Switzerland's Nestle group produces a wide range of food products, yet its instant coffee brand Nescafe, the world's most popular coffee brand, must surely be the one that most people know.
But this is only in Europe. In the US, the situation is different, and Nescafe is a virtually unknown brand in a market dominated by Maxwell House, Kraft Foods' instant coffee brand - a situation which is hard to swallow for the world's largest coffee maker.
Until now, that is. The US is the world's largest coffee drinking market, and Nestle USA has finally decided to launch Nescafe on a nationwide basis. But rather than focus on its mainstream instant coffee brand, the company has opted to start with Nescafe Frothe, an instant coffee drink which comes in six different flavours: Divinely Mocha, Enchanting Vanilla, Captivating Caramel, Mystical Hazelnut Mocha, Silky White Chocolate and Nestle Butterfinger.
While Nescafe coffee is sold in 50 countries worldwide, Frothe has until now been available only in a limited number of test markets on the West Coast of the USA, but will go nationwide in October.
Nestle USA said that the explosion of the coffee house culture in the 1990s had paved the way for the introduction of an instant gourmet brand which, it claimed, would allow consumers to recreate the same coffee house experience at home. It cited data from a 2002 survey conducted by the National Coffee Association which revealed that 34 per cent of coffee drinkers aged 18 and over consume coffee out of their home on a daily basis, but that 79 per cent also drink it at home every day.
Furthermore, 62 per cent of those surveyed also said they had indulged in a cappuccino or latte in the past year, and it is this segment of the market that Frothe is targeting.
The nationwide launch of the Frothe brand will also be accompanied by a change of packaging, designed to reflects the attitudes and lifestyles of modern coffee drinkers. "The new packaging illustrates contemporary situations where coffee plays a relevant role in people's lives," said Amanda Steele, marketing manager for Nescafe at Nestle USA.
Nescafe was first introduced in Switzerland in 1938, with launches in France, the UK and the US following soon after. While the Second World War severely hindered the product's development for most of the 1940s, the inclusion of the brand in GIs ration packs in fact helped relaunch the coffee in much of Europe. There have also been a number of instant coffee specialities launched by the group in recent years, including Nescafe Frappe and Nescafe Cappuccino, of which Frothe is essentially the US variant.
It is ironic, then, that Nescafe has failed to make much of an inroad into the US market despite becoming the world's leading coffee brand. A new line of instant gourmet coffees was launched in the US in September 1999, although again only on the West Coast, and it is only with Frothe that the Nescafe name will become known throughout the US.
Bruce Handler, managing director of the Handler Design Group and design director at Nestle from 1984 to 1987, explained that from the 1950s to the late 1970s, Nescafe enjoyed steady but slow growth in US, and consumer awareness of the Nescafe brand name was high. Nut this changed in the mid 1980s, when Nestle reformulated the line of Regular and Decaf coffee's, expanding the line to five different SKUs and switching to European names.
This, according to Handler, may have alienated the brand's core drinkers - the blue collar marketplace - at that time. But this time Nescafe is going firmly for the white collar sector - the one which is already the core market for the myriad coffee shops which have sprung up across the US since the 1980s - and it is clearly hoping for more success.
Nestle estimates that on average, some 3,000 cups of Nescafe are drunk every second around the world, but if the nationwide roll out of Nescafe proves a success, the impact of the massive leap in consumption this could entail would be significant. But in a market where Maxwell House is so strong, and where coffee shops are so abundant, persuading consumers to drink another brand of instant coffee will be a tall order.