Did you know that there are over 200 types of Nescafé? That is why your favorite Nescafé at home may taste absolutely different in some foreign country, even if the name and the packaging look exactly the same, language differences aside. Despite being a global household name, Nestlé, the company that owns the brand name Nescafé, distinctively caters to the local palate. The key to success for a global brand lies not in offering the same product everywhere but in offering a different product with the same name everywhere.
I remember the Vanilla Coke I tried in the US for the first time in 2001. It was terribly sweet and artificial. Yuk! Some time later I found it in the shops here in Norway too, but to my surprise the sweet taste was much more refined and balanced. I experienced the same with Pepsi Lemon. Strangely artificial in the US, but much more balanced here. Why can’t it taste the same everywhere? Wouldn’t it be better for people to love the brand and get used to the taste, so people know that they can find the same taste wherever they go?
Apparently not. Coffee is a staple drink in most households. Not only in households, practically everyone drinks coffee (or tea for that matter). So, it should be easy to win the market with one kind of coffee, right? Wrong. Every country has different customs when it comes to food and different ingredients and taste compositions in that country’s main food sources. Hence, in order to complement these foods, and eating and drinking habits of that country, coffee too must be different from country. Nestlé, one of the world’s major supplier of global food brands knows that and that is why they have a research center in the southern German town of Singen. Not just there, the Singen center is just one of many food laboratories around the world operated by Nestlé, creating new culinary delights as I am writing this.
Nestlé’s company mantra appears to be simple in fact: “In food, you have to be very local.” And Nestlé would not have been around for more than 140 years if they had not realized this form the very start. One of its biggest worldwide brands is Nescafé instant coffee. But Nescafé isn’t always Nescafé: the one you buy in Asia is different from the one you’ll find at your local supermarket in Europe or in South America or in Australia. In fact, the company makes about 200 different types of Nescafé, and some kinds never make it outside their local market, simply because it just doesn’t taste well anywhere else. Well, there’s nothing wrong with the taste of course, it’s just that people don’t like it. Take the “3in1” sachets sold in parts of Asia with the supposedly perfect mix of coffee, milk and sugar for everyday use. Now, I doubt you could sell these in Europe, since many Europeans prefer black coffee, let alone Italians who would probably never give up their Espresso. But, if you market them as “Gourmet” or “Special”, yes you can, and that’s what Nestlé does. And it’s not just the brand variants that are different: the 800-or-so components that go into it are also tweaked to fit national preferences.
So there you have it. And next time you’re abroad and you ask for coffee and you’re served Nescafé, don’t hesitate, it could be your best coffee experience ever. That’s what happened to me, when I had my first 3in1 in Singapore three years ago, and later, when I had my first taste of Indonesian Nescafé Classic. Since then I have been a sworn Nescafé-addict.
Just as coffee isn’t always coffee, Nescafé too isn’t always Nescafé.