Hello and welcome to my senior capstone page! My name is Lydia and I will be sharing the process of my project with you. For some background context, I am someone who needs a cup of (good) coffee every morning, another usually after lunch, and occasionally one after dinner. I currently own 6 coffee makers with my all-time favorite being my Italian Moka pot. I guess you could consider me a coffee enthusiast. That’s why choosing coffee for my capstone topic was a no-brainer. It started as an idea to brand a coffee shop but turned into a deep passion to make a difference in the world. I ended up redefining what coffee packaging could be and how it could lead to impacting a sustainable future. Feel free to read on if you care to know more about the nitty gritty, but if the video is enough information that’s okay too!
I started this project by doing a ton of research about coffee. My goal was to become an expert at knowing how the industry works. I learned through reading articles, watching documentaries, and interviewing people in this field.
Through my research, I’ve learned that coffee requires a very specific growing environment that exists near the equator. This region is known as the Bean Belt. Coffee from different countries across this Belt has unique flavors and characteristics due to varying climates and farming techniques. For example, coffee that grows at higher elevations has citrus, nutty, and chocolatey notes, where lower elevations produce sweeter and smooth tones. There are also different tree species and fermentation processes that impact results. These unique circumstances fascinated me, as I had never considered how these conditions would change the taste.
There are, however, some big problems with the industry. I learned that most laborers do not make enough money to support their families. I did some math to figure out, on average, less than a cent is going back to the farmer’s pocket for a cup of (typically $5) coffee purchased at a café. That was way less than what I was expecting because, without the cherries being picked from the trees, coffee is nothing at all! Besides farmers getting paid below the poverty line in some countries, some farms are at risk of slave-like conditions, long work days, and debt bondage. Many of these issues stem from an unjust system of big companies monopolizing trade at a local level, giving farmers no choice on who they can sell to. This leads to a lower quality bean because farmers don’t have the resources or any reason at all to invest in their crops.
Knowing the reality of these problems fired me up and left me wanting to know more, so I reached out to a local roaster. My first interview was with Nadav, owner of Morning Bell in Ames. He told me about his story of getting involved with coffee and his passion for how it brings people together. I told him about my goal of raising awareness of the complications coffee farmers face. His response was the biggest take away I had from this conversation; he said, “Raising awareness is great, but that alone won’t change things very much. You need to figure out a way to change human behavior by pulling on peoples’ heartstrings.” That comment about blew my mind. Nadav then suggested I talk to one of his wholesalers named Ryan from Yepocapa Coffee in Kansas. I set up a phone interview with Ryan and asked him a list of questions I had about coffee farming. I was truly amazed by what his company stands for. They travel overseas to meet with farmers directly and develop processing methods to raise the value and increase the quality of their product. These valuable relationships provide a more sustainable future for coffee while mutually benefiting farmers and consumers. Ryan told me that marketing and packaging are very important since they tell the reality of a situation to a consumer. He continued, “You need to share the significance to people and explain why it matters.” I felt completely inspired after both of these conversations and went back to my sketchbook for some ideation.
After spending weeks of thinking, sketching, writing, and talking to classmates about my project, a few concepts started to click and come together. That’s when Cultivated Core was born. Created to help solve some of these big problems in the industry, Cultivated Core is a coffee brand focused on breaking the negative cultural norms of poor-quality beans and low pay by targeting the consumers’ buying behavior directly. The innovative packaging allows the consumer to experience the journey of the bean by learning exactly where the beans came from and how they were processed. This also gives the opportunity to meet the farmers, bringing a sense of unity that is currently lacking in the industry. By providing consumers with education and resources to support small lot farmers, the message of preserving sustainability will get out and change will begin with peoples’ actions. The beans would be comparably priced with other high-quality brands, but with reduced supply chain channels and increased incentive to invest into the crop, farmers would be paid higher than the world coffee price.
The name Cultivated Core represents focusing on the education, refinement, and harvest of coffee farming while keeping the mission at the heart, or center. Since I wanted to focus on the hard work that these farmers provide, the color palette was inspired by the first 3 stages of coffee farming which are planting, growing, and harvesting. Most people don’t know coffee beans come from bright red/purple cherries, so this is where the education begins. I choose Proxima for my typeface because the round letterforms complimented my logo mark. The logo itself changes on every package. The purpose of this is to further the concept of every batch being unique and different. The colors and center icon always remain the same to unity the brand, while the percentages of the pie chart circle fluctuate to resemble the differences is seasons. The four seasons I analyzed were the hot months, the rainy season, the harvest, and the export.
As you may have noticed there are no words on my packaging–– don’t worry this isn’t a mistake! I was inspired by the Doritos commercial last year when they published an ad without using their logo. It stuck out to me as different, unusual, against the “norm”, yet genius. They wanted people to focus on the product, and by utilizing powerful branding, you can do this. The point is, by only using a symbol on food packaging, it causes people to stop and wonder why. It’s a disruption in the numb pattern of society. If a consumer wants to learn about it, they have to take the first step.
This brand encourages interaction because it’s not only about raising awareness, it’s about changing human behavior.
The consumer uses a phone or tablet device to scan the logo, which is directed by the instructions (you can’t miss it). Through augmented reality, the software detects which bean has been selected and automatically plays a video to teach the consumer about the selected bean’s journey. This includes what country and town it came from, the farmers who harvested it, and the climate and elevation which affects how the bean tastes. In the video, the logo expands into a data visualization to break down the figures. Real data and statistics were used to make my example (see sources below). I based my example on Yepocapa, Guatemala because Ryan graciously allowed me to use some of Yepocapa Coffee’s export numbers and photos.
Right now, this is just a mocked-up concept. I think it would be really cool to bring this brand to life someday, but it would require some coding and technical software. For next steps, I would want to implement a website for the consumer to learn more information about their coffee and to even schedule a tour of a specific coffee farm (also inspired by Yepocapa Coffee). Please contact me if you have any further questions, comments, or ideas regarding this project!
Yepocapa farmer photos and information: yepocapacoffee.com
Weather statistics: worldweatheronline.com
Coffee processes: Documentary Caffeinated
Bean characteristics and flavors: homegrounds.com