to major companies in general. It’s very design centric, using refined typography and clean illustration to create a vibrant environment that is a joy to explore. It may be on of my favorite corporate websites of all time. It actually outshines the rest of the brand in some ways.

Clicking on one box will walk you through the process of the new level system, while clicking on another will take you to a stunning interactive photo essay of their “10-Day coffee break,” where 1000 coffees were shared with strangers in Canada. Don’t miss the video of Pete the chainsaw wizard!

While I’m a sucker for a strong brand, the company has to back up their image with a product of equal quality. Since my sample is still in the mail, I won’t comment on the quality of their new blends just yet. However, based on past experience I hope the new look is more than just that—because it would be a beautiful waste.

I’ll leave you with one last promotion that made me smile, the Big Red Fridge. Enjoy.

[package photos via The DieLine]

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  • Reply BaristaOnDutY 12/06/2010 at 11:46 am

    Just To Clear Up The Numerical System That Seattle Best Has It’s Not The 1st Of It’s Kind, My Very Own Personal Numerical System Was Developed Some Years Ago With Proof Of Concept Found Here In My Coffee Notes On My Blog . Nothing Against The BIG Guys, But The Little Guys Are Innovative Too! We Just Don’t Have The Marketing Money They Have |_|B Happy Coffeeing!!

    • Reply bwj 12/08/2010 at 11:57 am

      I’m sure there are others who have done similar, but they are referring to commercial scale.

  • Reply larrymcj 12/16/2010 at 4:14 pm

    Unfortunately, what they left off their website is how the new levels (1-5) equate with all of their old brand names. It’s clear which is the old “Best” blend and also “Henry’s”. But I drink their “Breakfast” blend, which is currently a dark roast, but it’s not equated to in the new system.

    Oddly, when I called Seattle’s Best no one (including an escalation of my question to three levels of supervisors) could provide an answer. I was told they would “try” to put a comparison chart on their website…but I’m not holding my breath.

    Yes…I know the new Level Two says “Breakfast Blend” in very small and light lettering, but I assure you…Level Two is not the old “Breakfast Blend”.

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