Challenger brands to watch in 2022: Manner Coffee - for accelerating a new national ritual
Manner coffee has proved to be one such brand, pouring its challenger spirit out to the world at large. Founded in 2015, Manner almost came to a bitter end when its first store in Nantong (南通), a prefecture-level city in south-eastern Jiangsu province, proved unsuccessful due to the lack of existing coffee culture. Unperturbed, founder Han Yu and his wife relocated to Shanghai, in true David vs Goliath fashion, to compete in the most densely populated coffee-shop capital of the world. In a 2-metre square kiosk sandwiched between a building entryway and shop, the odds were stacked. In fact, it’s reported that some national media outlets likened it to the ill-fated cupcake shop of the American sitcom 2 Broke Girls.
Despite this alleged roasting, Han Yu’s caffeine dream came to bloom. In its third month, Manner was selling hundreds of cups a day, and it tentatively expanded across the next two years to eight stores. Today with more than 300 stores in mainland China and an incredible $4.5bn valuation, Manners’ alchemic blend of product, processes, and culture are clearly leaving a pleasant taste.
The brand’s tagline ‘Good coffee, made in China’ embellishes the cups and the doors of its head office. In the early days, all the coffee beans for Manner were hand-picked and roasted by Han; with growth this turned into opening a roasting plant that Han still regularly visits. Unlike many established chains (both Western imports and native incumbents), Manner uses semi-automatic coffee machines, requiring a much higher level of skill to operate. This, in turn, was the seed for its barista training centre, and Manner baristas go through several months of training, a practice unheard of in China. The salary of a general manager at Manner is notably higher than those of Starbucks, and apprentices are recruited with the sole experience requirement of “Enthusiasm for coffee”.
However, Manners’ most interesting challenger tenet is perhaps not in its humble beginnings or local-gone-global love story, but in its strategic deployment of collaborations and content-commerce. To be clear, the power of the collab is not some quiet trick of marketers in the know but a fundamental pillar of brand expansion in the Chinese market. Yet Manner has hit the consumer sweet spot by teaming up with suitably young and buzzy friends, with a mid-to-upmarket lifestyle aspiration factor, that artfully build out the Manner universe.
Courtesy of Bizcommunity – read full article here.