Building a more equitable Korean coffee brand

international women’s coffee association

Solve Coffee

Office: Seoul

Women play a significant role in the production of coffee. It’s usually women who undertake the majority of maintenance and harvesting work, but unfortunately, they tend to have little control over the harvest proceeds or any decision-making processes that affect them. In other words, the female workforce is unrecognized, unpaid, and unseen.

Instead, distributors or owners of the farm (who are usually men) are reaping most of the rewards. And yet research shows that increased access to resources for women, particularly in the agricultural industry, has profound effects on education, health, nutrition, and overall welfare and reduction of poverty.

Beautiful Coffee is a non-profit foundation running a business on Fairtrade and fair practices. They came to Interbrand for help in raising awareness on the IWCA (International Women’s Coffee Association) – known as “Women’s Coffee” in Korea.

Solve, coffee by women branded packaging

Founded over a decade ago, Women’s Coffee is a campaign that raises the issue of unequal ownership and employment conditions – with the aim of encouraging, empowering and recognizing the participation of women in all aspects of the coffee industry.

Their initiatives include funding health insurance, creating networking opportunities, and providing mentorship as well as training programs for women.

We wanted spotlight this issue in Korea to improve and raise awareness of the role of women in the coffee trade. So we created a new coffee brand called SOLVE.

In the Korean market, the term “Women’s Coffee” was often misunderstood by consumers as being exclusive – with some going so far as to accuse it of being sexist. This meant that consumers naturally presumed that Women’s Coffee was a movement only for women.

To be more market-relevant, we changed the term “Women’s Coffee” to “Coffee by Women” – so that it would be easier to understand while still delivering its true meaning of empowering women laborers. This helped overcome the previous stigmatized term, and enabled consumers to realize that the issue wasn’t about gender exclusivity, but inclusivity.

The SOLVE brand became the platform and the “Coffee by Women” became the campaign to help them raise awareness. We designed a suite of visuals for the campaign and product packages of SOLVE.

Brand identity across mobile phone cases in white, orange and purple

SOLVE and Coffee by Women was successfully launched and introduced to the Korean Food & Beverage market at the 19th Seoul International Café Show in November 2019 – Asia’s top coffee event. We encountered many consumers, café industry-related professionals and business investors – which were the perfect audience to test the brand’s relevance, drive sales and awareness on the issue.

Two weeks after the launch, Beautiful Coffee’s sales increased by 30%, and about within a month, sales had tripled. During the Lunar New Year season (where gift exchange between families are customary) the special SOLVE gift set was completely sold out.

Brand identity across packaging, thermos and coffee cup